The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) (Template:Zh-stp) is the military of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It is the largest standing army in the world and is also the largest employer in the world, with 2.25 million troops (3.25 million if active paramilitary personnel are counted), and includes naval, air, and strategic nuclear forces. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927, as the military arm of the Communist Party of China, and was named the Red Army until June 1946. The People's Liberation Army's insignia consists of a round device with a red star bearing the Chinese characters for "Eight One" referring to August 1 (Chinese:八一, Pinyin: bā yī), the date of the 1927 Nanchang Uprising, surrounded by wheat ears and cog wheels.

Organization[edit | edit source]

PLA flag.
Military manpower
Military age18 years of age
Voluntaryages 18-49 to join
Availabilitymales ages of 18-49: 342,956,265
female age 18-49: 324,701,244(2005 est.)
Fit for military servicemales age 18-49: 281,240,272
female age 18-49: 269,025,517 (2005 est.)
Active troops2,250,000 (Ranked 1st)
Total troops7,024,000 (Ranked 3rd)
Paramilitary force 1,500,000
Reaching military age annuallymales: 13,186,433
females : 12,298,149 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures
Dollar figure controversial, ($60-90 Billion) see: Military budget of the People's Republic of China
Percent of GDP controversial, see: Military budget of the People's Republic of China

Note: The actual amount of PRC military spending remains highly controversial. First, the military may get resources which are not listed in the official budget. Second, an agreement on the conversion factor used to convert military expenditures to dollars is quite difficult.

File:PLA soldiers.jpg

People's Liberation Army in dress uniform.

Leadership by the Chinese Communist Party is a fundamental principle of the Chinese military command system. The PLA reports not to the State Council of the People's Republic of China but rather to two Central Military Commissions, one belonging to the state and one belonging to the party. In practice, the two CMC's do not conflict because their membership is usually identical. Often, the only difference in membership between the two occurs for a few months every five years, during the period between a Party Congress, when Party CMC membership changes, and the next ensuing National People's Congress, when the State CMC changes. The Central Military Commission carries out its responsibilities according to the authority given to it by the Constitution and National Defense Law. [1]

In December 1982, the fifth National People’s Congress revised the State Constitution to provide that the State Central Military Commission leads all the armed forces of the state. The chair of the State CMC is chosen and removed by the full NPC while the other members are chosen by the NPC Standing Committee. However, the CMC of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party remained the Party organization that directly leads the military and all the other armed forces. In actual practice, the Party CMC, after consultation with the democratic parties, proposes the names of the State CMC members of the NPC so that these people after going through the legal processes can be elected by the NPC to the State Central Military Commission. That is to say, that the CMC of the Central Committee and the CMC of the State are one group and one organization. However, looking at it organizationally, these two CMCs are subordinate to two different systems – the Party system and the State system. Therefore the armed forces are under the absolute leadership of the Communist Party and are also the armed forces of the state. This is unique joint leadership system reflects the origin of People’s Liberation Army; as the military branch of the communist party, it only became the state military after the PRC was established in 1949.

By convention, the chairman and vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission are civilian members of the Communist Party of China, but they are not necessarily the heads of the civilian government. Both Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping retained the office of chairman even after relinquishing their other positions. All of the other members of the CMC are uniformed active officers. As with other nations, the Minister of National Defense of the People's Republic of China is not the head of the military, and is usually a vice chairman of the CMC.

The PLA general departments are composed of the General Staff Department, the General Political Department, the General Logistics Department and the General Armaments Department [GAD, sometimes translated as General Equipment Department]. The GPD maintains a system of political commissars which maintain a separate chain of command to ensure loyalty to the party and the civilian government. The CMC exercises leadership over the military regions, the Navy and the Air Force and the Second Artillery through the four general departments. Within a military region, the three service branches are coordinated in the battle operations [zuozhan xingdong] under the unified command of the military district. The Second Artillery is however under the direct leadership of the CMC. The army units in a military region are under the leadership of that military region. The navy and air force troops in a military region are under the joint leadership of the military region and their service branch.

