It was not until the 21st century that China started to carry out civil-military integration. The concept involves sharing military and civilian resources and commercializing related technologies.
In March 2015, China brought the development of civil-military integration to the level of a national strategy. Currently, China is deeply involved in the globalization process, and is hoping to play a bigger role in global governance. It also has to safeguard its resources and energy interests at the global level. At the same time, more protection is needed for Belt and Road initiative worldwide. Also, during this period, more geopolitical tension is expected. To cope with this new situation, China may have to purchase "more guns instead of butter," as the saying goes.
Some people might relate civil-military integration solely to the reform of State-owned enterprises. But a look back at history shows that this opinion underestimates the process significantly.
For instance, World War I proved the importance of civil-military integration. Germany had developed its civil-military integration, helping it to outperform Russia both in terms of the quantity and quality of its military equipment.
Unlike Germany, the state-owned Russian arms industry was only able to provide a small amount of heavy artillery compared to the amount available to the German army in the early stages of World War I.
Wilhelm II, the last German emperor, invested to support civil-military integration. Krupp AG (now ThyssenKrupp AG) used to be a small factory producing utensils. Supported by Wilhelm II, it emerged as one of the largest weapons conglomerates in the world.
Russian private firms were merely able to cope with producing military uniforms. And state-owned weapons companies were not able to supply the Russian army properly.
So it can be seen that civil-military integration was more efficient than state-owned military industry.
Civil-military integration is now a key focus in China. It will bring revolutionary change, rather than trying to cut corners. The US currently has the world's most developed civil-military integration system, with a number of cutting-edge military manufacturers offering both military and civilian technologies.
This year, the US defense report raised the concept of a joint force. This "joint force" will likely unite arms manufacturers, human resources and institutes from various industries. The better they join together, the stronger the military force the US will possess.
In the current context, civil-military integration will be promising. It will push public companies to achieve rapid development and bring the national defense to a new level.
This article was compiled based on a report by Beijing-based private strategic think tank Anbound.