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The PLA Has A New Procurement Website

January 20, 2015

Chinese PLA Red Star

On January 4 a Chinese state-owned media outlet published a minor news item about the launch of a procurement website for the PLA.

The site, weain.mil.cn, isn’t available in English and access is limited to registered users. It came to be after a successful online experiment in May, 2014, where “100 private enterprises” bid on contracts for “200 items” related to “weapon procurement.”

Within 24 hours, international press agencies picked up the story but no additional details surfaced.

Chinese state-owned media did reveal weain.mil.cn is run by the General Armament Department (GAD). This was proven by quotes from a subsequent story attributed to three officials, Yue Gang, Feng Danyu, and Xia Qingyue. All are from the GAD.

The GAD is a little-known organization within the PLA command structure founded in 1998, when Jiang Zemin was still President and China began its golden decade of record GDP growth.

Led by a high-ranking officer from the Central Military Commission (CMC), the GAD’s single purpose is developing modern weapons for each branch of the PLA.

Or, from the Ministry of National Defense:

The General Armaments Department organizes and directs the weaponry and equipment construction work of the armed forces. Under it there are departments in charge of planning; armaments for Navy, military aviation and strategic equipment; Army equipment research, development and procurement; general equipment support; electronics and information infrastructure, equipment and technology cooperation, etc.

How the GAD performs this vital task and the scale of cooperation with state-run enterprises isn’t exactly made clear by PLA sources.

The US think tank The Jamestown Foundation offers a more comprehensive view of the GAD’s role in the PLA:

Along with the service headquarters, the GAD assigns Military Representatives to the defense industries to perform liaison and quality control.

According to The Jamestown Foundation, GAD personnel operate down to the company level and have significant responsibilities, serving a dual role as armorers and repairmen.

Since weain.mil.cn launched, it wasn’t until January 7 that the PLA Daily’s English-language website China Military Online acknowledged its existence.

But China Military Online’s news item appears copy-pasted from the US Army’s Stars and Stripes, which published the original syndicated story on weain.mil.cn from Bloomberg News.

Aside from the stated reason the website attracts private sector participation in the Chinese defense industry, it’s unclear if weain.mil.cn is different from an earlier procurement site, plap.cn or The Military Material Procurement Network.

Plap.cn went online in 2005 and was promptly noted by Jeffrey Lewis, a blogger at Arms Control Wonk.

On a superficial level, a Chinese-literate user can follow weain.mil.cn to keep tab on PLA material and hardware requirements.

Weain.mil.cn isn’t the pinnacle of business process innovation either. Most western militaries have procurement websites open to the private sector.

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