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The PLA’s New Information Support Force

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  • China Aerospace Studies Institute

The PLA’s New Information Support Force


Dr. Brendan S. Mulvaney



On Friday, 19 April, Xi Jinping, Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Chinese Communist Part (CCP), attended a ceremony where he established a new ‘force’ of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Information Support Force (ISF).  The ISF appears to have been cleaved from the former Strategic Support Force (SSF), which was essentially disbanded at the same ceremony.[i] 

In the official announcement, the PLA announced that there are now “four services, namely the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Rocket Force, and four arms, including the Aerospace Force, the Cyberspace Force, the Information Support Force and the Joint Logistics Support Force.”[1]  For now, we will dispense with the parsing of Mandarin about force vs arm vs branch.  Suffice it to say that this is a significant reform, and the largest since the 2015-16 round of reforms which established the Strategic Support Force in the first place. 

“Establishing the Information Support Force through restructuring is a major decision made by the CPC Central Committee and the Central Military Commission…. This is of profound and far-reaching significance to the modernization of national defense and the armed forces and effective fulfillment of the missions and tasks of the People's military in the new era. The Information Support Force is a brand-new strategic arm of the PLA.”[2]

It is important to note that the PLA adheres to a fairly strict protocol order in formal announcements, so it appears that the Aerospace Force (ASF), which commands the PLA’s space forces, is now the senior force.  The ASF was formerly the Aerospace Department of the Strategic Support Force.  Next in order would be the Cyberspace Force (CSF), which was formerly the Network Systems Department of the SSF.  And then the newly created Information Support Force.  This new force appears to be the (now former) Information Communications Base[ii], responsible for PLA communications networks and network defense.  And then the Joint Logistics Support Force (JLSF).  It appears that all of these forces will be Deputy Theater Command Leader Grade organizations, which is just one step below the four services and the five theater commands.  Further enhancing the importance of the new force, the Ministry of National Defense emphasized, “According to the decision of the Central Military Commission, the newly formed information support force will be directly commanded by the Central Military Commission.”[3]

The Chinese see the “Information Domain” as a domain of war unto itself; equal to the physical domains of Air, Land, Sea, and Space.  In fact, the CCP’s PLA talks about conducting operations in those physical domains in order to support operations in the information domain.  In military speak, the Information Domain would be the “supported” domain, that is to say, the focus of effort.  This is different from the typical view of the United States and our allies around the world.  The fact that Xi Jinping personally attended the ceremony and delivered the new official flag for the ISF emphasizes just how important the Information Domain is to him, the CCP, and its People’s Liberation Army.

One of the many reports on Friday reinforced the importance, by saying “Xi Jinping emphasized that the Information Support Force is a newly created strategic force and a key support for coordinating the construction and application of network information systems.… It is necessary to effectively support operations, adhere to information-led joint victory, smooth information links, integrate information resources, strengthen information protection, deeply integrate into the military's joint operations system, accurately and efficiently implement information support, and serve to support military struggles in all directions and fields.”[4]

Not missing a chance to emphasize the CCP’s leading role, the ceremony also noted, “We must resolutely listen to the Party's command, fully implement the fundamental principles and systems of the Party's absolute leadership over the military, comprehensively strengthen Party building in the military, strengthen ideals and beliefs, strictly enforce discipline and rules, promote good work styles, and ensure the absolute loyalty, purity, and reliability of the military.”[5]

As for the leadership of the new organization.  The ceremony announced that Lieutenant General Bi Yi will be the new Commander of the ISF.  LtGen Bi was previously the deputy commander of the SSF.  General Li Wei was named as the Political Commissar (PC), he had been the PC of the SSF.  Of note, former Strategic Support Force General Ju Qiansheng was rumored to be under investigation for corruption[6], and was absent from the ISF ceremony.

The roles, responsibilities, forces, and capabilities of the new ISF are still to be determined (perhaps in China as well, but certainly to those on the outside looking in).


Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Air University, the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or any other U.S. government agency. Cleared for public release: distribution unlimited.



[i] “At the same time, the designation of the strategic support force will be revoked, and the leadership and management relationships of the military aerospace and cyberspace forces will be adjusted accordingly” http://www.mod.gov.cn/gfbw/sy/tt_214026/16302017.html

[ii] In the PLA there are two different uses of the term “base”.  In English, CASI renders the term “Base” with a capital “B” to indicate the formal standing organization, this is a level of command in the PLA and may have one or more “bases” with a lower case “b”, which we use to signify the physical location of a military unit, akin to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.  The organizational “B”ase is typically a Corps or Corps Deputy Leader grade organization.  However, the former ASD and NSD were Deputy Theater Command grade organizations.



[1] http://eng.mod.gov.cn/xb/News_213114/NewsRelease/16302071.html

[2] http://www.mod.gov.cn/gfbw/qwfb/16302053.html

[3] http://www.mod.gov.cn/gfbw/sy/tt_214026/16302017.html

[4] https://www.gov.cn/yaowen/liebiao/202404/content_6946295.htm

[5] http://www.mod.gov.cn/gfbw/sy/tt_214026/16302017.html

[6] https://www.thinkchina.sg/china-deepens-purging-military-prepare-battle