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China’s Strategic Support Force: A Force for a New Era

By March 3, 2019April 29th, 2023No Comments

In late 2015, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) initiated a series of ongoing reforms that have brought dramatic changes to its structure, model of warfighting, and organizational culture. Undoubtedly, among the most important changes has been the creation of a unified Strategic Support Force (SSF) [zhanlüe zhiyuan budui, 战略支援部队]. This force combines assorted space, cyber, and electronic warfare (EW) capabilities from across the PLA services and its former general departments.

The few statements that Xi Jinping has made about the role of the Strategic Support Force have been almost comically circumspect, affirming that it is both a “strategic” force and a “supporting” one. Even 2 years after its founding, some aspects of the SSF’s organizational structure remain opaque to outside observers. However, despite this lack of transparency, a coherent picture has gradually emerged of how various SSF components fit together and the strategic roles and missions that they are intended to fulfill.

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