Dec 5, 2023
Expanding on prior research, the authors identify the tasks that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would likely be assigned by Chinese leaders to achieve strategic goals both in peacetime competition with the United States and in a hypothetical low-intensity conflict. They then analyze potential vulnerabilities in the PLA’s execution of those tasks and how the United States could leverage those vulnerabilities to disrupt China’s strategic goals.
An Analysis of People's Liberation Army Missions, Tasks, and Potential Vulnerabilities
Published Dec 5, 2023
The authors identify tasks that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) would likely be assigned by Chinese leaders to achieve strategic goals both in peacetime competition with the United States and in a hypothetical low-intensity conflict. The authors then analyze potential vulnerabilities in the PLA's execution of those tasks and how the United States could leverage those vulnerabilities to disrupt China's strategic goals, focusing on the potential for peacetime competition to erupt into a broader low-intensity conflict featuring smaller, indirect, or hybrid confrontations that span the world.
The authors expand on a comprehensive list of potential PLA missions developed in prior research and explore vulnerabilities in the PLA's execution of the specific tasks required to achieve Beijing's strategic objectives. Across these missions and tasks, they identify five sets of vulnerabilities that, if disrupted, could affect Beijing's ability to achieve its goals: fears of domestic instability after PLA actions, risk of escalating conflict, harm to China's reputation, the PLA's limited ability to support partner states, and the PLA's limited ability to project power.
These vulnerabilities provide a sense of the potential pressure points that the PLA could face in accomplishing its objectives. Options for the United States to leverage these pressure points include deterring harmful PLA actions by shaping perceptions of how those actions might affect China's interests, exploiting the consequences of PLA actions to deter Beijing from repeating similar actions, and exploiting PLA weaknesses in power projection and partner support to weaken confidence in the PLA and discourage similar operations.