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China’s Military-Civil Fusion strategy boosting its technological and Military Innovation and Defence preparedness

China is making rapid advancements in many technologies thus narrowing its gap with the western world. Former US energy secretary Steven Chu has even observed that China is ahead of America in areas ranging “from wind power to nuclear reactors to high-speed rail”. China is also catching up fast in artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, 5-G broadband technology, and the “Internet of Things.” Some of its achievements include a gigantic 500m-aperture spherical telescope, the launch of the world’s first hacker-proof quantum satellite and the development of world’s fastest supercomputer – the new Sunway Tianhe-1A.  China has also developing twin high-performance fifth-generation stealth fighters, and large number of missiles including “Carrier killer” missile, anti-ship cruise missile, nuclear submarine and long-range intercontinental missile. Its homegrown aircraft carrier is nearing completion.


China is still accused of stealing western technologies, However it is taking large number of measures to provide thrust to innovation including boosting civil-military integration, a Five-year plan, a National R&D plan, a National Medium to Long-term Plan (MLP), and establishing Chinese DARPA.


President Xi Jinping has identified innovation as the most critical of five concepts for development, followed by coordination, “green” development, opening up and sharing, at a key Communist Party meeting in October 2017.   Xi  has urged the armed forces, “fully implement the innovation-driven development strategy, put combat capacity at the center of its work, and step up theoretical and technological innovation.” Xi – who also chairs the Central Military Commission – said in the documentary that scientists and weapons developers should aim to catch up to, and even surpass, the technology of other countries. “The importance of weaponry development has increased as military technologies continue to be upgraded in recent years,” Xi said. “It’s impossible to win a battle if there is a weaponry gap.”


He requested that the military improve its independent research and innovation abilities in defense science and technology and make more effort to transfer research achievements into equipment and weaponry. Officers are called on to pay close attention to the advances in defense technology and development of new weapons around the world, give more support to key fields and strive for a leading position in the worldwide competition in defense science and technology. The president ordered members of the military to be open-minded and share their research and development resources with others. Closed-door research and monopolies must be torn down to optimize the use of resources and stimulate interest and innovation in defense technology from the public, he said.


Chinese President Xi Jinping has tasked the new People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force (SSF) with pursuing “leapfrog development” and advancing military innovation. According to its commander, Gao Jin, the SSF will “protect the high frontiers and new frontiers of national security,” while seeking to “seize the strategic commanding heights of future military competition.” Through its integration of space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities, the SSF may be uniquely able to take advantage of cross-domain synergies resulting from the inherent interrelatedness and technological convergence of operations in these domains.  The SSF has produced an “Innovation-Driven Development Strategy” that incorporates efforts to advance the construction of a cadre of innovative, talented personnel and to “cultivate the spirit of innovation.”


Military Civil Fusion (MCF) strategy

One of the critical components of the Chinese innovation strategy is military-civil integration which China’s leaders believe will help China continue its rapid defense modernization without creating too great a drag on its economy.

China’s leaders are continuing to promote “military-civilian integration” as a core component of the country’s military development strategy. China’s leaders believe this integration will help China continue its rapid defense modernization without creating too great a drag on its economy. Deeply-rooted barriers, redundancies, and incompatibilities between the military and civilian sectors have yet to be resolved before this integration can occur.


Chinese leaders, particularly Xi Jinping, are using MCF to position the country to compete militarily and economically in an emerging technological and strategic competition with the U.S. Chinese leader Xi has repeatedly stressed the importance of “military-civilian integration” as a core component of the country’s military development strategy.  “Through in-depth development of military-civilian integration, military technologies are gradually applied in civilian fields, making high-tech equipment available to commercial markets. At the same time, we have also emphasized the importance of encouraging more civilian product suppliers to actively participate in the defense-building process,” said Dai Hao, Director-General of China’s Institute of Command and Control.


China will ramp up joint military-civilian efforts to develop cutting-edge technologies, according to the fine print of a new document that answers some of the big questions in the country’s long-term economic and security vision. “[We will] accelerate the pace of deep military-civilian fusion, deepen its work in key areas [of military-civilian fusion], so as to build an integrated national strategic system and capability,” it said. “[We will] pivot on science and technological innovation to develop advanced technologies and armaments and boost the capability of indigenous innovation in defence technologies. “[We will also] strengthen the development of critical core technologies, enhance the conversion of advanced research into applications, and promote variety and competition in defence technology innovation.”


