Abstract. Military-civilian integration has been a consistent national strategy in China in recent years. The combining of military and civilian resources is aimed primarily at creating an effective system of innovation in science, technology, and manufacturing. The overall goal is to enhance the capabilities of the military-industrial complex in producing a new generation of arms and military hardware for modernizing the army and facilitating the Chinese economy’s transition to world-class high-technology production in order to guarantee the country’s international competitiveness. Integration is intended to create a unified military and civilian system and a uniform Chinese strategic potential for the rational use of resources in military and civilian planning. The author summarizes assessments of Chinese analysts who believe this integration should encompass China’s national strategy at the highest level (the “Going Out” strategy; the “One Belt, One Road” initiative; development based on innovation; achieving the status of a world power in areas of critical importance: cutting-edge high-technology manufacturing, outer space, the World Ocean, artificial intelligence) and the regional level (developing the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei zone, the Yangtze River Economic Belt, and the Western region; the strategy of Northeast renewal). China’s successes in implementing the current stage of military-civilian integration are analyzed, along with fundamental problems on the path to strengthening integration and ways of solving them. The author considers China’s efforts to extend the strategy of military-civilian integration to foreign economic activity and international scientific and technical cooperation.

PRC Chairman Xi Jinping’s declaration of the need to bring military-civilian integration to the level of a state strategy, made at a plenary meeting with a delegation from the Chinese Army during the third session of the 12th National People’s Congress (March 2015), must be considered a key moment in the development of military-civilian integration inside China. Such integration is of the greatest importance in guaranteeing the country’s military capabilities and modernizing the economic system at its current stage. In his speech at the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (October 2017), Xi called for “taking a firm stand on the position of unity in cultivating the country’s economic and military potential, designing a structure for strengthening military-civilian integration on the basis of scientific and technological achievements and innovations, and creating an integrated national strategic system with the corresponding potential.”1

These directives of Xi Jinping are a continuation of the policy of PRC Chairman Hu Jintao’s administration (2003-2013) aimed at drawing the civilian sector into participating in military structuring and legislative strengthening of the 2010 PRC Law on Military Mobilization in particular, which calls for the state to assist organizations investing in scientific research and the development and production of military goods (Article 24).2 The idea of military-civilian integration was reflected in the 2020 PRC Law on National Defense, the provisions of which affect such integration directly: (1) the development of defense-oriented science, technology, and industry should be conducted in accordance with the principles of military-civilian integration, the integration of peacetime and wartime, the priority of military production and innovation, and independent and managed development (Article 34); and (2) the state encourages and supports investment in national defense by civilian enterprises and private citizens who have the appropriate licenses, protects the legal rights and interests of investors, and offers them preferential treatment (Article 56).3

The aim of military-civilian integration is to create a unified military-civilian system and a single strategic potential for China to strike a balance between increasing the economic might of the state and ensuring national security, while simultaneously implementing balanced strategic planning in different areas with the rational use of resources. In a broader sense, this refers to creating an integrated system that allows for the effective use of politics, economics, the armed forces, science and technology, and culture (“soft power”) for improving the machinery of state, including its scientific, technological, economic, and military potential.4

The Chinese recognize that in the new historical era characterized by the rapid development of information technologies (including artificial intelligence), new opportunities are opening up for expanding and deepening military-civilian integration in the military and economic fields with the aim of strengthening China’s military potential, improving its international competitiveness, and raising its influence in the world.

The policy in this area is to transition from the first stage of military-civilian integration under Hu Jintao to that of deepening it in the current stage. Academic circles in China believe there are several reasons for Xi Jinping’s above definition of military-civilian integration as state policy.

First, military-civilian integration would facilitate China’s transformation into a great power. The country is currently in a critical stage of transformation. China’s military potential has to be strengthened under the conditions of domestic and foreign challenges, a task that must be performed amid an economic growth slowdown resulting from the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Military-civilian integration would make it possible to strike a balance between development and ensuring the country’s defense.

Second, military-civilian integration would help secure advantages in international technological and military competition. Since world powers continue to cultivate investment in the development of breakthrough technologies, China must end the current slowdown and assume a leading position. The strategy of military-civilian integration includes measures for integrating national military and civilian scientific and technical resources and improving the potential for military-civilian innovation, making it easier to create powerful armed forces while simultaneously transforming China into a great scientific power.

