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China’s New Recon Forces: Unprecedented, Highly-Capable, Ambitious

© AFP 2023China has established a new combat force to safeguard its national security – Strategic Support Force (SSF), which has no analogues in the world
China has established a new combat force to safeguard its national security – Strategic Support Force (SSF), which has no analogues in the world - Sputnik International
China has established a new combat force to safeguard its national security: the Strategic Support Force (SSF), which has no analogue in the world; Russian defense expert Vasily Kashin has commented to Sputnik on the structure of the newly-created force and the national security tasks it is set to tackle.

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“This unique structure will bring together the whole scope of capacities of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in waging special operations and information warfare,” Kashin told Sputnik.

“Apart from the former Third and Fourth Departments of the PLA General Staff Headquarters, which were responsible for the technical reconnaissance, cyber intelligence, electronic warfare and offensive cyber operations, the new forces will be responsible for the military intelligence at large and for the psychological operations in particular.”

The expert noted that the above indicates that the SSF might also include the former Second (Intelligence) Department of the PLA General Staff Headquarters, responsible for collecting military information and overseeing military human intelligence collection.

It will also incorporate the Foreign Affairs Bureau of the former PLA General Political Department, responsible for political warfare and propaganda operations targeted at the army and population of an enemy.

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Additionally, the newly-formed Forces could include Special Operations Units.

Thus, Kashin stressed, the Strategic Support Force is a structure with no analogues in the world. Such a concentration of intelligence and information warfare units in one structure will allow it to exploit every resource to its maximum capacity.

However, he noted, it bears some hidden problems and challenges.

The above departments slated to be united into one structure are multifarious and differ in their methods of work and priorities.

In many countries, technical reconnaissance units are the largest and the most expensive elements of the reconnaissance community – and China is no exception to this. One could suppose that the unification of such a diverse array of services into one structure will lead to the exacerbation of competition between all the units.

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Another issue of special importance is the processing of the data collected by various units of the newly-created SSF.  Each of the intelligence services, now united into one structure, used to have its own information analysis department, which provided information for the military and political leadership.

The question is – will there be a new, unified information analysis structure which will accumulate data from all the sources? If so, its political significance will be immense.

Another issue which is worthy of consideration is the supposed inclusion of the Special Operations Forces into this structure. It would enable the PLA to conduct special operations on a global scale, having at its disposal all the capabilities of space surveillance, electronic, clandestine and special intelligence.

No other country in the world approaches such a level of integration and centralization.

Nevertheless, the implementation of such an ambitious reform cannot be simple and its success cannot be guaranteed.

The Chinese leadership will have to undertake considerable efforts to ensure that the unification of such diverse structures goes smoothly.

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