China will downsize its 2.3 million-strong People’s Liberation Army to under one million as the world’s largest military effected its biggest troop reduction in history to bolster its navy and strategic missile forces, the official media reported. The massive troop reduction is part of the restructuring of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and evenly proportion the army and other services, the PLA Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese military, reported. The PLA will increase the numbers of other services, including navy and missile forces, it said.
Jun Zhengping Studio, a Chinese social WeChat account run by the newspaper published an article on Tuesday on structural reform in the military, saying that “the old military structure, where the army accounts for the vast majority, will be replaced after the reform”.
“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 report said.
“This is the first time that active PLA army personnel would be reduced to below one million,” it said.
It added that the number of troops in the PLA Navy, PLA Strategic Support Force and the PLA Rocket Force will be increased, while the PLA Air Force’s active service personnel will remain the same.
According to the Ministry of Defence data, the PLA Army had about 8.50 lakh combat troops in 2013. No official numbers of the total strength of PLA Army were released.
Earlier, Chinese President Xi Jinping had announced that the PLA will be cut by three lakh troops.
“The total PLA personnel was about 2.3 million before the country announced a cut of 300,000 troops in 2015,” state-run Global Times reported.
“This reform will provide other services, including the PLA Rocket Force, Air Force, Navy and Strategic Support Force (mainly responsible for electronic warfare and communication), with more resources and inputs, and the PLA will strengthen its capability to conduct overseas missions,” Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, was quoted by the media report.
The PLA Daily article said that China’s overseas interests were spread around the world and needed to be protected.
“These are beyond the army’s current capabilities,” Xu said.
The PLA structure should also fit China’s international status, Xu said.