Third, military-civilian integration would allow the management system to be improved. This would include overcoming situations where, despite previous integration efforts, the military and civilian sectors continued to be largely separate, resulting in the irrational use of resources. In 2016, only 15% of China’s military technologies were used in the interests of the civilian sector, as opposed to 60% in developed countries.

Fourth, military-civilian integration would help in building world-class armed forces based on China’s scientific and technical potential and the state power apparatus. The strategy of military-civilian innovation must be implemented in coordination with China’s strategy in cyberspace, innovation, manufacturing, marine commerce, space exploration, and other areas, facilitating their development.5

Chinese analysts believe that the strategy of military-civilian integration corresponds with China’s global ambitions expressed in the “Going Out” strategy adopted earlier, and the “One Belt, One Road” initiative that encompasses 140 countries and 32 international organizations as of June 2021.6 At the same time, the growth of international competition in the struggle for resources inevitably demands development of military potential to protect China’s national interests on a global scale. The strategy of military-civilian integration supplements and supports both strategies and should include the defense industry’s “going out,” the development of bases for the material and technical support of China’s Armed Forces beyond the country’s borders, and international military exchanges within the aforementioned initiative.

It is thought that military-civilian integration should include other Chinese national strategies. These include:

1. National strategies of the highest level: the “Going Out” strategy; the “One Belt, One Road” initiative; the national development strategy; and the training of scientific, engineering, and technical experts.

2. National strategies for achieving the status of a world power in areas of critical importance: cutting-edge high-tech manufacturing; space exploration; the World Ocean; cyberspace; and artificial intelligence.

3. Regional strategies: coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei zone; the Yangtze River economic belt; the Western Region; and renovation of the Northeast.

A system of party, state, and military bodies has been created for implementing the strategy of military-civilian integration inside the country. These bodies are subordinate to the Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development (CCIMCD), the highest body headed by Xi Jinping, which provides unified leadership and policy coordination in the area of military-civilian integration. (According to the Xinhua News Agency, the CCIMCD was created on January 22, 2017.7Author)

The Bureau of Military-Civilian Integration, working in conjunction with the Committee on Development and Reforms and the Scientific-Technical Commission, which coordinates the growth of military and civilian research and development,8 was created within the PRC Central Military Commission (CMC) during China’s 2015-2020 military reforms.

The task of eliminating barriers to the conversion of the defense industry has been given to the State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND). The following agencies within the structure of the PRC State Council have also been ordered to participate in military-civilian integration: the State Committee on Development and Reforms; the Ministry of Industry and Informatization, in which a military-civilian integration department has been created; the Ministry of Science and Technology; the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission; the Ministry of Finance; and the Ministry of Commerce.

Measures were simultaneously taken to put the military-civilian integration process on a planned footing. During the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), several interrelated state programs directly connected with military-civilian integration and the activities of the military-industrial complex were implemented in parallel. The most important of these were the 13th Five-Year Plan for the Development of Military Science, Technology, and Industry (launched September 22, 2017),9 and the 13th Five-Year Plan Special Plan for the Development of Science, Technology, and Military-Civilian Integration (launched in August 2017).10 The latter was under the purview of the PRC Central Military Commission, which acquired expanded authority during the 2015 military reforms and had the goal of creating an integrated system of research and development in the fields of artificial intelligence, bioengineering, quantum technologies, advanced manufacturing, new composite materials, and overlapping fields with the ultimate aim of “seizing the commanding heights of international competition.”

According to assessments by American analysts, the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) was aimed at innovative and technological development with an emphasis on achieving the country’s independence from imported technologies. In the process of military-civilian integration, many new technologies in the civilian sector can find application in the military sector. These include artificial intelligence and advanced robotechnical systems, as well as superpowerful computer systems that allow processing cycles to be shortened and the production of arms and military hardware to be modernized, including technology used in command-and-control systems, communications, computer networks, and surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence gathering systems. Quantum technologies can be used to create secure lines of communications, navigation systems, and deciphering machines. Hypersonic technologies can be employed in weapons designed to destroy enemy antiaircraft defenses, drones, and antimissile and antisatellite systems. New materials and alternative sources of energy can be applied in modernizing weapons and military hardware.11

A party-state system was inaugurated to ensure the implementation of military-civilian integration decisions. For example, the CPC Central Commission’s Directorate for the Development of Military-Civilian Integration Corresponding to Everyday Work conducts seminars on combining the integration of the military and civilian sectors, while monitoring the process in this area to identify problems and take steps to resolve them.

