China on Monday said it has slashed three lakh troops, reducing the size of its 2.3-million People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to just two-million-strong force, a move aimed at making the world’s largest army a mightier force capable of winning modern wars. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made the announcement in his annual work report to the National People’s Congress (NPC).
Li said the military had completed its goal of slashing three lakh troops, reducing the size of the 2.3 million PLA to just two-million-strong force. The PLA Daily, official newspaper of the Chinese military, said non-battle personnel were downsized. The troop cut was announced by President Xi Jinping in 2015.
The PLA which was 4.5-million strong till 1980 was first resized to three million in 1985 and later to 2.3 million. PLA also announced last year that it would reduce its grounds troops to less than a million as part of Chinese military modernisation under which the navy has been given a greater role to expand China’s global influence.
The troops cut also came in the backdrop of massive anti-corruption drive carried out by Xi, who also heads the military, in which over 3,000 personnel including over 50 top Generals were removed and punished. “We will stick to Chinese path in strengthening our armed forces, advance all aspects of military training, war preparedness, and firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests,” Li said.
He also said the military should function strictly under the command the ruling Communist Party and the Central Military Commission, (CMC) headed by Xi. Commenting on the troops cut, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times that “the military can allocate resources more efficiently and form a stronger battle capability. The key point will now be quality instead of quantity.”
“But that is an inevitable trend and the key to current military reform. The good ones will stay and the unqualified ones will leave,” he said.