The state military system inherited and upholds the principle of the Communist Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces. The Party and the State jointly established the Central Military Commission that carries out the task of supreme military leadership over the armed forces. The 1954 PRC Constitution provides that the State President directs [tongshuai] the armed forces and made the State President the chair of the Defense Commission (the Defense Commission is an advisor body, it does not lead the armed forces). On September 28, 1954, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party re-established the Central Military Commission as the leader of the PLA and the people’s armed forces. From that time onwards, the system of joint system of Party and state military leadership was established. The Central Committee of the Communist Party leads in all military affairs. The State President directs the state military forces and the development of the military forces managed by the State Council.

In order to ensure the absolute leadership of the Communist Party over the armed forces, every level of Party committee in the military forces implements the principles of democratic centralism, the division and higher levels establish political commissars and political organizations, and ensure that the branch organizations are in line [jianchi zhibu zai lianshang]. These systems melded the Party organization with the military organization in order to achieve the Party’s leadership and administrative leadership. This is the key and guarantee to the absolute leadership of the Party over the military.

On November 11, 1949 the Air Force leadership structure was established and the Navy leadership the following April. In 1950 the leadership structures of the artillery, armored troops, air defense troops, public security forces, and worker – soldier militias were also established. Later were established the leadership organizations of other forces such as the chemical warfare defense forces [fang huaxue bing], the railroad forces [tielu bing], the communications forces, and the second artillery [di er paobing].

The leadership of each type of military force is under the leadership and management of the corresponding part of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee. Forces under each military branch or force such as subordinate forces, academies and schools, scientific research and engineering institutions, logistical support organizations etc. are also under the leadership of the CMC. This arrangement has been especially useful as China has over the past several decades moved increasingly towards military organizations composed of forces from more than one military branch. In September 1982, in order to meet the needs of military modernization and to improve coordination in the command of forces including multiple service branches and to strengthen unified command of the military, the CMC ordered that the leadership organization of the various military branches be abolished. The PLA now has Air Force, Navy and Second Artillery leadership organs.

In 1986, the People’s Armed Forces Department, except in some border regions, was put under the joint leadership of the PLA and the local authorities. Although the local Party organizations paid close attention to the People’s Armed Forces Department, as a result of some practical problems, the CMC decided that after April 1, 1996 the People’s Armed Forces Department [Renmin Wuzhuang Bu] will be under once again be under the PLA.

Under the General Staff Headquarters are the seven military regions: Shenyang, Beijing, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou, and Chengdu. The organization into MAC's has been much criticized as being obsolete and irrelevant for the 21st century, and there is wide speculation that the system will be drastically altered in the next several years.

Coordination with civilian national security groups such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is achieved primarily by leading groups of the Communist Party of China. Particularly important are the Leading group on foreign affairs, and the leading group on Taiwan.

Structure[edit | edit source]

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) deploys the world’s largest ground force, currently totalling some 1.6 million personnel, or about 70% of the PLA’s total manpower (2.3 million in 2005). The ground forces are divided among the seven military regions named above.

The regular forces of the ground forces consist of 18 group armies, which are corps-size combined arms units each with 30,000~65,000 personnel. The group armies contain, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies's 2006 Military Balance, among them 9 armoured divisions, 3 mechanised infantry divisions, 24 motorised infantry divisions, 15 infantry divisions, two amphibious assault divisions, one mechanised infantry brigade, 22 motorised infantry brigades, 12 armoured brigades, 7 artillery divisions, 14 artillery brigades, 19 antiaircraft artillery/air-defence missile brigades, and 10 army aviation (helicopter) regiments(two training).

There are also three airborne divisions, which are manned by the PLA Air Force (PLAAF). The PLA Navy (PLAN) has two multi-arm marine brigades.

In times of crisis, the PLA ground forces will be reinforced by numerous reserve and paramilitary units. The PLA reserve component has about 1.2~1.5 million personnel divided into 30 infantry, and 12 anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) divisions. In addition, approximately 1.1 million personnel serve in the People's Armed Police (PAP), which includes internal security and border defence forces under the control of the Ministry of Public Security. The PAP internal security forces are organised into 14 mobile divisions, 31 provisional/municipal internal security general corps, and 23 provisional/municipal border defence general corps.

The armoured combat units previously known as tank divisions and brigades are now called “armoured” divisions and brigades to reflect their more combined arms nature. The PLA has transformed some former motorised infantry divisions (truck mobile) into mechanised units with tracked or wheeled armoured personnel carriers (APC). Two amphibious mechanised divisions were also created in Nanjing and Guangzhou MR. At least 40% of PLA divisions and brigades are now mechanised or armoured, almost double the percentage before the reduction.