Local government is also taking measures to advance military-civilian integration. In 2018, 20 province-level governments announced plans for developing military-civilian integration, and directorates were created in 23 province and municipal bodies to implement this process. Party committees were created to coordinate the efforts of province bodies managing the process at the local level and conducting the central government’s policy of military-civilian integration. Structures that included party committees and representatives of the armed forces were created in private companies to perform military-civilian integration. Workers from the central government were involved in monitoring the process at the local level.

In recent years, measures have been taken to increase the involvement of the civilian sector in military-civilian integration, including private capital’s participation in military production. The 2005 system of licensing was greatly simplified in 2015, and certain demands made on enterprises and establishments of the private sector wishing to participate in military-civilian integration were eased.

The licensing system now includes three categories of certificates: First (arms and munitions), Second (other munitions used exclusively by the armed forces), and Third (civilian products used by the armed forces). It is of fundamental importance that civilian enterprises and establishments have access to research, developments, and the production of technologically complex weapons and munitions that previously were used only by state enterprises and establishments. Simplifying the licensing process has helped increase the participation of civilian enterprises in the military sector.12

In addition, the advantages of the scientific, technological, and manufacturing potential of the military-industrial complex are employed in the civilian sector: first, in such areas as nuclear power, civil aviation, research and development in space and at sea, high-tech shipbuilding, and the development of industries producing electronic components for both military and civilian use; second, in creating new high-tech branches of manufacturing; and third, in the production of hardware for guaranteeing security in cyberspace and warning of threats.

In 2018, China adopted a new strategy of military-civilian integration that included a program for creating planned pilot zones and laboratories and completing the reform of shareholder and state-owned scientific research institutes and military academies (except for institutions of fundamental science) by 2020. Simultaneously, China announced the establishment of innovation centers to develop the country’s potential in information technologies, computer systems, biotechnologies, defense and electronic security, and to support the “Made in China 2025” program aimed at creating the potential for high-tech manufacturing in the civilian sector.

It was noted in the “Made in China 2025” program that the country’s manufacturing sector is large but of poor quality. It lags behind in innovation (including digitalization) and the efficient use of resources, testifying to the need for a change in its means of production. According to estimates published in 2017 by the American US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China surpasses the US in several of the latest technologies (e.g., supercomputers and commercial unpiloted aircraft) but is inferior in the fields of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and robotics. In addition, the number of science and technology fields in which China has achieved global dominance remains limited.

The “Made in China 2025” program sets the ambitious task of transforming China into an industrial power by 2035 and joining the world community of leading industrial nations by 2049. At the same time, the program calls for progressively curtailing the dependence of China’s manufacturing sector on imported materials and the most complex high-tech components. According to these provisions, the civilian and military sectors should both produce at least 70% of everything they need.13

The policy of military-civilian integration is closely tied to ways of developing innovations in military production. At the same time, the process begun in the 2000s of transforming state-owned manufacturing enterprises, scientific research institutions, and military academies into scientific industrial establishments traded on stock markets continues. The emphasis in this area is shifting toward 41 scientific research institutions encompassing the electronic and space industries, shipbuilding, the aircraft and nuclear sectors, and the production of missiles, artillery, and small arms.

Under the plan, it was assumed that this process would be basically complete in 2020, but it was complicated by having to solve accompanying problems, from the salaries of personnel to tax breaks, settling debts, and determining the role of the CPC in management and the responsibilities of trade unions in setting prices on the produced military hardware.

