A look at China’s military amid COVID-19-induced economic slowdown

Due to the coronavirus induced economic slowdown, thousands of demobilized People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers in big and medium-sized cities are currently facing unemployment or under-employment.
Most of them, sources said, were demobilized between 2015 and 2018. Their number is said to be close to 300,000. Because of the 2016 decision, most of them were given only a lump sum payment.
They were working as delivery boys, or as bearers in hotels, restaurants and salespersons in malls and shops etc. The technically qualified ones joined manufacturing units.
There have been small size demonstrations asking for special help from the government by these ex-soldiers in various cities. “While not yet alarming, local authorities see these agitations as generators of negative sentiments against government and party, and discouraging for potential future recruits”, the sources said.
Senior officers, nearly 300 of them above the rank of Senior Colonel were sacked for corruption between 2015 and 2018. Many of them were let go without being arrested. “It is suspected that some of these officers are also instigating these demonstrations”, they further said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping met with a PLA delegation, and his remark led to wide-spread speculations and discussion in India. “He (Xi) ordered the military to think about worst-case scenarios, scale up training and battle preparedness, promptly and effectively deal with all sorts of complex situations and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests. He demanded good planning on the next five-year plan. On defence expenditure, Xi said every penny must be well spent to produce maximum results.”
The Chinese leadership appears to be pushing ahead with the centenary goal planned for the year.
As for China’s perception and info Ops against India, the PLA uses Global Times (which has a fair degree of readership in India) to send deliberate messages by reporting stories.
“Since the Doklam standoff with India in 2017, the Chinese military has expanded its arsenal with weapons like the Type 15 tank, Z-20 helicopter and GJ-2 drone that should give China the advantage in high-altitude conflicts should they arise”, Chinese analysts said on Sunday.
China’s Type 15 tank made its public debut at the National Day military parade on October 1 last year.
The Type 15 lightweight main battle tank can effectively operate in plateau regions difficult for heavier tanks, and with its advanced fire control systems and 105-millimetre calibre armour-piercing main gun, it can outgun any other light-armored vehicles at high elevations, the experts said.
The idea is to portray the PLA as militarily far superior to the Indian military and create doubts in Indians mind.
In the aftermath of Covid-19 lockdown, China is facing heat as the manufacturing activity has taken a drastic downturn.
“There are no fresh orders from the US and European markets. Indian and Australian sentiment is negative and recent legal measures by India and Australia is making Chinese and China-based MNCs nervous”, the sources said.
China is especially worried that countries in Quad plus three (New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam) will take away the manufacturing part. An internal survey showed that foreign multi-nationals are now planning on keeping some basic factory in china but will move out the bulk to any of these seven countries.
The nervousness was reflected in the National People’s Congress. It did not set any specific GDP target for the year while the fiscal deficit target of 3.6% was set.
Nearly 2 trillion yuan of transfers for local governments was sanctioned and it was announced that a special transfer payment mechanism will be set up to ensure that funds go straight to prefecture and county governments.
The announcement stressed that these funds are not be used for “non-designated” purpose. In other words, expect more discipline inspections and tightening anti-corruption steps heading into 2022.
Premier Li Keqiang spoke about the need to tighten belts, with the central government announcing a 50 percent cut to outlays on non-essential and non-obligatory items.
Meanwhile, Chinese law-makers point out that the average per-capita annual income in China is 30,000 yuan ($4,193), but there are over 600 million people whose monthly income is barely 1,000 yuan ($140), not enough to rent a room in the Chinese cities.
These facts add weight to the argument that China is a relatively poor country, as over 40% of its 1.4 billion people are still living on a daily income of less than $5.
According to the CCP’s own internal reports, the three priorities areas include IT investment in futuristic technologies like 5G, new energy vehicles and charging stations to compete with the US; the second is new urbanization, including enhancing the public services of countries, and renewal of old residential complexes, as opposed to building new ones.
These are important given that in a bid to boost growth after the 2008 financial crisis, local governments ended up ramping up spending, much of which was either outright wasteful or yielded very low productivity. So, Li’s effort is to prevent a repeat of that approach. While they might not face the pressure of a GDP target, employment pressures could force local governments to revert to the more traditional sectors.