The PLA’s ability to project force within and beyond China’s borders, which Chinese strategists refer to as “strategic delivery,” depends on adequate logistics capabilities, systems, and policies. The new Joint Logistic Support Force will play a critical role in these respects. The force, established in 2016 as part of Xi Jinping’s reforms, made its operational debut in the PLA’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan in 2020. That case provides details about the JLSF’s structure, capabilities, and operations. Leveraging insights from that case, the essay portrays the JLSF as a force in transition, both the inheritor of decades of investments in logistics modernization and recent upgrades, but also a new and largely untested force with several apparent weaknesses. Unless further improvements are made, the JLSF could be a weak link in future Chinese joint operations.
Dr. Joel Wuthnow is a senior research fellow in the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs within the Institute for National for Strategic Studies at NDU. His research areas include Chinese foreign and security policy, Chinese military affairs, U.S.-China relations, and strategic developments in East Asia. In addition to his duties in INSS, he also serves as an adjunct professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
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