These new technologies can essentially boost economic growth and national defense, Jiang said. “For example, virtual reality headsets were first used in helmets for fighter jets and my company has developed six civilian industries such as virtual reality, drones, robotics and smart wearing,” Lu said. The breakthrough technologies such as engines and aluminum alloy materials can help ease production overcapacity and transform China’s economy, he said. These new technologies can essentially boost economic growth and national defense, Jiang said.


The integration is a worldwide trend to fully improve the national defense capability, said Jiang Luming, a professor at the National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army. In countries such as the US, the United Kingdom and Germany, less than 15 percent of military technologies are solely for military purposes and more than 80 percent are used for civilian purposes, Jiang said. Currently, 30 percent of products made by China’s military companies are for military purposes and the other 70 percent for civilian purposes, he said.


In fact, many developed economies are highly reliant on military-civil integration. For example, the United States’ airplane maker Boeing sells China civil aviation aircraft worth billions of dollars each year and is known for its high-end military aircraft. Many Japanese multinational companies such as Toshiba and Mitsubishi have a department to take military orders.


Military Civil Integration strategy implementation

To implement the strategy, On January 2019, China’s Xi Jinping added a new title to his long list of state and party functions: the chairman of the Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development (CCIMCD). The aim of this commission is to cut costs and integrate existing civilian technologies and services into the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Two months later, China announced its smallest military budget increase in a near decade. Improving efficiency and tapping into China’s existing economic power has become the new trend in China’s civil-military relations.


The guideline targets sharing technological innovation bases and facilities between military and civilian sectors while more efforts will be made to apply military technologies to non-military areas. Institutional obstacles must be removed to facilitate private enterprises’ participation in the defense sectors as well as State-owned defense companies’ transfer of technologies to private companies, the meeting also decided. Advances in legislation for civil-military integration are also called for. China will strengthen innovation by developing high-tech industries with military technologies to boost military-civil integration, a move that aims to cultivate new growth drivers and boost the economy, said a recent State Council guideline.


The recruitment of civilians into scientific research by China’s military is part of a broader national effort to boost civil–military innovation. In March 2020 announcement by China’s leading research centre for military strategy and doctrine that it intended to expand its recruitment of civilian personnel marks a significant milestone in its efforts to promote a new stream of civil–military research talent.  While the Academy of Military Science (AMS) had once been the sole preserve of uniformed personnel, its new quota for recruiting civilian personnel into its National Innovation Institute of Defence Technology (NIIDT) represents a five-fold increase since 2019. AMS had initially announced a hiring target of 50 civilian research personnel for its 2020 recruitment, only to announce that 100 more civil research personnel would be recruited.


“The Chinese military has introduced a monthly one-day event to hear suggestions from the civilian sector concerning military technological innovation,” the Science and Technology Commission (STC) of the Central Military Commission said in Sep 2020. The exclusion of civilian minds and innovation from militaristic technologies has created a gap between these two institutions. In order to fill such a critical vacuum, governments of most countries have taken steps to ensure civilian engineering and industrial participation in the joint development of military hardware and software. The first such event was held gathering 44 participants from universities, research institutes and high-tech firms, the STC said. According to the press release, 755 scientific research teams have signed up and submitted national defense innovation ideas since the STC released the monthly event schedule in July.


“It mainly means the military needs to take more advantage of civilian power in development of technology, from theory building to armour manufacturing,” said Ni Lexiong, Shanghai-based naval expert. But one obstacle to integration was the handling of classified information, Ni said. The military would need to strike a balance to ensure sensitive information remained secure but contractors could still work efficiently.


The military civilian integration can also help in transferring military technology to civilian industries. For example, breakthrough technologies such as engines and aluminum alloy materials can help ease production overcapacity and transform China’s economy, he said. The military integration will also focus on key areas such as space, cyberspace and maritime sciences, while private capital is encouraged to enter military industries, the document said. The guideline was the latest move by the central government to promote the military-civil integration to widen military contract orders to civilian sectors and apply high-end military technologies for civilian purposes as part of the supply-side structural reform.


China has declassified more than 7,000 military-technology patents in the past two years as part of efforts to encourage private-sector participation in defence development and production activities. Citing Chinese defence officials, the official Xinhua news agency reported on 8 May that that the ‘patent declassifying process’ will continue for the foreseeable future in line with the government’s aim to stimulate competition in the country’s defence sector. Officials said at a forum in Beijing on defence-related intellectual property rights (IPR) that the government declassified about 3,000 patents in 2017 and more than 4,000 patents in 2018.


