If we have to summarize China's military exercises in 2014 with one sentence, it would be "the moment to shift from quantitative to qualitative changes has arrived".
"Actual combat" is catchphrase of the year
An overall review to the military exercises of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in 2014 shows that all units worked hard on actual-combat trainings with at least three aspects worthy of special commendation.
First, the battlefield was arranged to resemble actual combats. It's no news that viewers could no longer see red flags, slogans or military parades during the exercises held in 2014, which were much more close to real battles.
Second, subjects were designed to resemble actual combats. To put it simply, "training for observation" was changed into "training for fighting", so the subjects and process of the exercise were designed in the same way how a battle would be fought.
At last, training equipment was provided to resemble actual combats. Actual-troop confrontations took up over 50% of China's military exercises in 2014. Such back-to-back confrontations more vividly imitated the elements of actual combat and were used as an important approach to comprehensively test the troop's combat capability.
In- depth progress of arms and services integration
The PLA joint training leading group was set up in March 2014, which is responsible for planning and organizing joint trainings of the PLA in a holistic way, and evaluating the effects of such trainings.
Some military experts held that the establishment of the PLA joint training leading group promoted the integration of joint military trainings on three levels - strategy, battle and tactics.
The masterpiece of the joint military exercises held by the PLA in 2014 undoubtedly goes to the "Joint Operation-2014" exercise. The General Staff Headquarters (GSH) of the PLA organized seven joint exercises under that title throughout the year, during which almost all arms of the PLA Army (PLAA) were mobilized as well as the PLA Navy (PLAN), Air Force (PLAAF) and the Second Artillery Force (SAF). The Armed Police Force (APF), militiamen and the reserve force also participated in some of the exercises. The "Joint Operation-2014" was the largest-scale exercise in the PLA history, during which, the PLAAF and PLAN were no longer subordinate to the PLA Army but truly played a main role.
There is no denying that the PLA still has a long way to go in holding joint exercises. The next step is to learn how to truly integrate and use all kinds of firepower and supportive forces.
It's worth noting that several professional exercises took place in 2014, which were interpreted by military experts as "breakdown actions" and "targeted trainings".
The national people's air defense system held the "Golden Shield-2014" actual-combat exercise in Nanjing in August, which marked a major reform in the training model of people’s air defense in China.
The actual-combat meteorological and hydrological joint support exercise code-named "Cloud Sea-2014" was held simultaneously in Beijing, Nanjing, Fuzhou, Ningbo and other cities in September. This exercise involved the meteorological and hydrological units of various services and related military area commands, meteorological and oceanic departments of the State Oceanic Administration and China Coast Guard.
The comprehensive medical support exercise code-named "Medical Mission-2014" was also held in September at the Zhurihe training base in the Beijing Military Area Command (MAC) of the PLA.
According to public reports, more than 20 professional exercises were held by the PLA in 2014. These professional exercises gave a strong boost to holding joint training and exercise.
Since the military exercises are aimed to make the troops able to "fight and win battles", review and self-criticism is an inevitable procedure.
During the "Stride-2014" exercises, the troops didn't directly go back to their barracks after each exercise, but conducted review and self-criticism on the spot and spent days identifying problems and deficiencies level by level. The directing department even identified more than 100 shortcomings for some troop units in the process of the exercise. A certain combat unit held a 90-minute summary meeting with only five minutes spent on achievements while the rest was all spent finding problems.
Formulating scientific and quantified criteria for the assessment of exercise is a headache recognized by world militaries. It's inevitable that some participating troops would feel wronged during the review, but strictly and practically picking out the problems has doubtlessly done more good than harm for the PLA troops, that haven't experienced a war for decades.