Daily Telegraph, London, on April 16, 2013, reported on the The People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, boasting some 850,000 officers spread across seven regional commands, according to a defense report issued. Excerpts below:
Meanwhile the navy and air force have 235,000 and 398,000 officers respectively.
The PLA contingent is split between command centres in Beijing, Nanjing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenyang, Lanzhou, and Jinan, the report says.
The white paper also alludes to China’s powerful “Second Artillery Force”. Described as “the country’s core force for strategic deterrence”, the force oversees China’s nuclear arsenal and is tasked with “deterring other countries from using nuclear weapons against China”.
The total number of service members listed was 1.48 million. In 2006, China said the military had a total of 2.3 million members. It was not clear if the new count represented a real reduction in numbers, or if the shortfall was made up by other ground force units that appeared to have been omitted from the count, including the Second Artillery Force.
State-run news agency Xinhua said the white paper represented the first time China had made public “the actual number of army, navy and air force servicemen”.
China’s “main missile lineup” was also being divulged for the first time, Xinhua added.
The report also attacked US President Barack Obama’s so-called “pivot” towards the Asia-Pacific region, suggesting that his policy of boosting the American military footprint there was causing frictions.
Beijing views the “pivot” – under which 60 percent of the US navy forces are set to be deployed to the region by 2020 – as an attempt to contain China’s rise and block the country’s development.
China’s state-run media also carried opinion pieces that were critical of the US’s growing role in Asia.
Xinhua praised the report as a sign of the military’s growing “transparency”. But Colonel Yang, the defence ministry spokesperson, admitted there was no such thing as “absolute military transparency”. (Comment: It is not likely that the report offers the true strength of China’s military.)