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China Wants Their Very Own Version of the U.S. Marines

A candidate assigned to Delta Company, Officer Candidates Class-221, breaks the surface of the murky water of 'The Quigley' at Brown Field, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, on March 15, 2016. The mission of Officer Candidates School (OCS) is to "educate and train officer candidates in Marine Corps knowledge and skills within a controlled, challenging, and chaotic environment in order to evaluate and screen individuals for the leadership, moral, mental, and physical qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer."

The People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps might be undergoing a deep restructuring aimed at transforming China’s Marine Corps into a multi-domain, multi-mission force better equipped to respond to a wide array of challenges. Like many nation’s Marine Corps, the PLAN Marine Corps functions primarily as an extension of naval power on land, though the scope of operations seems to be expanding.

In particular, combined arms operations, as well as operations across multiple domains, seems to be a priority for a force that has been optimized primarily for amphibious assault-type operations.

Evidence in a recent CCTV (China Central Television) report indicates that the PLAN Marine Corps has begun familiarization with the ZTQ-15, a relatively lightweight tank that is particularly well-suited to operations at extreme altitude, in environments that are endemic to the Tibetan Plateau. 

Parts of the Plateau are the site of the Chinese-Indian border, an area that has seen some of the worst clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in decades. Jane’s first reported on the recent CCTV video report.

The United States Marine Corps is no stranger to combined arms operations, an approach to maneuver warfare that combines rapid and flexible combat arms (infantry, armor, artillery, airpower, etc.) in a mutually complementary way so that an enemy defending itself against one combat arm is exposed to a different combat arm.

The PLAN Marine Corps, on the other hand, has historically operated as a naval infantry assault force — an immensely important task considering Taiwan’s proximity to mainland China, though an operation that has shaped the PLAN Marine Corps’ area of operations into a single-mission force. Beijing regards Taiwan as a rogue province, and would ultimately like to reunify the island with the mainland, by force if necessary.

More recently the PLAN Marine Corps has conducted military exercises to improve coordination of PLANMC armor and artillery operations. Jane’s also reported that the PLANMC recently conducted exercises that saw coordination between land, sea, and air assets, further reinforcing the evidence of a shift from strictly amphibious assault to combined arms operations.

Though the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps has historically served as a specialized force tailored primarily for an eventual amphibious assault on Taiwan, their operational domain could ultimately expand to include the cold, high-altitude areas of the Tibetan Plateau, or even overseas operations. Like the United States’ force-in-readiness, Chinese Marines seem to be preparing to serve as an overseas extension of Beijing’s military power.

Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer based in Europe. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

Written By

Caleb Larson, a defense journalist based in Europe and holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics and culture.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. David Tate

    June 5, 2021 at 9:44 am

    The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has four aircraft carriers in the water or building. They also have eight Amphibious Transport Docks and over 40 other Amphibious Ships. They recently launched a Landing Helicpter Dock and have two others fitting out or in sea trials. This will give the PLAN that capability of projecting six to eight battalion sized organizations into the Western Pacific, Central Pacific, or Indian Ocean. This is key because 60% of the worlds sea transport travel through the Straights of Malacca or the Sunda Straights. A recent CINCPAC said that Communist China owns the South China Sea, short of war. I think that is probably a good assessment. The buildng Communist fleet and capability may force allies like Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and other states in the Pacific Rim and South Pacific to reach new accommodaitons with the Chinese Communist government over the next twenty years.

  2. Mark Clayton

    June 5, 2021 at 9:54 am

    How are the Chinese going to invade Taiwan without the world knowing theyre preparing months in advance .
    They cant form an invasion force without satellite observations

  3. Will

    June 5, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    Ummm they don’t care if anyone’s watching the bet is no one will have the balls to contest it. Since the USMC has defanged itself by eliminating tanks and artillery, Taiwan is SOL

  4. Brian Foley

    June 5, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    China has a shot at it…all they really need is the very best fighting men they can produce, throw them into a big pot. Then add two hundred and forty years of experience led by the finest leaders they can muster. Throw in a boatload of wars in every climate on earth against some really fanatical enemies…whirl that around for awhile. Add a dash of the finest Navy to lug them around. Now mix in a philosophy of every man a rifleman, every officer a combat leader….let that set for a while….that should do it.

  5. RepublicansaredestoryingAmerica

    June 5, 2021 at 6:22 pm

    China needs to get their own financial house in order before they start creating another Air Force, with ground bound plane guards(the current post Bush USMC). As their economy it due to crash before 2030.

  6. Buck Fiden

    June 6, 2021 at 10:52 am

    Yessir. China might be able to steal tech, but the can’t have a ready-made corps with an honorable battle record.

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