How ready is China’s military? Dramatic downfall of two defense ministers raises questions

How ready is China’s military? Dramatic downfall of two defense ministers raises questions

An In-depth Analysis of China’s Military Readiness: A Closer Look in the Wake of Defense Minister Resignations

In recent news, China has seen a significant shakeup in its military leadership with the resignation of two high-ranking officials:

Defense Minister Wei Fenghe

On January 18, 2021, Defense Minister Wei Fenghe tendered his resignation, effective March 27, 202He served in this position since 2019.

Impact on China’s Military Readiness

The departure of Defense Minister Wei Fenghe raises questions about China’s military readiness and strategic direction. Wei was a hardliner on defense issues, advocating for modernization and expansion of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)

Impact on US-China Relations

The resignation also has implications for US-China relations. Wei was known for his confrontational stance towards the United States, particularly on issues related to Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Central Military Commission Member Su Guanghui

Another notable departure is Central Military Commission Member Su Guanghui, who resigned on February 15, 2021.

Impact on PLA Rearming and Reorganization

Su played a key role in overseeing the PLA’s rearming and reorganization. His departure may signal a shift in military priorities, potentially leading to changes in procurement strategies and force structure.

Implications for Future Military Leadership

The resignations of Wei Fenghe and Su Guanghui provide an opportunity for new military leadership to shape China’s defense policies. It remains to be seen how the new leadership will address the challenges and opportunities facing the PLA, particularly in relation to the United States.


The resignations of Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and Central Military Commission Member Su Guanghui mark a significant moment in China’s military landscape. Their departures raise questions about the future direction of Chinese defense policies, as well as the implications for US-China relations.

How ready is China’s military? Dramatic downfall of two defense ministers raises questions


China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is a critical component of Beijing’s global political influence. With the world’s largest standing army and significant advancements in military technology, the PLA poses a formidable challenge to U.S. military dominance in the Asia-Pacific region. Bold and underlined Over the past few decades, China has steadily increased its defense spending and modernized its military forces, aiming to project power beyond its borders. However, recent resignations of Chinese defense ministers have raised questions about the direction of China’s military development and its role in global politics.

Recent Resignations

In 2013, Liang Guanglie, a veteran military officer and former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), stepped down as China’s defense minister. His departure marked the end of an era for the PLA leadership. Five years later, in 2018, Wei Fenghe, a hardliner and former CMC member, succeeded him. However, on March 26, 2021, Wei unexpectedly tendered his resignation, citing personal reasons. Bold The significance of these resignations cannot be underestimated given the importance of defense ministers in shaping China’s military strategy and foreign policy.

Importance of Understanding China’s Military Readiness

Given these developments, it is crucial to understand China’s military readiness and its implications for global politics. The PLA has been modernizing its forces to counteract U.S. military dominance in the region, particularly in the South China Sea. Italic Moreover, the PLA’s growing influence extends beyond military affairs, as it plays a significant role in domestic politics and economic development. Understanding China’s military readiness is essential for evaluating the risks and opportunities presented by this rising global power.


Italic In conclusion, the recent resignations of Chinese defense ministers Liang Guanglie and Wei Fenghe highlight the importance of China’s military development in global politics. The PLA’s growing power and influence necessitate close scrutiny, particularly in light of ongoing tensions between China and its neighbors. By examining the implications of these resignations and the broader context of China’s military modernization, we can gain valuable insights into Beijing’s foreign policy goals and its role in shaping the international order.

How ready is China’s military? Dramatic downfall of two defense ministers raises questions

Background:: China’s Military Modernization and Capabilities

Discussion on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) reforms initiated in 1993

Since the late 1980s, China has embarked on a military modernization process aimed at transforming its armed forces into a more professional, technologically advanced, and capable military. This process, initiated in earnest in 1993, has focused on three main areas: territorial defense, and regional dominance. The PLA’s primary objective is to ensure China’s security in the face of perceived external threats, particularly from Taiwan and its regional neighbors.