In the opinion of Japanese experts, the Chinese believe that as a consequence of the current revolution in military affairs, the following areas of science, technology, and manufacturing – some of which are of secondary importance – are a high priority for national defense:

● creating powerful launch vehicles, nuclear power stations, systems for the technical support of orbital stations, and remote probing

● jointly using satellite resources and data from the military and civilian sectors, and creating satellite communications with a different type of infrastructure

● improving cybersecurity, developing integrated orbital information systems, designing and building test ranges for military electronic reconnaissance, researching and producing equipment for the civilian sector

● coordinating the needs of the military and civilian sectors in distant deep-water marine testing grounds and corresponding tests

● perfecting the technologies of underwater measuring, transmitting data, and guaranteeing security; expanding the technical capabilities of monitoring the World Ocean; building deep-water stations and surface marine platforms for nuclear power stations

● building powerful icebreakers, research and rescue vessels, and ships for surveying natural resources in polar regions.14

The ideas of military-civilian integration in China extend to the educational system and the training of scientific, engineering, and technical personnel, which is being reformed based on national and international experience in order to train a wide range of scientific and technical specialists who could participate in both military and civilian scientific-
technical projects capable of incorporating the latest foreign technologies and creating their own on a world level. Such reform encompasses all levels of training personnel, from the lowest to the highest, including the country’s universities, scientific-technical institutes, and military academies, as well as the training of personnel abroad.

Subsequent lines of development of the national education system were noted in China’s 13th Five-Year Plan as part of the strategy of building a knowledge-based economy. The most important of these is the State Program for Creating World-Class Universities and Academic Disciplines intended to raise the level of innovation in the process of training personnel and transforming higher educational institutions into important sources of research and technological innovation. The program set the goal of making China’s higher educational system the best in the world by 2050.

Implementation of the program was facilitated by the rapid advance of Chinese higher educational institutions in world ratings. China was represented by 72 institutions in the 2019 rankings of universities of emerging economies, putting it in first place. Two Chinese universities were among the 100 global institutions in the Times’ Higher Education World University Rankings of 2019 – Zhejiang University and Peking University.

The Guangzhou-Hong Kong-Macao University Project, which combines higher education, science, and industry, was unveiled in February 2019. By 2035, China’s best universities, leading companies, and most modern ports will be concentrated in a zone combining Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macao, and nine cities in the south of Guangdong Province. The zone is to become a leading world hub of innovation and a competitor of the US’s Silicon Valley. Guangzhou’s South China University of Technology, an active participant in implementing the national “One Belt, One Road” and “Made in China 2025” projects, is also leading the development of the zone.15

In the opinion of A.V. Ostrovsky, China views new and advanced technologies, innovation, and knowledge as the main sources of economic growth and tools of a new type of industrialization. Still, the successes of innovative development depend on more than just research and development at scientific centers and Chinese enterprises. China’s transformation into a technological power depends largely on its participation in international cooperation. Interactive relations with transnational companies are very important. They are also taking measures that combine elements of state and market regulation, concentrating personnel and financial, scientific-technical, and material means intended for developing and introducing China’s own innovations.

To obtain access to modern dual-use (military and civilian) technologies and find the best ways of using them, China actively (and successfully) utilizes foreign companies’ interest in maintaining their own positions in the country, where tough competition compels them to pursue a “digging in” policy that includes expanding and deepening collaboration with Chinese partners in research and industry, using products manufactured in China, organizing joint enterprises, issuing products meant for export, and improving the qualifications of local personnel.

In recent years, China has sought to extend the strategy of military-civilian integration to foreign policy actions and international scientific-technical cooperation. Document No. 91 (2017) of the PRC State Council calls for organizations participating in military-civilian integration to expand arms exports and develop international cooperation in support of both the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and the “Going Out” strategy.

According to the document, organizations participating in military-civilian integration should do the following:

● facilitate the export of nuclear power stations and equipment for nuclear technologies, aerospace and aviation equipment, high-tech ocean-going vessels, and other advanced equipment with high added value

● help create a “One Belt, One Road” corridor for information from space and constellations of satellites for the remote sensing of territories of the BRICS countries

● encourage participation in developing oil and mineral resources abroad, and in international engineering projects

● take full advantage of the possibilities of international collaboration through the national atomic energy and space agencies (under the PRC State Council) and strengthen international collaboration on nuclear energy and aerospace.16

* * *

Ever since military-civilian integration became a national strategy in 2015, China has succeeded in laying the groundwork for its implementation. In the last seven years, a governing structure has been created that includes PRC party, state, and military bodies at all levels, from the central government to the provinces. A coordinated policy has been developed to improve the exchange of information and increase collaboration among participants in the process. At the same time, the Xi Jinping administration’s strategy for accelerating military-civilian integration is encountering a wide range of problems. For example, the National Defense Economy Research Center at the PLA National Defense University has noted a difference in how the tasks of military-civilian integration are perceived in the national defense sector and the civilian entities engaged in the process that prevents regional control over supply and demand in both areas. There has also been a lack of coordination between the actions of participants, inadequate military-civilian integration legislation, and other problems. The many existing directives have not produced the desired results because they only offer recommendations, resulting in the need to draft and adopt laws on military-civilian integration that must be followed by both military and civilian bodies. A PRC law on military-civilian integration, which is complicated by the need to manage the incompatibility of the institutional interests of the participating entities, and in a number of cases is aggravated by conflicts over policy and the market, is currently being drafted.

