China Targets Smaller but Better Structured Armed Forces
(Source:; issued July 26, 2017)
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday called for deepened military reform to build armed forces smaller in number but stronger in structure, stressing the importance of solving structural contradictions that hinder the modernization of national defense.

President Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), made the remarks at a group study among members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

The group study, which was held in Beijing ahead of next week's 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), focused on reform of the military in size, structure, and formation.

China has been cutting the size of its armed forces while restructuring them to improve the PLA's combat capability in recent years, particularly since Xi announced a cut of 300,000 troops in 2015.

Quality over quantity

Traditionally, China has been a primarily land-oriented military power, which focuses on the defense of its vast land with large numbers of troops. That is going to change fundamentally, Xi said.

"Quantity should be reduced and quality improved to build capable and efficient military forces, which should be science and technology-oriented rather than relying on labor intensity," the Chinese president stated, adding that China is developing a joint operation force system with an elite force at its core.

Speaking to members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, Xi called for all-out efforts to push forward military reform with the support of the entire nation and the Party.

"We should be resolute, confident, brave and vigorous to achieve victory in such reform," he said.

He also highlighted the progress made on China's integrated military and civilian development and called on relevant departments to enhance the "sense of gain" among officers and soldiers in the process of reform.

The dream of a strong army

China's military reform accelerated when Xi put forward "the dream of a strong army" in late 2012.

On September 3, 2015, Xi announced China would cut the number of its troops by 300,000 in a speech at a gathering to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory of Chinese people's resistance against Japanese aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War.

After the fourth cut of troops since the reform and opening-up in the 1980s, the number of Chinese troops would be reduced from 2.3 million to two million.

Apart from cutting troop numbers, China has also been restructuring its armed forces. A slew of measures began at the end of 2015 with the inauguration of the general command for the PLA Army, the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force.

In January 2016, the former military headquarters – staff, politics, logistics and armaments – were reorganized into 15 new agencies under the CMC.

Then in the next month, five PLA theater commands were established, replacing the previous seven military area commands.

This April, China announced a military reshuffle with 84 corps-level units newly adjusted or established, hailed by Xi as a significant move to build the "world's leading military forces under new circumstances."


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