While much of the PLA ground force was being reduced over the past few years, technology-intensive elements such as special operations forces (SOF), army aviation (helicopters), surface-to-air missile (SAM), and electronic warfare units have all been rapidly expanded. The latest operational doctrine of the PLA ground forces highlights the importance of information technology, electronic and information warfare, and long-range precision strikes in future warfare. The older generation telephone/radio-based command, control, and communications (C3) systems are being replaced by an integrated battlefield information networks featuring local/wide-area networks (LAN/WAN), satellite communications, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based surveillance and reconnaissance systems, and mobile command and control centres.

As will be repeated below, the PLA has paid close attention to the performance of the US ground forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. As well as learning from the success of the US military in information-centric warfare, joint operations, C4ISR, hi-tech weaponry, etc. the PLA is also studying the unconventional tactics that could be used to exploit the vulnerabilities of a more technologically-advanced enemy. This has been reflected in the two parallel guidelines for the PLA ground forces development. While speeding up the process of introducing new equipment into the force and retiring the older equipment, the PLA also places an emphasis on finding ways of using existing equipment to defeat an enemy with technology dominance.

Terms of service[edit | edit source]

Theoretically, all citizens of the PRC have the duty of performing military service. In practice, military service with the PLA is voluntary; all 18-year-old people have to register themselves with the government authorities, in a way similar to the Selective Service System of the United States. The main exception to this system applies to potential university students (male and female), who are required to undergo military training before their courses commence.

Residents of the two Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macau, are prohibited from joining the PLA.

History[edit | edit source]

Creation and evolution[edit | edit source]

File:Peoples army.jpg

Vintage Chinese propaganda poster showing strength and determination of People's Liberation Army. The caption reads, "Army of the People is Invincible".


The People's Liberation Army was founded on August 1, 1927 during the Nanchang Uprising when troops of the Kuomintang (KMT) rebelled under the leadership of Zhu De and Zhou Enlai shortly after the end of the first Kuomintang-Communist alliance. They were then known as the Chinese Red Army (紅軍). Between 1934 and 1935, the Red Army survived several campaigns lead against it by Chiang Kai-Shek and engaged in the Long March.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945, the Communist military forces were nominally integrated into the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China forming the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army units. During this time, these two military groups used primarily guerrilla tactics, but also fought several conventional battles with the Japanese and the Kuomintang.

After the end of the Sino-Japanese War, the Communist Party merged the two military groups and renamed the multi-million strong force the People's Liberation Army and eventually won the Chinese Civil War.

During the 1950s, the PLA with Soviet help transformed itself from a peasant army into a more modern one. In November 1950, the PLA or People's Volunteer Army intervened in the Korean War as United Nations forces under General Douglas MacArthur approached the Yalu River. Under the weight of this offensive, Chinese forces drove MacArthur's forces out of North Korea and captured Seoul, but were subsequently pushed back to a line just north of the 38th Parallel. The war ended as a standstill in 1953, however, it is generally regarded as a victory by the Chinese people as this is the first time they ever "defeated" a major world power in battle. The reverse is true elsewhere: communist aggression was halted by US-led UN forces. This war also served as a catalyst for rapid modernization of PLAAF. In 1962, the PLA also fought India in the Sino-Indian War and Vietnam in the 1979-88 Sino-Viet War.

Establishment of a professional military force equipped with modern weapons and doctrine was the last of the Four Modernizations announced by Zhou Enlai and supported by Deng Xiaoping. In keeping with Deng's mandate to reform, the PLA has demobilized millions of men and women since 1978 and has introduced modern methods in such areas as recruitment and manpower, strategy, and education and training. In 1979, the PLA fought Vietnam over a border skirmish in the Sino-Vietnamese War where it is reported China lost 40,000 regular soldiers versus 20,000 Vietnamese militiamen, China withdrew, both sides claimed victory.


Modernization of PLA units in the past decade.

In the 1980s, the PRC shrunk its military considerably to free up resources for economic development, resulting the decline in power of the PLA.

Following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, ideological correctness was temporarily revived as the dominant theme in Chinese military affairs. Reform and modernization appear to have since resumed their position as the PLA's priority objectives, although the armed forces' political loyalty to the Communist Party of China remains a leading concern. One other area of concern to the political leadership was the PLA's involvement in civilian economic activities. Concern that these activities were adversely impacting PLA readiness has led the political leadership to attempt to remove the PLA's business empire.

