China is reshaping its military postgraduate system to make its armed forces “smarter”, including cultivating more technological talent, a newly issued document shows. It is a part of a broader effort to modernise China’s armed forces for combat readiness against the backdrop of Beijing’s plan to take back self-ruled Taiwan and changes in the international environment brought by the war in Ukraine. The document, titled “Opinions on accelerating the reform and development of military postgraduate education”, was recently issued by the Central Military Commission , state news agency Xinhua said on Monday. The new talent development plan, which focuses on fostering military personnel with advanced technology backgrounds and combat skills, is part of the massive ongoing reforms intended to turn the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a modern military force by 2027 . It will “comprehensively promote the reshaping of the military postgraduate education system” and “train a large number of high-level new military personnel”, according to the document, although the full text has not been made public. The training will focus on four kinds of talent: those related to joint combat command, new types of combat forces, high-level scientific and technological innovation, and high-level strategic management. The changes also include teaching new courses on combat, developing tutors knowledgeable in real-life combat, and improving assessment of postgraduate education. The new rules China hopes will build more professional soldiers An earlier Xinhua report said the plan for enrolling military postgraduates this year would “closely meet the needs for war preparation and the development of new-type combat force talent”. While enrolment numbers would remain stable, the report said the number enrolled in traditional force majors would drop while the number for majors related to new types of combat capability would increase, and there would be plans to train personnel in military intelligence and aerospace. Besides the postgraduate sector reform, the overall military recruitment this year will give priority to university students and graduates majoring in science and engineering, and those with the skills needed for war preparedness, according to a teleconference on conscription in January. The PLA also hopes to build more professional non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and conscripts, according to a new rule that came into effect in late March. During a conference on military-talent-related work in November, President Xi Jinping urged the Chinese military to recruit and train more talented professionals, who he said were “central” to help achieve the military’s key goals. Given the rapidly changing situation in global geopolitics, science and technology and military development, the Chinese armed forces must “race against time” to strengthen boosting military talent to ensure its human resources could support its competition in the cutting-edge military frontiers and meet the requirements of national security and military modernisation, according to Xi. The release of the new document on the military postgraduate reform comes as Beijing faces a more urgent need to advance its army, as tensions have intensified in several directions, especially in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February also prompted China to reflect on its own military development strategy, Chinese military experts said. “Reform has been under way, and after the Ukraine conflict new situations and characteristics [of combat] have emerged. The cultivation of military talent shall be strengthened according to such a new environment,” said Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert. The talent development was in line with the rapid development of the PLA’s hi-tech weaponry and preparations for complex future combat situations, Li said. “For example, a joint combat talent should not only know about warships but also other military forces, as well as have knowledge of coordinated combat for future wars … because various kinds of new weaponry will be used in war,” Li said. China’s big military mission: to train elite commanders for joint operations Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based defence analyst, said China’s military education, which was largely received from the Soviet Union, lacked the training to quickly enable military officers to be sent into real combat. “The US has a training system that includes sending them to the front lines,” Ni said, adding that China’s postgraduate reform focusing on building real combat knowledge was essential.