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The People's Liberation Army

PLAN Marines based in Zhanjiang stand at atten...
The People's Liberation Army (PLA; simplified Chinese: 中国人民解放军; traditional Chinese: 中國人民解放軍; pinyin: Zhōngguó Rénmín Jiěfàngjūn) is the military arm of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the de facto armed forces of the People's Republic of China, consisting of land, sea, strategic missile and air forces. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 which is celebrated annually as "PLA Day". The People's Liberation Army's insignia consists of a roundel with a red star bearing the Chinese characters for "Eight One", referring to August 1 (Chinese: 八一), the date of the 1927 Nanchang Uprising.
The PLA is the world's largest military force, with approximately 3 million members, and has the world's largest (active) standing army, with approximately 2.25 million members. The PLA comprises five main service branches, consisting of the PLA Ground Force, PLA Navy (PLAN), PLA Air Force (PLAAF), Second Artillery Corps (strategic missile force), and the PLA Reserve Force.
Military service is compulsory, in theory, for all men who attain the age of 18; women may register for duty in the medical, veterinary, and other technical services at ages as young as 14. However, a draft in China has never been enforced due to large numbers of volunteers from China's huge population. Demobilized servicemen are carried in a ready reserve, which is reinforced by a standby reserve of veterans and by the militia.
The PLA is formally under the command of the Central Military Commission of the CPC; there is also an identical commission in the government, but it has no clear independent functions. The Ministry of National Defense, which operates under the State Council, does not exercise any authority over the PLA and is far less powerful than the Central Military Commission (CMC). The ministry assures continuing CPC control over the armed forces, and its primary role is that of a liaison office with foreign militaries. The political and military leadership have made a concerted effort to create a professional military force restricted to national defense and to the provision of assistance in domestic economic construction and emergency relief. This conception of the role of the PLA requires the promotion of specialized officers who can understand modern weaponry and handle combined arms operations. Troops around the country are stationed in seven military regions and more than 20 military districts.
The People's Liberation Army was founded on 1 August 1927 during the Nanchang Uprising when troops of the Kuomintang (KMT) rebelled under the leadership of Zhu De, He Long, Ye Jianying and Zhou Enlai shortly after the end of the first Kuomintang–Communist alliance. They were then known as the Chinese Red Army (simplified Chinese: 红军; traditional Chinese: 紅軍; pinyin: hóngjūn). Between 1934 and 1935, the Red Army survived several campaigns led against it by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and engaged in the Long March.
During the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945, the Communist military forces were nominally integrated into the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China forming the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army units. During this time, these two military groups primarily used guerrilla warfare, fought a few battles with the Japanese while consolidating their ground by annexing nationalist troops and paramilitary forces behind the Japanese lines.
After the end of the Sino-Japanese War, the Communist Party merged the two military groups and renamed the multi-million strong force the "People's Liberation Army" and eventually won the Chinese Civil War. A number of military regions were established in 1949. On 11 November 1949, the Air Force leadership structure was established and the Navy leadership the following April. In 1950, the leadership structures of the artillery, armored troops, air defense troops, public security forces, and worker–soldier militias were also established. The chemical warfare defense forces, the railroad forces, the communications forces, and the second artillery, as well as other forces, were established later.
During the 1950s, the PLA with Soviet help transformed itself from a peasant army into a modern one.[9] Part of this process was the reorganisation that created thirteen military regions in 1955. The PLA also contained many National Revolutionary Army units and Generals who had defected to the PLA. Ma Hongbin and his son Ma Dunjing (1906-1972) were the only two Muslim Generals who led a Muslim unit, the 81st corps to ever serve in the PLA. Han Youwen, a Salar Muslim General, also defected to the PLA. In November 1950, the PLA or People's Volunteer Army intervened in the Korean War as United Nations forces under General Douglas MacArthur approached the Yalu River. Under the weight of this offensive, Chinese forces drove MacArthur's forces out of North Korea and captured Seoul, but were subsequently pushed back to a line just north of the 38th Parallel. That war also served as a catalyst for the rapid modernization of the PLAAF. In 1962, the PLA also fought India in the Sino-Indian War successfully neutralizing Indian defenses and achieving all objectives.
Prior to the Cultural Revolution, military region commanders tended to remain in post for long periods. As the PLA took a stronger role in politics, this began to be seen as something of a threat to party (or, at least, civilian) control of the gun. The longest serving military region commanders were Xu Shiyou in the Nanjing Military Region (1954–74), Yang Dezhi in the Jinan Military Region (1958–74), Chen Xilian in the Shenyang Military Region (1959–73), and Han Xianchu in the Fuzhou Military Region (1960–74).
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 PLA 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 1979, the PLA fought Vietnam over a border skirmish in the Sino-Vietnamese War where it was reported by Western media that China lost more than 20,000 soldiers. Both sides claimed victory.
Weapons and equipment
General Liang Guanglie has claimed that China is 20 years behind the United States.[21]


