China Admits Fancy New Tanks Are Incapable of Winning Battles

January 28, 2019 Updated: August 28, 2019

Senior Chinese military officers recently divulged that troops are incapable of utilizing China’s new battle systems effectively, according to an interview they gave to Chinese state-run newspaper, the Global Times.

In a Jan. 20 report, officials explained that an “elite combined arms brigade” of the 81st Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army was defeated during a mock battle held last year.

The division was armed with superior weapons, specifically newly developed Type 99A battle tanks, considered the country’s strongest main battle tank. The tanks are equipped with powerful cannons and machine guns.

China has prioritized the development of new and cutting-edge weaponry—ranging from railguns to stealth fighters—amid a massive effort to modernize the military.

Just this month, army personnel were reduced by half, according to recent state media reports, as part of a continued overhaul.

A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report released earlier this month concluded that the Chinese military was upgrading its capabilities for the objective of invading Taiwan. It was also noted that China is benefitting from a “latecomer advantage,” whereby it buys, modifies, or steals technology already developed by other nations.

The elite brigade of Type 99A units are said to be capable of striking enemies beyond the field of vision, but their effectiveness was held back during the exercise by “obsolete ways of thinking,” according to a report by state broadcaster China Central Television.

“We rushed with the Type 99A too close to the frontline, which did not optimize the use of the tank’s combat capability,” said Xu Chengbiao, a battalion commander of the brigade, to Global Times.

Another battalion commander, Zhao Jianxin, said: “We only studied the capabilities of older tanks, but have not completely understood new ones.”

An unnamed Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times that weapons alone do not win wars, and that it was important for the operator to become experienced with how to use his weapon. The expert added that soldiers needed to work out how to maximize their weapons’ capabilities.

The Chinese military has never fought a modern war, and has been described as a “paper tiger” by Paul Dibb, Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies at The Australian National University, in an Oct. 2015 article published in the National Interest magazine.

Notably, Beijing’s last experience of armed conflict was the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War.