Beginning in the 1980s, the PLA tried to transform itself from a land-based power, centered on a vast ground force, to a smaller, mobile, high-tech military capable of mounting defensive operations beyond its coastal borders. The motivation for this was that a massive land invasion by Russia is no longer seen as a major threat, and the new threats to the PRC are seen to be a declaration of independence by Taiwan, possibly with assistance from the United States, or a confrontation over the Spratly Islands.

In 1985, under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Central Military Commission of the Central Committee, the PLA changed from being constantly prepared to “hit early, strike hard and to fight a nuclear war” to developing the military in an era of peace. The PLA reoriented itself to modernization, improving its fighting ability, and to become a more elite force. Jiang Zemin in 1990 called on the military to “Meet political standards, be militarily competent, have a good working style, adhere strictly to discipline, and adequate logistic support” (zhengzhi hege, junshi guoying, jilu youli, baozhang youli). Deng Xiaoping stressed that the PLA needed to focus more on quality than on quantity. The decision of the Chinese government in 1985 to reduce the size of the military by one million was completed by 1987. Staffing in military leadership organizations was cut by about 50%. During the Ninth Five Year Plan (1996 – 2000) the PLA was reduced by another 500,000. The PLA is also to have reduced by another 200,000 by 2005. The PLA is developing into a more elite force focusing on increasing mechanization and informatization so as to be able to fight a modern war. [2]

The 1991 Gulf War also provided the PRC leadership with a stark realization that the PLA was an oversized, obsolescent force. President Jiang Zemin officially instituted a "Revolution in Military Affairs" (a PLA catch-phrase) in the mid-1990s to modernize the Chinese armed forces. A goal of the RMA is to transform the PLA into a force capable of winning what it calls "Local Wars Under High Tech Conditions" rather than a massive, numbers-dominated ground war against Russia. In addition, the economic center of gravity of mainland China has shifted from the interior to the coastal regions and the PRC is now more dependent on trade than it has been in the past. The possibility of a militarily resurgent Japan remains a worry to the Chinese military leadership as well.

The PLA has acquired some advanced weapons systems, including Sovremenny class destroyers, Sukhoi Su-27 and Sukhoi Su-30 aircraft, and Kilo-class diesel submarines from Russia. It is also completed 4 new destroyers including 2 AAW Type 052C class guided missile destroyers. In addition, the PLA has attempted to build an indigenous aerospace and military industry with its production of the J-10. The PLA launched a new class of nuclear submarine on December 3, 2004 capable of launching nuclear warheads that could strike targets across the Pacific Ocean. The PLA is also building an aircraft carrier battle group to secure energy lines in the South China Sea, though Beijing has denied they have a carrier program.

File:China military regions.jpg

PRC military regions (1996).

China's military leadership has also been reacting to and learning from the successes and failures of the American military during the Gulf War, the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, and the ongoing Iraqi Insurgency.

Major wars and events[edit | edit source]

PLA in internal security[edit | edit source]

In general, the PLA's main job is to protect the country in any crisis. Most violent issues in the country however are resorted to the People's Armed Police which acts as the Nation's SWAT force.

Many times, the PLA is involved in flood relief operations in the Yellow River region and performed admirably well in the eyes of the citizens. Courageous rescues are frequently broadcasted on national TV, public opinion rates the military higher than the Communist Party of China or the PRC government. However, it was also the same PLA soliders who drove tanks into the streets of Chinese capital city - Beijing, and then used guns to kill many unarmed innocent civilians during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. So far, the confirmed deaths stemming from the incident, occurring around June 4th of 1989, is 186 as of June of 2006.


The PLA and commercial enterprises[edit | edit source]

Until the mid-1990's the PLA had extensive commercial enterprise holdings in non-military areas, particularly real estate. Almost all of these holdings were allegedly spun-off in the mid-1990s. In most cases, the management of the companies remained unchanged, with the PLA officers running the companies simply retiring from the PLA to run the newly formed private holding companies.