There is a belief in the western military doctrines that the PLA have already begun engaging countries using cyber-warfare.[22][23] There has been a significant increase in the number of presumed Chinese military initiated cyber events from 1999 to the present day.[24]
Cyberwarfare has gained recognition as a valuable technique because it is an asymmetric technique that is a part of Chinese Information Operations. As is written by two PLA Colonels, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, "Methods that are not characterized by the use of the force of arms, nor by the use of military power, nor even by the presence of casualties and bloodshed, are just as likely to facilitate the successful realization of the war's goals, if not more so.[25]
While China has long been suspected of cyber spying, on 24 May 2011 the PLA announced the existence of their cyber security squad.[26]
In February 2013, the media named "Comment Crew" as a hacker military faction for China's People's Liberation Army.[27]


China has been developing C4ISTAR and developing precision guided munitions.[28]


After the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949, the Chinese received massive amounts of weaponry and equipment as well as the capability to build their own weapons from the Soviet Union before the Sino-Soviet split in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Most of the firearms that the PLA used in both the past and the present have their origins in many Soviet or Russian small arms like the Mosin-Nagant series rifles and carbines (the Chinese made the Russian Mosin-Nagant M-1944 carbine under licence as the Type 53 Carbine), the SKS carbine, the AK-47 assault rifle, the RPD light-machine gun, the Tokarev TT-33 pistol and the DShK heavy machine gun.
The PLA's main infantry rifle is the recently issued QBZ-95. It is a replacement for the Type 81, which bears similarities to the AK-47. The PLA also utilise locally manufactured versions of the Russian AK-47 series rifles and SKS series carbines with the Chinese Type 56 assault rifle (a locally produced version of the AK-47) and the Chinese Type 56 carbine (a locally produced version of the SKS). Despite being similar to the original Russian-made AK-47s and SKSs, both the Type 56 Assault Rifle and the Norinco Type 56 Carbine have a number of differences which separate them from their original Russian counterparts. One example of the difference is that the Type 56 has a permanently attached, stiletto-style bayonet under the barrel of the rifle, a feature that is native to many Chinese-made AK-47s. The Chinese Type 56 Carbine is also different from the original Russian-made SKS carbines with the Chinese SKSs also utilising a stilletto-style bayonet like the Chinese Type 56 Assault Rifle while the original Russian-made SKS carbines utilised a sword-style bayonet.
The Chinese Type 56 was mass produced from the 1960s to the 1980s and was exported to many countries around the world. Despite the introduction of newer rifles like the Type 81 and the QBZ-95, the Chinese Type 56/AK-47 rifles are still used in very limited numbers by some PLA second-line and training units and civilian militias. However, the Chinese Type 56/SKS carbines have been retained for ceremonial duties by the PLA in the same manner as the SKS has been retained for ceremonial duties in the Russian armed forces, as well as in service with local civilian militias. The PLA and police forces are widely equipped with the Type 54, 7.62 mm pistol, although it has been supplemented in some special elite units by the QSZ-92 pistol.

 Land-based weapons

The PLA's tank inventory was numbered around 10,000 during its peak time in the 1980s and 1990s, but this is estimated to have been reduced to 7,000, operating in 11 armored brigades.[29] The Chinese-produced versions of the Soviet T-54A (Type 59 and Type 69) account for over two-thirds of the total PLA tank inventory. While retiring some of the older Type 59/69 series and replacing them with the second generation Type 88 and third generation Type 96, the PLA is also upgrading the remaining Type 59/69 series tanks with new technologies including improved communication and fire-control systems, night vision equipment, explosive reactive armor, improved powerplant, and gun-fired anti-tank missiles so that they can remain in service as mobile fire-support platforms. The newest tank is the Type 99, which entered PLA service in 2001.
The PLA also operates about 10,000 light tanks including the Type 62 light tank and the Type 63 amphibious tank, both of which entered production in the 1960s. The Type 63 has now been upgraded with the addition of the improved Type 63A featuring computerized fire-control, gun-fired anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), night vision equipment, satellite navigation, and improved powerplant.
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