A more powerful Chinese marine corps is also a threat to Taiwan, which has lived under the shadow of Chinese amphibious invasion for almost 70 years. However, it appears that the Chinese army would conduct major amphibious operations such as assaulting Taiwan, while the PLANMC would be tasked with smaller operations such as seizing small islands.
The National Interest
Date: August 29, 2018
By: Michael Peck
China is bulking up its marine corps.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps will only be a fraction of the size and power of the U.S. Marine Corps. But like their American counterparts, the PLANMC is becoming an expeditionary force to project Chinese power around the globe.
“I would argue that over several years, the PLANMC has been developing into a rapid response force that could be tasked with conducting a variety of expeditionary missions to defend China’s overseas interests,” Alan Burns, a China expert with the non-profit Center for Naval Analyses in Arlington, Virginia, told The National Interest.
A recent Pentagon report described the expansion of China’s marine corps:
“One of the most significant PLAN structural changes in 2017 was the expansion of the PLAN Marine Corps (PLANMC). The PLANMC previously consisted of 2 brigades, approximately 10,000 personnel, and was limited in geography and mission (amphibious assault and defense of South China Sea outposts). By 2020, the PLANMC will consist of 7 brigades, may have more than 30,000 personnel, and will expand its mission to include expeditionary operations on foreign soil, as PLANMC forces are already operating out of the PLA’s base in Djibouti. A newly established Marine Corps headquarters is responsible for manning, training, and equipping the expanded Marine Corps and, for the first time, the PLANMC has its own commander, although it is still subordinate to the PLAN. The PLANMC may also incorporate an aviation brigade, which could provide an organic helicopter transport and attack capability, increasing its amphibious and expeditionary warfare capabilities.”
Burns believes the changes in the PLANMC’s command structure, notably the establishment of a headquarters under a single commander, are particularly important. “Previously, the two Chinese marine brigades were subordinate to the PLA Navy South Sea Fleet. Now, the PLANMC commander will likely be subordinate to the PLA Navy headquarters directly, which indicates a significant increase in status and the evolution of the PLANMC into something greater than just one of five equal branches of the PLA Navy. This could indicate that the types of missions that Chinese marines are suited to perform are becoming a higher priority for Beijing.” [FULL STORY]