The history of PLA involvement in commercial enterprises begins in the 1950s and 1960s. Because of the socialist state-owned system and from a desire for military self-sufficiency, the PLA created a network of enterprises such as farms, guesthouses, and factories intended to support its own needs. One unintended side effect of the Deng Xiaoping reforms was that many of these enterprises became very profitable. For example, a military guesthouse intended for soldier recreation could easily be converted into a profitable hotel for civilian use. There were two factors which increased PLA commercial involvement in the 1990s. One was that running profitable companies decreased the need for the state to fund the military from the government budget. The second was that in an environment where legal rules were unclear and political connections were important, PLA influence was very useful.

By the early 1990's party officials and high military officials were becoming increasingly alarmed at the military's commercial involvement for a number of reasons. The military's involvement in commerce was seen to adversely affect military readiness and to cause corruption. Further, there was great concern that having an independent source of funding would lead to decreased loyalty to the party. The result of this was an effort to spin off the PLA's commercial enterprises into private companies managed by former PLA officers, and to reform military procurement from a system in which the PLA directly controls its sources of supply to a contracting system more akin to those of Western countries.

The separation of the PLA from its commercial enterprises was largely complete by the year 2000. It met with very little resistance, as the spinoff was arranged so that few lost out.

Military Intelligence[edit | edit source]

The intelligence gathering for the military is carried out under the Second and Third Departments of the Headquarters of the General Staff.

By ensuring that these report to the CPC Central Military Commission and the PLA General Staff Headquarters, this unit effectively monitors all external and internal military communications.

Second Department[edit | edit source]

The Second Department coordinates military human intelligence (HUMINT)and imagery intelligence data. The Second Department does not conduct Signals intelligence (SIGINT), which is conducted by the Third Department.

Units of the Second Department[edit | edit source]

  • Analysis Bureau - operates the National Watch Center
  • Institute for International Strategic Studies - is its research institute which publishes an internal publication Wai Jun Dongtai ("Movement Of Foreign Armies").
  • First Bureau - responsible for intelligence on Taiwan and Hong Kong. Of particular note in this bureau was the "Autumn Orchid" intelligence group which was awarded a Citation for Merit, Second Class, in December 1994, and further another Citation for Merit, Second Class.

Third Department[edit | edit source]

The Third Department is charged with monitoring the telecommunications of foreign armies.

Third Department headquarters is located in the vicinity of the GSD First Department (Operations Department), AMS, and NDU complex in the hills northwest of the Summer Palace.

Units of the Third Department[edit | edit source]

  • PLA Foreign Language Institute at Luoyang - responsible for training foreign language specialists for use in monitoring foreign transmissions.

Monitoring Stations[edit | edit source]

  • Main Technical Department net control station on the northwest outskirts of Beijing
  • A large complex near Lake Kinghathu in the extreme northeast corner of China
  • Jilemutu and Jixi, in the northeast of China - aimed at Russia
  • Erlian and Hami, near the Mongolian border - aimed at Russia
  • Qitai and Korla, in Xinjiang were operated jointly with the CIA during the Cold War - aimed at Russia
  • Chengdu and Dayi - aimed at India
  • Great Coco Island, Myanmar (Burma) in the Bay of Bengal - Monitors Indian naval activity as well as ISRO & DRDO missile and space launch facilities
  • Kunming - aimed at the South Asian countries like Vietnam
  • Fujian and Guangdong military districts - aimed at Taiwan
  • Hainan Island - monitoring the South China Sea

Military technology[edit | edit source]

Firearms[edit | edit source]


Chinese Type 56 Assault Rifle.

Since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese received massive amounts of weaponry and equipment as well as the capability to build their own weapons from the Soviet Union before the Sino-Soviet split in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Most of the firearms that the People's Liberation Army used in both the past and the present have their origins in many Soviet-Russian small arms like the Mosin-Nagant series rifles and carbines (the Chinese made the Russian Mosin-Nagant M-1944 carbine under licence as the Type 53 Carbine), the SKS carbine, the AK-47 assault rifle, the RPD light-machine gun, the Tokarev TT33 pistol, the DShK heavy machine gun, and the Makarov PM series pistols.

The People's Republic of China's main infantry rifle is the Type 81, a modified version of the AK-47. A newer assault rifle designed to replace the Type 81 is the Type 95(aka. QBZ-95).

The People's Liberation Army also utilise locally-manufactured, carbon-copy versions of the Russian AK-47 series rifles and SKS series carbines with the Chinese Type 56 Assault Rifle (a locally-produced version of the AK-47) and the Chinese Type 56 Carbine (a locally-produced version of the SKS).