On other industrial, science and technology priorities, which analysts identified in part linked to military-civilian fusion, the guide said artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and quantum communication were among the long-term technologies that Beijing would focus on to “provide the driving force of economic and social development as well as in safeguarding national security”. China’s has planned to become a dominant ‘science and tech superpower’ (科技强国) in technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum communications, robotics and smart manufacturing are well documented . In June 2017, the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) and Tsinghua University held a conference on CMF and the dual-use applications of AI.  The Dean of CAE Zhou Ji declared that, “AI will be the most important dual-use technology for the next ten years” (Science Net, June 26, 2017)


The military industry has the priority to apply cutting-edge technologies and also make breakthrough innovations, Lu Guangshan, chairman of the Avionics System Co under the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, was quoted by Shanghai Securities News as saying. Jiang said in October last year that China has about 290,000 national defense intellectual property rights not being used due to the previously separated military and civil industries.


China’s top science authorities published a five-year term plan to integrate innovative military and civilian technologies to explore cost-effective solutions in the science and technology sector. Jointly issued by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology and the Science and Technology Commission of the Central Military Commission, the plan is to build new research units and think tanks on cutting-edge science projects, ranging from manned-space missions to navigation satellite systems to supercomputers, local media reports.


Integrating Military and civilian technologies will lead to more innovations and applications that can benefit both the military and society, said Lieutenant General Xin Yi, the deputy director of the Science and Technology Commission (STC) of the Central Military Commission. “Integration of military and civilian technologies is crucial in improving national defense and building a modern military,” Xin was quoted as saying by China Daily during a press conference Wednesday. “It is also a powerful engine for facilitating scientific innovations and social economic development.”


A coordinated military-civilian innovation system for the sector should be put in place by 2020. It also identified a new round of key sci-tech projects in military-civilian integration towards 2030, such as an integrated information system, quantum communication/computing and brain science/brain-inspired intelligence.


China’s military has offered $870 million to private firms and institutes to fund 2,000 projects for research on equipment and weapons in a bid to boost military-civilian integration and upgrade military technologies. The Central Military Commission’s (CMC) equipment development department released a guideline on its website, saying China plans to invest six billion yuan ($870 million) this year for research in shared technology and other research, Zhuangbei Keji, a WeChat account affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily, said.A million yuan has been allocated to project to study the temperature adaptability of solid propellants, state-run Global Times reported.


CETC and Baidu to be partners in a “joint lab for intelligent command and control technology” — the facilities that are used to direct military operations.  During the ceremony in 2018 ,  Mao Yongqing, head of the 28th Research Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corp. (CETC), which develops electronic warfare technology for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and  Yin Shiming, vice president of cloud computing at Baidu, one of China’s privately owned internet groups, together undeveiled and declared the partnership. Mao lauded the deal as an implementation of “military-civil fusion,” an instruction by the Chinese Communist Party that new technologies developed by the private sector must be shared with the military, which Xi had written into the constitution last year. The Chinese drive for this form of military-civil fusion is the source of nightmares for Western governments and one of the motivations for the increasingly confrontational approach U.S. President Donald Trump is taking toward China.


China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., the main contractor for the Chinese space program, has teamed up with a number of state-owned enterprises to establish a RMB150 billion (US$21.78 billion) guidance fund to invest in innovative technologies. The vehicle will focus on clean energy, new energy vehicles, quantum teleportation, 3D printing, robotics, graphene, biomedicine, energy-saving and environmental protection sectors, with an aim to enhance the innovation capability of state-owned enterprises, assist develop emerging industries, as well as push for collaborative innovation between state-owned enterprises and other institutions.


In one example of military-civil fusion at work, detailed in the C4ADS report for the first time, privately held Beijing Highlander Digital Technology used a series of deals across Europe and Canada to build up China’s military, including by contributing technology to the country’s first aircraft carrier. The company touts its role in China’s defense industry on its Chinese-language website and in company filings, including a claim in its 2017 annual report that its products are featured on “all models” of Chinese warships, according to C4ADS.