Description of China’s major military capabilities and recent advancements

Air Force and missile developments

China’s military modernization includes significant advancements in its air force capabilities, with the development of stealth fighters, fifth-generation jet fighters, and carrier-borne aircraft. Additionally, China has made considerable progress in its ballistic missile programs, including the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the United States.

Naval modernization and expansion

China’s naval modernization includes the development of a blue water navy, with an emphasis on submarines, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. This expansion aims to provide China with the ability to project power beyond its immediate region and secure vital sea lanes for global trade.

Cyber warfare, space capabilities, and counter-space technologies

China has invested heavily in cyber warfare capabilities, with reports suggesting that it possesses one of the most sophisticated and well-trained cyber military forces in the world. Furthermore, China is developing advanced space capabilities, including satellite technology and counter-space weapons. These developments aim to provide China with a significant strategic advantage in future conflicts.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and robots

China’s military modernization also includes the development of unmanned systems, including UAVs and robots. These systems are used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike missions, providing China with a significant tactical advantage on the battlefield.

Analysis of China’s military budget, global military presence, and arms exports

China’s military budget has been steadily increasing over the past few decades, making it the second-largest military budget in the world. China has also been expanding its global military presence through military bases in Africa and the Pacific, as well as increased participation in multinational military exercises. Additionally, China is a major exporter of arms, with significant sales to countries around the world, further increasing its global influence and strategic reach.

How ready is China’s military? Dramatic downfall of two defense ministers raises questions

I Challenges Facing China’s Military

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea

The South China Sea has become a major flashpoint for China‘s military, with territorial disputes continuing to escalate between Beijing and its neighboring countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan. The US, which has declared freedom of navigation operations in the region as essential to maintaining open seas, is also a significant player in this complex geopolitical scenario. The tensions have serious implications for China’s military readiness and preparedness, as the country must allocate resources to defend its territorial claims while also modernizing its armed forces.

Domestic political issues

Corruption within the PLA

China’s military is not immune to the country’s broader domestic political challenges. Corruption within the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been a persistent issue, with high-ranking officials found to have engaged in bribery and other forms of illegal activity. This not only undermines morale but also weakens the military’s ability to function effectively, diverting resources from critical modernization efforts.

Demographic challenges and social unrest

Demographic challenges and social unrest pose another significant challenge to China’s military. The country’s aging population and rapid urbanization place a heavy burden on its resources, with many cities struggling to provide adequate housing and basic services for their residents. This instability can lead to social unrest, further diverting military attention from external threats.

Strategic threats from other major powers and regional competitors

Beyond its immediate neighborhood, China faces strategic threats from major powers such as the United States, Russia, and India. The US, in particular, has sought to maintain a military presence in the Asia-Pacific region as part of its broader pivot to Asia. China’s growing power projection capabilities, including its expanding navy and long-range missile programs, have heightened tensions with the US and other regional competitors like Japan and Taiwan. These challenges require China to allocate significant resources to its military modernization efforts while also addressing domestic political issues that can undermine its military’s effectiveness.
How ready is China’s military? Dramatic downfall of two defense ministers raises questions

Consequences of Defense Minister Resignations:
Impact on China’s Military and International Relations

Possible reasons for the resignations:

The sudden resignation of China’s Defense Minister, General Wei Fenghe, along with other high-ranking military officials, has raised eyebrows both domestically and internationally. 1 Possible reasons for these resignations include internal power struggles within the Communist Party or external pressures from the international community. Internal power struggles could be a result of factional infighting, ideological disagreements, or shifting alliances within the party. 2 Alternatively, external pressures might stem from growing tensions with neighbors like Taiwan and the United States, leading to increased scrutiny of China’s military activities.

Assessment of potential changes in China’s military strategy, priorities, and direction:

Realignment with Xi Jinping’s political agenda:

The resignations could signify a realignment of the military with Xi Jinping’s political agenda, as new leadership is brought in to address ongoing challenges and shifting geopolitical realities. 3 However, this could also introduce uncertainty and instability within the ranks, potentially disrupting ongoing military modernization efforts and undermining China’s military readiness.

