China — PLA Special Operations Forces (english version)




Unlike the U.S. SOF, the PLA focus­es the roles of its SOF very much on direct action (DA), spe­cial recon­nais­sance (SR), and counter-ter­ror­ism (CT). PLA SOF units are not trained for uncon­ven­tion­al war­fare (UW) and civ­il affairs (CA) like their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts. This is because the PLA only intends to use the SOF for a high-inten­si­ty, light­en­ing-fast region­al con­flict that is over in short amount of time. They are not going to be involved in long-dura­tion, low-inten­si­ty oper­a­tions in for­eign coun­tries, like what the U.S. SOF did in South­east Asia in the 1960s/70s.

Direct Action (DA) — The most impor­tant mis­sion for PLA SOF, involv­ing short-dura­tion strikes and oth­er small-scale offen­sive actions by SOF to seize, destroy, cap­ture, recov­er or inflict dam­age on des­ig­nat­ed per­son­nel or mate­r­i­al. For exam­ple, pri­or to the out­break of major hos­til­i­ties between the PRC and Tai­wan, PLA SOF will infil­trate the Tai­wan island using pow­ered para­chutes, heli­copters, or oth­er meth­ods, and launch a pre-emp­ty strike against key ene­my per­son­nel and com­mand & con­trol ele­ments, to paral­yse the ene­my C3I net­work and leave the ene­my troops lead­er­less. This strat­e­gy is some­times being referred to as “Decap­i­ta­tion Operation”.

Oth­er DA oper­a­tions may include cap­tur­ing ene­my air­fields and sea­ports for the upcom­ing air­borne and amphibi­ous land­ing troops; sab­o­tag­ing ene­my equip­ments and sys­tems; attack­ing vital civil­ian infra­struc­ture; ambush­ing ene­my forces; spread­ing rumours to cause ene­my con­fu­sion and mis­judge­ment, etc.

Spe­cial Recon­nais­sance (SR)SR involves recon­nais­sance and sur­veil­lance actions to obtain or ver­i­fy vital intel­li­gence and infor­ma­tion, by using visu­al and oth­er hi-tech col­lec­tion meth­ods. This is very much like what SOF units of the Coali­tions Forces did dur­ing the two Gulf Wars. Small teams con­sist­ing 2~4 peo­ple will be dis­patched to behind ene­my lines to col­lect intel­li­gence con­cern­ing the capa­bil­i­ties, inten­sions, and activ­i­ties or ene­my forces. It may also involve locat­ing and des­ig­nat­ing tar­gets for pre­ci­sion strikes.

Counter-Ter­ror­ism (CT)PLA SOF units are receiv­ing train­ing in offen­sive counter-ter­ror­ism oper­a­tions to pre­vent, deter and respond to ter­ror­ism. As a result of the grow­ing sep­a­ratist activ­i­ties in China’s remote regions such as Xijiang, PLA SOF have became increas­ing­ly involved in the counter-ter­ror­ism role. In Octo­ber 2002, a PLA SOF unit took part in the joint Chi­na-Tajik­istan counter-ter­ror­ism exer­cise. A recent report by the Chi­nese state media also con­firmed that counter-ter­ror­ism had been added to the basic Spe­cial Forces train­ing sub­jects under the renewed PLA doctrines.


Sinodefence - PLA SOF in Counter-Terrorism Exercise: PLA SOF soldiers in the 2002 joint China-Tajikistan counter-terrorism exercise (Source: Chinese Internet)
PLA SOF in Counter-Ter­ror­ism Exer­cise:
PLA SOF sol­diers in the 2002 joint Chi­na-Tajik­istan
counter-ter­ror­ism exer­cise (Source: Chi­nese Internet)


Oth­er Roles — In some occa­sions, PLA SOF are also act­ing as “Blue Army” (oppos­ing force) in exer­cise to test the abil­i­ty of reg­u­lar army unit against spe­cial forces.


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