The 'Know Your Region' series is designed to support unit and individual professional military education on the South East Asian region. It's important for all serving members of our military to have a foundational knowledge of the countries and issues in the Indo-Pacific.


On this page:

  • Military capability
  • Defence White Papers (Australia/China)


Military Capability

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is the regular armed forces of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the armed wing of the PRC's founding and ruling political party, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  Besides the Central Military Commission (CMC) and its subsidiary organisations, the PLA has four major service branches: the ArmyNavyAir ForceRocket Force, and is supported by the Strategic Support Force and Joint Logistics Support Force.  This diagram details the organisational structure of the PLA:

Organisational Chart of the People's Liberation Army

For further reading on China's military capability, see the resources below:


Defence White Papers

On 22 July 2019, China issued its first Defence White Paper since 2015 titled China’s National Defense in the New Era. On 01 July 2020 Australia published its Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan. Both of these documents set out each Nation’s strategy for security in both a regional and global context and are detailed below, along with analysis and opinion.


'Australia now faces an environment of increasing strategic competition; the introduction of more capable military systems enabled by technological change; and the increasingly aggressive use of diverse grey-zone tactics to coerce states under the threshold for a conventional military response.’
2020 Defence Strategic Update & 2020 Force Structure Plan


'The world today is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. As economic globalisation, the information society, and cultural diversification develop in an increasingly multi-polar world, peace, development and win-win cooperation remain the irreversible trends of the times. Nonetheless, there are prominent destabilising factors and uncertainties in international security. The world is not yet a tranquil place.’
China’s National Defense in the New Era – PRC White paper


Discussion Questions

  1. The DOD China Military Power Report 2020 cites China’s ‘Next Generation AI Plan’ as detailing China’s goals of using commercial and military entities to gain parity with the world leaders in AI by 2020 and become a global leader by 2030. What impact would significant gains in China’s AI capability have on its military? What would be the impact of this within the ADF in terms of workforce structure, training, recruiting and technological requirements?
  2. The US has publicly stated that it looks to Australia as the key partner in the Indo-Pacific region. Given this geographical location will be the likely centre of global strategic competition between China and the US, what role should Australia play within the region? How should we continue to manage our existing relationships with these two nations?
  3. China states in their White Paper that they are in the critical stage of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society. How has this influenced China’s strategic outlook, and what factors, internal and external, will continue to shape the Chinese military growth?
  4. The Australian Defence Strategic Update 2020 explicitly focuses Australian defence planning to our immediate region (across the Indo-Pacific area). What are the greatest issues likely to require ADF involvement in the next 10 years? How should the ADF prepare and respond to these issues?