Beijing has announced a new goal of turning the People's Liberation Army (PLA) into a full-fledged modern military force by 2027, a decision that was taken at the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee plenum earlier this week.
The plenum said in a communique that the planned deadline coincides with the centennial of the founding of the PLA, and its further modernisation will be in sync with the strengthening of China's defence capabilities and economic growth.
The newspaper South China Morning Post (SCMP) cited Hong Kong military analyst Song Zhongping as saying that the PLA-related goal could be seen as something that aims to turn the Chinese military into "a leading modern force in the world, one that can be on par with the US Army".
He was echoed by Junfei Wu, deputy head of the Hong Kong think tank Tianda Institute, who was quoted by the SCMP as claiming that "basically, the target is to build the PLA's capability to match the US Army by 2027, so it can effectively deter interference by the US Army around the Taiwan Strait".
Officially, the US follows the One-China policy, which does not recognise Taiwan as an independent entity, but Washington has trade and business ties with the island and supplies weapons to it. Beijing, for its part, sees Taiwan as a Chinese territory that will eventually have to reunify with mainland China.
The plenum communique came after Chinese President Xi Jinping said late last week that a stronger military could play a significant role in providing "strategic support" for China's national modernisation programme.
The remarks followed the state-run news agency Xinhua reporting early last year that the PLA had completed a major part of its internal restructuring, drastically slashing its manpower as part of a strategic shift into a modern world-class force.
Plans to reduce the army component to approximately 50 percent of its former size were announced in the official newspaper of the Chinese military, PLA Daily, in late 2017.
At the time, the news outlet reported that the military would aim to increase personnel in the PLA Navy and PLA Rocket Force as part of the restructuring. Before that, Cinese President Xi Jinping announced a 300,000-person drawdown in the size of his country’s army.