In preparation for the parade on October 1 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese peacekeeping force conducts training at the parade training center in Changping district, Beijing, on September 17, 2019. Photo: Li Hao/GT
As the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is striving to enhance its combat readiness and preparing for military conflicts, potentially against Taiwan secessionists and US provocations, the PLA Army announced its plan to procure a whopping 1.4 million units of high-quality body armor with plates for a top limit price of about 13 billion yuan ($1.85 billion) in the coming two years, which is expected to keep PLA casualty numbers as low as possible.
According to the 2019 edition of China's defense white paper, the PLA has about two million personnel, and the PLA Army is only a part of it, meaning every frontline army soldier could get one of these armor suits, with extra in reserve, analysts said.
The PLA Army is holding open tenders to procure 930,000 units of plates for universal bulletproof vests and 467,000 units of plates for enhanced bulletproof vests, according to two statements released on weain.mil.cn, the Chinese military's weapon and equipment procurement website, on Friday.
A regular plate unit should cost under 7,950 yuan, or 7.4 billion yuan in total, and an enhanced unit less than 12,900 yuan, or 6 billion yuan in total.
Each plate unit consists of two bulletproof plates, and the plate manufacturer will assemble the plates into the vests, which are not included in these procurements, before delivery.
The products will be delivered in batches in the 24 months after contracts are signed. Both open tenders will end on March 6, according to the statements.
Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday that the procurement had the lives of Chinese soldiers in mind, as the armor can keep casualties to a minimum.
The PLA is conducting more and more real-combat oriented training and drills, and the soldiers should always wear body armor as if they were in a real war to make the exercises more real, Song said.
Chinese body armor is of high quality and relatively low cost, Song said, noting that about 70 percent of the international body armor market is made up of Chinese products.
Some mainland military enthusiasts on the internet speculated that the procurement might aim at threat from Taiwan secessionists and their US supporters. They said armor plates' effectiveness expires in several years, so buying so many in such a short time period could mean preparations for potential military conflicts against Taiwan secessionist forces and other imminent threats in coming years.
The statements did not mention the purpose of the procurements.