Despite being similar to the original Russian-made AK-47s and SKSs, both the Chinese Type 56 Assault Rifle and the Chinese Type 56 Carbine have a number of differences which separate them from their original Russian counterparts. One example of the difference is that the Chinese Type 56 Assault Rifle has a permanently-attached, stiletto-style bayonet under the barrel of the rifle, a feature that is native to many Chinese-made AK-47s. The Chinese Type 56 Carbine is also different from the original Russian-made SKS carbines with the Chinese SKSs also utilising a stilletto-style bayonet like the Chinese Type 56 Assault Rifle while the original Russian-made SKS carbines utilised a sword-style bayonet.

The Chinese Type 56 was mass produced from the 1960s to the 1980s and was exported to many countries around the world. Despite the introduction of newer rifles like the Type 81 and the QBZ-95, the Chinese Type 56/AK-47 rifles are still used by some PLA second-line and training units. However, the Chinese Type 56/SKS carbines have been retained for ceremonial duties by the PLA in the same manner as the SKS has been retained for ceremonial duties in the Russian armed forces.

The People's Liberation Army and police forces are widely equipped with the Type 54, 7.62mm pistol, although newer and better versions exist. The newest pistol in service is the QSZ-92 pistol. The People's Liberation Army and police forces also utilises a locally-produced version of the Russian-made Makarov PM pistol as their standard issue handgun.

Land weapons[edit | edit source]


The Chinese Type 99 Main Battle Tank during an exercise

The PLA’s tank inventory was numbered around 10,000 during its peak time in the 1980s/90s, but this was estimated to have reduced to 6,000~8,000 over the past few years. The Chinese-produced versions of the Soviet T-54A (Type 59 and Type 69) account for over two-thirds of the total PLA tank inventory. While retiring some of the older Type 59/69 series and replacing them with the second generation Type 88 and Type 96, the PLA is also upgrading the remaining Type 59/69 series tanks with new technologies including improved communication and fire-control systems, night vision equipment, explosive reactive armour, improved powerplant, and gun-fired anti-tank missiles so that they can remain in service as mobile fire-support platforms. The latest Type 99 which entered PLA service in 2001 is regarded to be among the most advanced main battle tanks in the world.

The PLA also operates about 2,000 light tanks including the Type 62 light tank and the Type 63 amphibious tank, both of which entered production in the 1960s. The Type 63 has now been upgraded with the addition the improved Type 63A featuring computerised fire-control, gun-fired anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), night fighting equipment, satellite navigation, and improved powerplant.


Nuclear weapons[edit | edit source]

In 1955 the Communist Party of China decided to proceed with a nuclear weapons program. The decision was made after the United States threatened the use of nuclear weapons against the PRC should it take action against Quemoy and Matsu, coupled with the lack of interest of the Soviet Union for using its nuclear weapons in defense of China.

After their first nuclear test (China claims minimal Soviet assistance before 1960) on October 16, 1964, the PRC was the first state to pledge no-first-use of nuclear weapons. On 1st July 1966, the Second Artillery Corps (as named by Premier Zhou Enlai) was formed. Beijing has deployed a modest ballistic missile force, including land- and sea-based intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). It is estimated that the PRC has about 24~36 liquid fueled ICBMs capable of striking the United States with approximately 100~150 IRBMs able to strike Russia or India. China also possesses several hundred SRBMs.

The PRC's nuclear program follows a doctrine of minimal deterrence, which involves having the minimum force needed to deter an aggressor from launching a first strike. The current efforts of the PRC appear to be aimed at maintaining a survivable nuclear force by, for example, using solid-fueled ICBMs in silos rather than liquid-fueled missiles.

The PRC became a major international arms exporter during the 1980s. Beijing joined the Middle East arms control talks, which began in July 1991 to establish global guidelines for conventional arms transfers, and later announced that it would no longer participate because of the U.S. decision to sell 150 F-16A/B aircraft to Taiwan on September 2, 1992.

It joined the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1984 and pledged to abstain from further atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in 1986. The PRC acceded to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1992 and supported its indefinite and unconditional extension in 1995. In 1996, it signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and agreed to seek an international ban on the production of fissile nuclear weapons material.