Despite the availability of advanced technologies in the commercial sector, it will require considerable effort and resources to adapt and apply these technologies to military innovation. Legal, regulatory, and cultural hurdles could impede the pace and intensity of MCF. While Xi’s administration has “successfully created a framework” for implementing the strategy, it is still in the early stages, and not yet producing results, according to a new study from the China Aerospace Studies Institute of Air University, which is affiliated with the US Air Force.


China acquires foreign technology illegally through Military-Civilian Fusion

However China is also criticized of carrying out massive cyber espionage and stealing plans for advanced military jets, ships, and lasers. US has often accused china of using a number of methods to obtain US technology, including espionage, exploitation of commercial entities and a network of scientific, business and academic contacts. It also lacks West in many critical defense technologies like Aircraft engines.


Beijing is increasingly tapping private Chinese firms to acquire foreign technology for its military, according to officials and a new report. China’s strategy is creating new risks that foreign companies and researchers inadvertently help the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, acquire the technology and expertise it needs to enhance its already rapidly expanding capabilities, according to the C4ADS report released in Oct 2019.


The EU Council on Foreign Relations reports that, “Since the Cultural Revolution, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has acquired civilian industries, which it has helped to protect in stormy times, and which have become a source of profits for the military.” “Dual-use development has provided an indirect way to acquire foreign technologies, which could eventually be transferred to weapons production.” Technologies such as information technology, microelectronics, aerospace, and other commercial technologies are dual use that can be adopted for military purposes.


Noting that China continues to modernise its military by incorporating Western (mostly US) dual-use technologies, which have also assisted its overall indigenous industrial, military-industrial, and high-technology sector development, the report said one of China’s stated national security objectives is to leverage legally and illegally acquired dual-use and military-related technologies to its advantage.


Chinese Surveillance-Gear Maker Hikvision Has Ties to Country’s Military, Report Says

Pressure on Chinese companies, especially in the tech sector, to take on defense work has risen in recent years. They have little recourse to say no to the authoritarian government, which is promoting what it calls military-civil fusion to upgrade military capabilities.


The world’s largest maker of surveillance equipment has long-established links to China’s military, including conducting a study with Chinese weapons experts and supplying cameras and drones to the country’s air force, according to a report by a surveillance-industry research company. The findings by IPVM shed fresh light on Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. 002415 1.19% , which has disputed as baseless a decision by the U.S. Defense Department last year to place it on a blacklist of companies with alleged ties to China’s armed forces.


According to public documents and online materials found by IPVM, Hikvision sold drones and other accessory equipment to the Chinese air force in 2019 and was considered a top-tier supplier to the nation’s military in 2014. In March, a drone-jamming rifle, emblazoned with a Hikvision logo, was shown on state television being held by a soldier kneeling in rough terrain and testing equipment for use in extreme conditions such as subzero temperatures or high altitudes.


Hikvision’s website also carried a report on how the company’s technology could improve the performance of Chinese missile, tank and other weapons systems, citing a study done jointly with commanders and weapons experts from the People’s Liberation Army. The study proposed the use of Hikvision cameras to record drills and improve weapons accuracy.


In response to IPVM’s findings, a Hikvision spokesman said: “Hikvision, like many global technology companies, manufactures commercial devices and solutions that some can be considered dual-use goods serving general video surveillance purposes.” Dual-use goods are products that have both civilian and military applications.

China holds drill in Tibet for military-civilian integration

China also considers military-civilian integration  for defence preparedness. Chinese military stationed in Tibet has carried out a drill to test their logistics, armament support capabilities and military-civilian integration in the remote Himalayan region, official media reported in June 2018.


Chinese military stationed in Tibet has carried out a drill to test their logistics, armament support capabilities and military-civilian integration in the remote Himalayan region, official media reported in June 2018. The drill carried out by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) units on Tuesday was the first such reported exercise in Tibet since the Doklam standoff.These aren’t the first drills in Tibet this year — the PLA also held drills in Tibet and other area commands in January to take forward the integration of the army, navy, air force, and the newly set up rocket force.


Similar drills, which observers said were routine, have been held in other military commands following the massive reorganisation of the army into five theatre commands–integrating the earlier seven military regions-as the PLA put into place Xi Jinping’s plans for a more integrated and nimble military.


The Global Times reported on Friday that this month’s drills were “to test their logistics and armament support capabilities.” “The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has an adverse climate and complex topography. Over a long period of time, it is very difficult to provide soldiers with logistics and armament support,” the report said.


