PLA troops patrol the Tibet-Qinghai railway. Photo: PLA Daily
PLA troops patrol the Tibet-Qinghai railway. Photo: PLA Daily

Chinese papers say the People’s Liberation Army is rolling out an early warning system to monitor disputed border areas with satellites, drones and surveillance cameras.

The system is also intended for use on elevated plateaus where it is difficult for troops to enter and patrol.

The Chinese military is tapping its constellation of spy and navigation satellites as well as other “cutting-edge” hardware in the sky and on the ground that are touted to function well under extreme temperatures and terrain.

There is also an extensive surveillance network built in border zones, with layers of cameras to eliminate blind spots, although reports by the Global Times and Beijing Daily did not detail which of China’s border regions have already been covered. 

Beijing’s push toward automation in defense and national security looks to be starting to bear fruit, now that the nation is charging ahead on drone and surveillance technology, with manufacturers and industrial firms such as DJI, the Shenzhen-based maker of unmanned aerial vehicles, and HikVision, which ships more closed-circuit television systems than any other competitor.

It’s not surprising that the PLA is now aiming to use a mass of cameras and drones, given that pedestrians in many roads and streets across the nation are now monitored by police and national security agents.

Chinese troops participate in a winter drill in Tibet. Photo: Xinhua

A report that appeared in the People’s Daily on Monday has shed more light on the PLA’s elusive program to install a network of CCTV cameras along the nation’s 22,117-kilometer border with 14 sovereign states. 

Some systems are tailor-made to suit frigid geographic regions. For instance, a CCTV system has been mounted on an unmanned patrol boat made of non-metallic material to patrol the lake of Pangong Tso on the border between Tibet and India-controlled Kashmir at an altitude of 4,250 meters above sea level. The vessel can reportedly cruise at 40 kilometers per hour and has cameras and antennas that can withstand collisions with ice.

The paper said military drones were “seen more frequently than soldiers” in jungles in southwestern Yunnan, which borders Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. Real-time footage is transmitted to try to detect unauthorized entrants as well as drug smugglers or human traffickers.

But many of the new devices and hardware also meet daily needs, such water jugs for simple necessities. 

PLA border regiments deployed in northern Xinjiang’s Koktokay, along the border with Mongolia, where temperature plunges to -20 degrees Celsius in winter, have been trialling 20 types of new equipment.

For soldiers there, new mugs that can keep water hot for 24 hours is a very welcome and heartening development. 

They have also been equipped with electric blankets, cold-proof tents and snow camouflage suits.

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