In 1996, the PRC committed to provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. The PRC attended the May 1997 meeting of the NPT Exporters (Zangger) Committee as an observer and became a full member in October 1997. The Zangger Committee is a group which meets to list items that should be subject to IAEA inspections if exported by countries, which have, as the PRC has, signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In September 1997, the PRC issued detailed nuclear export control regulations. The PRC began implementing regulations establishing controls over nuclear-related dual-use items in 1998. The PRC also has decided not to engage in new nuclear cooperation with Iran (even under safeguards), and will complete existing cooperation, which is not of proliferation concern, within a relatively short period. Based on significant, tangible progress with the PRC on nuclear nonproliferation, President Clinton in 1998 took steps to bring into force the 1985 U.S.-China Agreement on Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation.

See also: China and weapons of mass destruction

Chemical weapons[edit | edit source]

The People's Republic of China is not a member of the Australia Group, an informal and voluntary arrangement made in 1985 to monitor developments in the proliferation of dual-use chemicals and to coordinate export controls on key dual-use chemicals and equipment with weapons applications. In April 1997, however, the PRC ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and, in September 1997, promulgated a new chemical weapons export control directive.

Space-Based System[edit | edit source]

The PLA has deployed a number of space based system for military purposes including:

Manned Spaceflight[edit | edit source]

The PLA is responsible for China' Manned Spaceflight Program. To date, all the taikonauts have been selected among the PLA Airforce. China became only the third country in the world to have sent a man into space by its own means with the flight of colonel Yang Liwei aboard the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft on October 15 2003.

Missile Technology Control Regime[edit | edit source]

While not formally joining the regime, in March 1992, the PRC undertook to abide by the guidelines and parameters of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the multinational effort to restrict the proliferation of missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. The PRC reaffirmed this commitment in 1994 and pledged not to transfer MTCR-class ground-to-ground missiles. In November 2000, the PRC committed to not assist in any way the development by other countries of MTCR-class missiles.

Lasers[edit | edit source]

The PLA continues to develop laser-based weapon systems, primarily for battlefield use.[citation needed] While far from the ray guns of science fiction, the systems are employed in blinding opponents, making them highly effective against infantry. The technical problem of combating such a weapon is that, since any form of protection must protect against specific frequencies of light, troops will be unable to be protected against most/all possible frequencies without losing considerable, if not all, visual abilities from protective gear (which would, in effect, have to be all black or completely reflective so as to avoid any light). A helmet-mounted camera coupled with an opaque visor display would be an effective counter-measure, which isn't significantly more advanced than the current Landwarrior system employed by the US. It was reported in 2006 that China effectively blinded US spy satellites over its territory using powerful ground based lasersTemplate:Citation needed, although the satellites were quoted as being unharmed.

Land mines[edit | edit source]

The PRC remains opposed to international proposal of limiting the use of landmines.

Miscellaneous[edit | edit source]

Hong Kong and Macau[edit | edit source]

The PLA maintains a number of garrisons in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, notably at the Chinese People's Liberation Army Forces Hong Kong Building, Stonecutters Island, and at Stanley Fort. Soldiers located at these garrisons are considered to be the cream of the PLA, but are not permitted to leave their compounds, even during off-duty times to mingle with the local populace. A contingent of local Hong Kong press was taken on a tour of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Forces Hong Kong Building compound in 2002, and every year the Stanley Fort compound is opened for inspection to the public. It also has a garrison in the Macau Special Administrative Region.

Military spending[edit | edit source]


The growth rate of the military spending of the People's Republic of China has expanded more than 10% for the past 15 years. The United States, Japan, and NGOs like SIPRI, claim that China hides its real military spending.[citation needed]

See also[edit | edit source]


References[edit | edit source]

  • Squadron Leader KK Nair, Space: The Frontiers of Modern Defence, Knowledge World Publishers, New Delhi. 2006

International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2006.

  1. The Political System of the People’s Republic of China [Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Zhengzhi Zhidu] Chief Editor Pu Xingzu, Shanghai, 2005, Shanghai People’s Publishing House. ISBN 7-208-05566-1]Chapter 11, the State Military System, pp. 369 - 392]
  2. The Political System of the People’s Republic of China [Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Zhengzhi Zhidu] Chief Editor Pu Xingzu, Shanghai, 2005, Shanghai People’s Publishing House. ISBN 7-208-05566-1], Chapter 11 The State Military System.

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