No longer confined to China’s land territory or its near abroad, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is conducting increasingly complex operations farther and farther from China’s continental borders. Within Asia, the PLA now regularly operates into the far reaches of the South China Sea and deep into the Western Pacific, enforcing China’s territorial claims and preparing to counter U.S. intervention in a regional conflict. Beyond Asia, the PLA is present on the ground, at sea, or in military exercises with foreign partners across the Indian Ocean and into the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Foreign militaries now regularly encounter the PLA, whether in tense incidents or friendly contacts, on their home turf and in the global commons.
Drawn from a 2019 conference jointly organized by NDU, the RAND Corporation, and Taiwan’s Council on Advanced Policy Studies, The PLA Beyond Borders surveys the dimensions of Chinese operations within the Indo-Pacific region and globally. The international contributors look both at the underlying enablers of these activities, including expeditionary capabilities and logistics, command and control, and ISR systems, as well as new and evolving operational concepts and operational patterns. Employing different analytic lenses, they portray a reformed PLA accelerating the pace of its overseas operations and increasing its modernization not only in the traditional domains, but also in space and cyber. Purchase on Amazon