17 July 2017

PLA to downsize ground forces to under a million troops

As part of China’s ongoing military reform, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will downsize its ground forces to under one million troops, while increasing the number of personnel in other military services, the Global Times newspaper reported on 11 July.

Citing a PLA Daily article on structural reform, the state-owned paper reported that “the old military structure, where the army accounts for the vast majority [of personnel], will be replaced after the reform”.

“This is the first time that active PLA personnel will be reduced to below one million,” stated the article, adding that the number of troops in the PLA Navy, PLA Strategic Support Force, and the PLA Rocket Force will be increased – but that the PLA Air Force’s active personnel strength will remain the same.

“The reform is based on China’s strategic goals and security requirements. In the past, the PLA focused on ground battle and homeland defence, which will undergo fundamental changes,” the PLA Daily article was quoted as stating.

In this context Global Times quoted Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, as saying that the PLA “must be capable of spotting overseas threats and destroying hostile forces thousands of kilometres away before they enter [China’s] 12 n mile territorial waters”.

“China’s overseas interests are spread around the world, and need to be protected. These are beyond the army’s current capabilities,” said Xu, adding that besides defending China’s national interests, the PLA also should be capable of protecting international public security interests by taking part in counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, and disaster relief operations.

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