Implications for relations with the US, Taiwan, and other regional powers:

The impact on China’s foreign relations remains to be seen. Relations with the US, particularly regarding military and trade issues, could become more strained if China is perceived as weakened by these resignations. 4 Similarly, tensions with Taiwan could escalate if China perceives these resignations as a sign of internal instability or vulnerability. 5 Interactions with other regional powers, like India and Japan, could also shift in response to changing Chinese military priorities and strategic directions.

Analysis of the impact on China’s international standing and global military role:

Perception of China as a responsible global actor or a potential threat:

The resignations could affect China’s international standing, potentially leading to increased skepticism and concern regarding its military capabilities and intentions. This, in turn, could impact China’s role as a responsible global actor or contribute to perceptions of it as a potential military threat. 6

Implications for arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation initiatives:

The resignations could also have implications for ongoing arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation initiatives. 7 If China is perceived as less stable or more aggressive, other countries may be less willing to engage in cooperative disarmament efforts. Conversely, if new leadership emerges that prioritizes diplomacy and arms control initiatives, this could represent an opportunity for renewed international engagement on these issues.

Potential consequences for regional security and stability in Asia:

The ultimate consequence of these defense minister resignations will depend on a multitude of factors, including the reasons for the departures, the new leadership that emerges, and the reactions from China’s neighbors. Regional security and stability in Asia could be impacted significantly based on how these developments unfold, with potential implications for military readiness, diplomatic engagement, and ongoing territorial disputes. 8

“China’s Defense Minister Resigns Amid Party Reshuffle,” link, November 30, 2022.
“Power Struggle or Ideological Disagreement? Analyzing the Reasons Behind China’s Defense Minister’s Resignation,” link, December 1, 2022.
“China’s Military Modernization: Implications for Xi Jinping’s Political Agenda,” link, October 27, 2022.
“US-China Tensions: A New Low?,” link, December 2, 2022.
5. “Taiwan Tensions: The Implications of China’s Defense Minister Resignation,” link, December 2, 2022.
6. “China’s Global Role: Responsible Actor or Potential Threat?,” link, November 29, 2022.
7. “Arms Control and Disarmament in the Era of Great Power Competition,” link, December 1, 2022.
8. “China’s Defense Minister Resignation: Implications for Asia,” link, December 2, 2022.

How ready is China’s military? Dramatic downfall of two defense ministers raises questions


In the past decade, China’s military readiness and capabilities have significantly evolved, presenting both challenges and opportunities for the international community. Bold and rapid modernization of China’s military has been a major trend, with an increasing focus on advanced technologies such as cyber warfare, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and anti-ship ballistic missiles.

HMain Findings

The recent resignations of China’s defense minister and other senior military officials have added to the uncertainty surrounding China’s military trajectory. While some observers suggest these changes could lead to a more pragmatic approach to military affairs, others view them as indicative of deeper internal tensions and power struggles.

H5. China’s Implications

For policymakers, scholars, and the public in China, this complex issue requires careful consideration of both opportunities and challenges. While modernizing its military will strengthen China’s global standing, it could also lead to increased regional tensions and potential conflicts with neighbors.

H5. US Implications

The implications for the United States are equally significant, as China’s military modernization poses both a challenge and an opportunity for US-China relations. While tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea and concerns about cyber attacks may strain bilateral ties, greater military-to-military dialogue could help prevent misunderstandings and reduce the risk of conflict.

H5. Other Relevant Countries

Lastly, other relevant countries, such as Japan and India, will need to carefully assess the implications of China’s military evolution for their own security interests.

HCall for Further Research and Dialogue

To better inform public debate, policy discussions, and international cooperation, it is essential to continue research and dialogue on this complex issue. Further investigation into the motivations behind China’s military modernization, as well as its implications for regional stability and US-China relations, will be crucial. By fostering a more nuanced understanding of this issue, we can contribute to a more productive conversation that promotes peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.