Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chinese Military Overview

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) maintains the world’s largest military force, based on its manpower. The armed forces of the PRC comprises three integral elements – the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the People’s Armed Police Force (PAP), as well as the reserve forces and militia. The PLA, which encompasses the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Second Artillery Corps (strategic missile force) is the regular army, totalling some 2.3 million troops. The PAP has a total strength of 660,000 troops. Additionally, there are also 800,000 men in the reserve forces and about ten million militia. The official defence budget for 2008 was RMB417.77 billion (US$59 billion), though many believed that the actual military expenditure could be 2~3 times higher.
The Chinese armed forces are given three fundamental roles: to defend the country against foreign invasions; to maintain internal security and stability; and to engage in the economic development of the country. Under the Constitution of the PRC, the armed forces are under the absolute leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Party guarantees its control over the military through a political system consisting of Party branches, political officers, and the political department implanted at every level of the armed forces. The armed forces receive order from the Central Military Commission (CMC) through the General Staff, General Political, General Logistics, and General Armament Departments.
The Chinese leadership has been trying to modernise the country’s military since the mid-1980s. The PLA has undergone three major force reduction programmes in 1984, 1997, and 2003, dropping its total strength from 4 million to the current level of 2.3 million. At the same time, older weapon systems and equipment that came into service in the 1960s and 1970s were gradually phased out and replaced by new designs. The PLA has also been reforming its organisational structure, doctrine, education and training, and personnel policies in order to fulfil its initiative of “fighting and winning a local war under the informationised condition”.
The current military modernisation process has three main focuses. First, the PLA has paid close attention to the performance of the US ground forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and is learning from the success of the US military in information-centric warfare, joint operations, C4ISR, hi-tech weaponry, etc. Second, the PLA is gradually building up its power projection capabilities, which will allow it to deploy forces not only within China, but also in peripheral regions. Third, the PLA is quietly developing the capability of rivalling a technologically superior military power through so-called “asymmetric warfare”, in order to deter U.S. intervention in case of war with Taiwan.

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