Rapid Reaction Units
Although the concept of RRU was only officially adopted by the PLA in the 1980s, similar units were created in the PLA ground forces more than two decades before. In 1961, the Central Military Commission (CMC) designated ten PLA divisions as “War Preparedness Duty Units (战备值班部队)”, available for deployment and operations anywhere within the country whenever necessary without train-up and force augmentation. In time of crisis, these units would receive direct order from the CMC and PLA General Staff Department (GSD).
As part of a large-scale military build-up in response to the possible invasion by the Republic of China (ROC) forces in Taiwan in 1962, the PLA called 7 of its ten War Preparedness Duty divisions as well as some combat support and combat service support units, totalling some 120,000 troops, to be deployed to the southeast Fujian Province. This prompt response was one of the factors that eventually led to the ROC government’s decision to give up its war plan.
In the mid-1980s, the PRC leadership concluded that a full-scale nuclear war was highly unlikely going to happen. However, in the eyes of PLA military planners, the world was still unsafe and unstable. Regional instability and potential conflict caused by territorial dispute, ethnic and religious conflict, and arms proliferation also existed in China’s peripheral areas, such as Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, and the South China Sea. At the same time, modern regional conflicts are characterised by its growlingly high-intensity and fast pace. Therefore, the PLA must develop two capabilities: first, the capability to establish effective defence against enemy on the border; and second, the capability to project power over long distance. These capabilities would ensure that a local conflict is contained in early stage before it escalates into a full-scale war, and also provide the country with time for mobilising its population.
Driven by this initiative, the PLA began to experiment with the concept of RRU in the late 1980s. This process was speeded up in the early 1990s, following the Tiananmen Square demonstration incident in June 1989. By the mid-1990s, the PLA had created a 100,000-strong RRU, responsible for responding to regional conflicts as well as domestic incidents such as demonstrations and rioting. By the late 1990s, this was said to have expanded to 300,000 men. As well as ground forces divisions, the airborne forces subordinate to the PLA Air Force and the marine corps subordinate to the PLA Navy were also designated as RRU.
So far, the following units have been identified as RRU:
Lanzhou Military Region
- 61st Motorised Infantry Division (21st Group Army)
Jinan Military Region
- 127th Mechanised Infantry Division (54th Group Army)
- 162nd Motorised Infantry Division (54th Group Army)
Nanjing Military Region
- 86th Motorised Infantry Division (31st Group Army)
Guangzhou Military Region
- 123rd (Amphibious) Mechanised infantry Division (41st Group Army)
- 124th Motorised Infantry Division (42nd Group Army)
Chengdu Military Region
- 149th Motorised Infantry Division (13th Group Army)
PLA Air Force
- 43rd Airborne Division (15th Airborne Corps)
- 44th Airborne Division (15th Airborne Corps)
- 45th Airborne Division (15th Airborne Corps)
- 1st Marine Brigade
- 164th Marine Brigade
Last update: 30 August 2008