“To solve the difficulties in personnel survival, delivery, material supply, rescue, emergency maintenance and road safety, the military has adopted a military-civilian integration strategy and constantly advanced logistics support capabilities,” Zhang Wenlong, head of the command logistics support department, told the Xinhua News Agency. For instance, the report said during the drill, “a local petroleum company supplied fuel immediately when the armoured unit ran out of fuel and the city government of Lhasa delivered a steady flow of food to soldiers after a day of mock battle.”


“The biggest challenge of battle at the high altitude is to provide sustainable logistics and armament support,” military Song Zhongping told the Global Times. “In the 1962 China-India border conflict, China failed to protect its fruits of victory due to poor logistics support. Although local Tibetan residents provided soldiers with temporary support, it was not sustainable. The drill showed that military-civilian integration is a feasible strategy and could help form stronger combat power”.


China Military and Civilian Integration Expo  in Beijing

The second China Military and Civilian Integration Expo was held in Beijing’s National Convention Center. The three-day event  provided an open platform for the exchange and integration of military and civilian technology.”Through in-depth development of military-civilian integration, military technologies are gradually applied in civilian fields, making high-tech equipment available to commercial markets. At the same time, we have also emphasized the importance of encouraging more civilian product suppliers to actively participate in the defense-building process,” said Dai Hao, Director-General of China’s Institute of Command and Control.


Sophisticated technologies were displayed during the Expo:  These include command information system, armored vehicles for transportation, the virtual combat training system, cyber security, anti-terrorism robots, drones, unmanned patrol boat, vehicle-mounted sonic weapons, emergency rescue system, as well as border monitoring and control system. “We have the virtual combat training system here on display. Using a virtual reality technology and simulation system, 3D training scenarios could be built. With V-R facilities, soldiers could feel as if they are in a real battlefield and practice tactical combat skills,” said Zhang Ke, Vice General Manager of Beijing Huaru Technology.


“This is an autonomous boat. It can be used for hydrology research, scientific exploration, hydrographic surveys, emergency search and rescues, security patrols and other work on the seas. It can also carry unmanned underwater vehicles for performing a variety of tasks,” said Zhang Yunfei, Chairman of Yunzhou-Tech. Innovation is crucial to the competitiveness of the armed forces. Officers and researchers have been working together to enhance the efficiency of national defense systems and turn cutting-edge military technology into real combat capacity.


By now, more than 1,000 Chinese private companies have received permission to develop and produce weapons or other defense equipment, accounting for nearly 40 percent of defense equipment contractors in China, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.


China’s DARPA

China has established a new agency to develop cutting-edge military technologies in the latest step to modernize its armed forces. The Military Science Research Steering Committee (军事科学研究指导委员会) was launched earlier this year, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV revealed on July 24 in a documentary, “Carrying Reform Through to the End.”


The new agency will report directly to the Central Military Commission (CMC), China’s top military authority. It together with the CMC Science and Technology Commission forms the new “top-level architecture” of China’s military technology innovation system.


This development is consistent with the idea of “revitalizing the military through technology” espoused by China’s civilian and military leaders. Innovation in the military should be part of the overall national approach, Xi said. A new national defence innovation mechanism should be explored to advance the deepening development of military-civilian integration, Xi said. In response to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has formed a new science and technology committee to manage defense R&D. According to a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Defense, the committee, known in Chinese as junweikejiwei, is designed to meet the needs of China’s ongoing military modernization. The committee will strengthen management of defense science and technology, promote indigenous innovation in national defense, and coordinate integrated development of military and civilian technologies, the spokesperson says.


The new steering committee and the CMC Science and Technology Commission will spearhead scientific and technological innovation, according to the CCTV documentary. Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator with Phoenix Television, said the committee should include scientists and leading engineers who were familiar with cutting-edge technologies. “The steering committee will play a consultative role to help the CMC to decide on projects at an early stage,” Song said. “Funding, resources and the detailed implementation of these projects will be overseen by some of the 15 functional departments under the CMC.”


The new agency may be responsible for identifying, selecting, and nurturing key high-tech projects at an early stage. In this capacity, the agency may advise the CMC on priorities areas for investing R&D resources. Second, the agency may provide high-level guidance to China’s military research community by outlining national security research priorities, writes Adam Ni. Third, the agency may play a role in deepening “civil-military integration,” which is Beijing’s effort to enlist private sector assistance to accelerate military modernization.


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