By Liu Xuanzun

BEIJING - The Chinese military has vowed to implement President Xi Jinping's call to enhance strategic capabilities in emerging areas, with military lawmakers and experts stressing the importance of new quality productive forces including artificial intelligence (AI), unmanned technologies, aerospace and cyberspace in modern warfare.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, on Thursday called on China's armed forces to forge a stronger sense of mission, deepen reform and promote innovation to comprehensively enhance strategic capabilities in emerging areas. He made the remarks while attending a plenary meeting of the delegation of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People's Armed Police Force (PAP) at the second session of the 14th National People's Congress, or China's national legislature, the Xinhua News Agency reported on the day.

Xi said China's drive to accelerate the development of new quality productive forces has provided rare opportunities for the development of strategic capabilities in emerging areas.

He called for enabling new quality productive forces and new quality combat capabilities to effectively integrate with and boost each other.

Xi urged efforts to coordinate maritime military preparedness, maritime rights and interests protection, and marine economy development.

He called for optimizing the aerospace layout to promote China's aerospace system development, and for building a cyberspace defense system to enhance the ability to safeguard national cybersecurity.

Six lawmakers from the Chinese military spoke at the meeting on topics ranging from defense capabilities in cyberspace and the application of AI to the development and utilization of unmanned combat capabilities.

After the meeting, lawmakers and political advisors from the PLA and the PAP said that technology must be firmly endorsed as the core combat capability to comprehensively enhance strategic capabilities in emerging areas, so the Chinese military should push forward technology innovations and applications and promote the effective supply of technologies toward new quality combat capabilities, the PLA Daily reported on Sunday.

Strategic capabilities in emerging areas are a focal point in major power competition, a vantage point in high-end warfare, and an acting point in enhancing new quality combat capabilities, Han Shengyan, a military lawmaker, was quoted as saying by the PLA Daily.

Citing military lawmaker Hao Jingwen, the PLA Daily report said that drone swarm technologies in air, sea and land have been developed and successively deployed in regional conflicts, so China needs to realize the important roles emerging areas and new quality combat capabilities could play in modern warfare, be aware of their development trends, plan battlefield applications of advanced technologies in advance, and conduct active research in fields such as big data, the Internet of Things and AI, so as to be able to win future warfare.

Lü Yuncheng, another military lawmaker, said that intelligentized unmanned combat systems have been widely deployed in actual combat in recent regional wars and military operations around the globe, as new-type combat forces have become key variables in changing rules of warfare, so China should optimize the structure and configuration of its military, accelerate the development of intelligentized unmanned combat forces, and promote new-type combat forces' integration into combat systems as main forces and have them play leading roles, the PLA Daily reported.

Another PLA Daily report on Saturday noted that with unmanned and intelligentized technologies changing the rules of combat, integrated joint operations have become the main form of warfare, and wars will be fought in multidimensions, and that is why China must focus on emerging areas.

Several military experts told the Global Times that strategic capabilities refer to capabilities that can greatly shape the form or outcome of geopolitics in peacetime, or those of a conflict in wartime, and with the advances in technologies, AI, unmanned equipment and related developments, they are expected to play greater strategic roles than the current tactical roles.

Such capabilities are vital in deterring and stopping conflicts amid the current instabilities in the regional and global security environment, and will contribute to peace and stability, said the experts, who imagined a scenario in which swarms of unmanned equipment launch an unstoppable attack that is both saturated and precise at the same time under the unified command of a strategic AI after gaining situational awareness through various means, including sensors in land, air, sea, space, electromagnetic space and cyberspace.

Enhancing strategic capabilities in emerging areas is not only the task of the military, but also of scientists, the defense industry as well as politicians, analysts said.

At the meeting, Xi said it is necessary to deepen structural reform of defense-related science and technology industries by accelerating the supply of new quality combat capabilities.

Military lawmaker Liu Zheng said that science and technology will not automatically become combat capability, and that China will need to find the pathways to convert advanced technologies into new quality combat capabilities, and mechanisms to solve problems in the process, the PLA Daily reported.