The People's Liberation Army (PLA) was established in the 1920's as the military arm of the Communist Party.
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 People's Liberation Army (PLA), which includes the strategic nuclear forces, army, navy, and air force, 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 the 1980's. China was able to shrink its military considerably on the theory that freeing up resources for economic development was in China's interest.
Following the June 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, 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 CCP 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 with great success remove the PLA's business empire.
Beginning in the 1980's, the Chinese military is trying 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 is that a massive land invasion by Russia is no longer seen as a major threat, and the new threats to China 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 addition, the economic center of gravity of China has shifted from the interior to the coastal regions and China is now more dependent on trade that it has been in the past. Furthermore, the possibility of a militarily resurgant Japan remains a worry to the Chinese military leadership.
China's power-projection capability is limited but has grown over recent years. China has acquired some advanced weapons systems, including Sovremmeny destroyers, SU-27 and SU-30 aircraft, and Kilo-class diesel submarines from Russia. However, the mainstay of the air force continues to be the 1960s-vintage F-7. In addition, China has attempted to build an indigineous aerospace and military industry with its production of the F-10. However, this effort has met with limited success as evidenced by the purchrase of military arms from Russia.
China's military leadership has also been reacting to the display of American military might during the Gulf War.
During the 1980's and 1990's, the PLA became extensively involved in creating a business empire that including companies in areas not normally associated with the military (i.e. travel and real estate). Much of the motivation for this was to supplement the PLA's normal budget whose growth was restricted. In the early 1990's, the leadership of the Communist Party and the high command of the PLA became alarmed that these business transactions were in conflict with the PLA's military mission. The business interests of the PLA were eroding military discipline and there were reports of corruption resulting from the PLA businesses. As a result, the PLA was ordered to spin off its companies. Typically, the actual management of the companies did not change, but the officers involved were retired from active duty within the PLA and the companies were given private boards of retired PLA officers. Military units were compensated for the loss of profitable businesses with increased state funding.
Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Policy
Nuclear Weapons. In 1955, Mao Zedong's Chinese Communist Party 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 and the lack of interest of the Soviet Union in using its nuclear weapons in defense of China. It was developed with Soviet assistance until 1960. After its first nuclear test in October 1964, Beijing has deployed a modest but potent ballistic missile force, including land and sea-based intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. It is estimated that the PRC has between 15-30 ICBM's capable of striking the United States with several hundred IRBM's able to strike Russia.
China's nuclear program appears to follow a doctrine of minimal deterence, which involves having the minimum force needed to deter an aggressor from launching a first strike. The current efforts of China appear to be aim at maintain a surviable nuclear force by for example using solid-fueled ICBM's in silos rather than liquid fueled missiles.
China 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, but announced in September 1992 that it would no longer participate because of the U.S. decision to sell F-16A/B aircraft to Taiwan.
China was the first state to pledge "no first use" of nuclear weapons. It joined the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1984 and pledged to abstain from further atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in 1986. China 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, China committed not to provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. China 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 China has, signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In September 1997, China issued detailed nuclear export control regulations. China is implementing regulations establishing controls over nuclear-related dual-use items in 1998. China 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 China on nuclear nonproliferation, President Clinton in 1998 took steps to bring into force the 1985 U.S.-China Agreement on Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation.
Chemical Weapons. 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, China ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and, in September 1997, promulgated a new chemical weapons export control directive.
Missiles. While not formally joining the regime, in March 1992, China 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. China reaffirmed this commitment in 1994 and pledged not to transfer MTCR-class ground-to-ground missiles. In November 2000, China committed not to assist in any way the development by other countries of MTCR-class missiles.
Land Mines China remains opposed to international agreements limiting the use of landmines.
Military branches: People's Liberation Army (PLA), which includes the Ground Forces, Navy (includes Marines and Naval Aviation), Air Force, Second Artillery Corps (the strategic missile force), People's Armed Police (internal security troops, nominally subordinate to Ministry of Public Security, but included by the Chinese as part of the "armed forces" and considered to be an adjunct to the PLA in wartime)
Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 363,050,980 (2000 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 199,178,361 (2000 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 10,839,039 (2000 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure: $12.608 billion (FY99); note - The actual amount of PRC military spending remains highly controversial. First of all, the military may get resources which are not listed in the official budget. Second, it is difficult to get agreement on the conversion factor used to convert military expenditures to dollars.
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 1.2% (FY99)