The Chinese state-run People’s Daily newspaper reported Wednesday that the nation’s military will reduce its army to under one million troops in an effort to do away with “the old military structure.”
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is seeking to expand the number of troops in the navy, air force, and cyber combat units as infantry strength becomes less important with technological advances.
The People’s Daily cites an article published by the PLA announcing that “the old military structure, where the army accounts for the vast majority, will be replaced after the reform.” The newspaper notes that “the total PLA personnel was about 2.3 million before the country announced a cut of 300,000 troops in 2015,” and the military announced this would be the first time “that active PLA Army personnel would be reduced to below one million.”
Another state newspaper, the Global Times, cited “senior adviser” Xu Guangyu as explaining that diminishing the number of active army troops would allow for boosting “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.”
“The PLA must be capable of spotting overseas threats and destroying hostile forces thousands of kilometers away before they enter our 12 nautical mile territorial waters. China’s overseas interests are spread around the world and need to be protected. These are beyond the army’s current capabilities,” Xu added.
The overhaul appears to be part of a larger initiative to revolutionize the PLA and make it more competitive with the military of the United States, as well as more capable of supporting expansionist initiatives in the South China Sea, near the Indian border, and in Africa. In 2015, President Xi Jinping gathered over 200 senior military officers to announce a restructuring of the PLA that would create a joint military command, enhancing communication among branches of the military.