One possible legislation line in military-civilian integration that we believe is of both domestic and international importance is the creation in China of a legal base for the People’s Liberation Army to participate in nonmilitary actions. A corresponding piece of legislation was adopted on June 20, 2022. According to China’s Global Times, experts believe the above measures provide a legislative base for PLA participation in humanitarian missions, natural disaster relief, and protecting Chinese assets abroad. The PRC campaign against the COVID-19 pandemic, conducted with the active participation of the army, is one example of the Chinese Armed Forces’ involvement in nonmilitary operations. In addition, the PLA regularly helps in natural disaster relief efforts and has repeatedly participated in antiterrorist operations and peacekeeping missions worldwide.17

Note, too, that additional aspects of the army’s participation in nonmilitary operations for the purposes of military-civilian integration require additional study and clarification.

Despite unsolved problems, the combination of military-civilian integration and China’s military-technical and scientific collaboration with foreign countries is already yielding visible practical results and world-class high-tech civilian products.

According to the American journal Defense News, three of the Chinese military-industrial complex’s corporations are among the world’s 100 largest such companies: the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, Ltd; the China North Industries Group Corporation, Ltd; and the China State Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd., which ranked sixth, eighth, and 10th in income from arms sales in 2020, respectively.18

China’s prominent scientific-technical accomplishments include the development of nuclear energy, research in and the conquest of outer space and the World Ocean, the launch of the BeiDou satellite navigation system in 2020, and the development of superpowerful scientific and industrial computer systems and 5G communications technologies. Particularly noteworthy among China’s 2021 achievements are the following:

● research on creating thermonuclear sources of energy on the HL-2M Tokamak reactor at Sichuan Province’s Chengdu Scientific Center during experiments to reproduce reactions that occur naturally in the Sun, as a result of which a new world record was set in the length of thermonuclear synthesis (101 seconds at 120 million degrees Celsius)

● the Tianwen-1 spacecraft for the exploration of Mars, launched from Hainan Province’s Wenchang cosmodrome on a Changzheng-5 rocket on July 23, 2020, which landed in the northern region of the planet on May 15, 2021, with a Mars rover that immediately commenced operations

● the creation and launch of the Shenhai-1 deepwater oil and gas complex in Sanya, Hainan Province, which is capable of independently exploring, surveying, and developing oil and gas fields at depths up to 1,500 meters, giving China technology for the superdeep extraction of oil and gas

● the Haidou-1 pilotless bathyscaphe set several world records in deepwater research at a depth of 10,908 meters in the Mariana Trench, with wireless transmission of its captured videoimages.19

The Wentian (“Quest for the Heavens”) laboratory module, a component of China’s Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) space station, was launched into orbit on July 24, 2022, on a Changzheng-5B rocket at Hainan Province’s Wenchang cosmodrome. The 23-[metric] ton module contains eight laboratory compartments and a backup console for controlling the station should the module’s main system fail. The station will have a new companion in 2023, when China’s Xuntian (“Heavenly Patrol”) space telescope is launched into orbit. It will be put into operation in 2024 with an expected service life of 10 years. The Tiangong space station is intended to serve China’s scientific and economic needs while remaining open for international collaboration. 20

Military-civilian integration in China, which in the long run will also have international aspects, is accompanied by the Program for the Development of Artificial Intelligence, which was adopted in 2017 and is being implemented with massive financing from the state and private technological companies closely associated with it.21 The Chinese believe artificial intelligence has become a new area of international rivalry that will determine the country’s future development, international competitiveness, national security, and degree of influence in the world. The program calls for China’s AI industry to become the world’s leader by 2030. Further intensification of military-civilian integration is connected with its broader development and application, which is seen as a universal technology for dual (military and civilian) use.


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