Asien — China’s National Defense in 2008

IV. The Army

As the basis of the PLA, the Army is a ser­vice main­ly con­duct­ing land oper­a­tions. It con­sists of such arms as infantry, armor, artillery, air defense, avi­a­tion, engi­neer­ing, sig­nals, chem­i­cal defense and elec­tron­ic coun­ter­mea­sures (ECM), as well as var­i­ous spe­cial­ized ser­vice units. 

His­to­ry of Devel­op­ment
The PLA was found­ed on August 1, 1927, and com­prised only the Army in its ear­ly days. For a long time the Army was main­ly com­posed of infantry. Dur­ing the Agrar­i­an Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War (1927–1937) a small num­ber of cav­al­ry, artillery, engi­neer­ing and sig­nals troops were added. The Lib­er­a­tion War (1946–1949) wit­nessed the advent of tank and chem­i­cal defense forces. In the 1950s the Army set up lead­ing organs for such arms as artillery, armor, engi­neer­ing and chem­i­cal defense. Since the 1980s the struc­ture of the Army has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly, with the cre­ation of the avi­a­tion and ECM arms and the estab­lish­ment in 1985 of Army com­bined corps. After 81 years of devel­op­ment, the Army has grown from a sin­gle arm into a mod­ern army with var­i­ous arms. It has become a pow­er­ful ser­vice capa­ble of con­duct­ing both inde­pen­dent and joint oper­a­tions with the Navy, Air Force and Sec­ond Artillery Force. 

Struc­ture and Orga­ni­za­tion
The Army has no inde­pen­dent lead­ing body, and its lead­er­ship is exer­cised by the four gen­er­al headquarters/departments. The sev­en mil­i­tary area com­mands exer­cise direct lead­er­ship over the Army units under them. The Army includes units of mobile oper­a­tional, gar­ri­son, bor­der and coastal defense, and reserve troops. The orga­ni­za­tion­al order of these units is com­bined corps, divi­sion (brigade), reg­i­ment, bat­tal­ion, com­pa­ny, pla­toon and squad. Direct­ly under a mil­i­tary area com­mand, a com­bined corps con­sists of divi­sions or brigades, and acts as a basic for­ma­tion at the oper­a­tional lev­el. Direct­ly under a com­bined corps, a divi­sion con­sists of reg­i­ments and acts as a basic for­ma­tion at the tac­ti­cal lev­el. Direct­ly under a com­bined corps, a brigade con­sists of bat­tal­ions, and acts as a for­ma­tion at the tac­ti­cal lev­el. Nor­mal­ly under a divi­sion, a reg­i­ment con­sists of bat­tal­ions, and acts as a basic tac­ti­cal unit. Nor­mal­ly under a reg­i­ment or brigade, a bat­tal­ion con­sists of com­pa­nies, and acts as a tac­ti­cal ele­ment at a high­er lev­el. A com­pa­ny con­sists of pla­toons, and acts as a basic tac­ti­cal ele­ment. The Army mobile oper­a­tional units include 18 com­bined corps and some inde­pen­dent com­bined oper­a­tional divi­sions (brigades).

Force Build­ing
In recent years, in line with the strate­gic require­ments of mobile oper­a­tions and three-dimen­sion­al offense and defense, the Army has been mov­ing from region­al defense to trans-region­al mobil­i­ty. It is grad­u­al­ly mak­ing its units small, mod­u­lar and mul­ti-func­tion­al in orga­ni­za­tion through appro­pri­ate down­siz­ing and struc­tur­al reform. It is accel­er­at­ing the devel­op­ment of avi­a­tion, light mech­a­nized and infor­ma­tion coun­ter­mea­sure forces, and gives pri­or­i­ty to the devel­op­ment of oper­a­tional and tac­ti­cal mis­sile, ground-to-air mis­sile and spe­cial oper­a­tions forces, so as to increase its capa­bil­i­ties for air-ground inte­grat­ed oper­a­tions, long-dis­tance maneu­vers, rapid assaults and spe­cial operations. 

The Army has made great progress in build­ing its arms. The armored com­po­nent has been work­ing to enhance the inte­gra­tion of infor­ma­tion sys­tems with weapon plat­forms, deploy new major bat­tle tanks, and devel­op heavy, amphibi­ous and light mech­a­nized forces. The pro­por­tion of armored mech­a­nized divisions/brigades in com­bined oper­a­tional divisions/brigades has fur­ther increased. The artillery com­po­nent has been work­ing to devel­op a three-lev­el oper­a­tional com­mand sys­tem and deploy a series of advanced weapons and equip­ment, and new types of ammu­ni­tion, such as oper­a­tional and tac­ti­cal mis­siles and large-cal­iber self-pro­pelled gun-how­itzers. It has estab­lished a pre­lim­i­nary sys­tem for all-range pre­ci­sion strikes. The air defense com­po­nent has been work­ing to deploy a series of advanced field ground-to-air mis­siles, and new types of radar and intel­li­gence com­mand sys­tems, and to estab­lish and improve an air defense oper­a­tions sys­tem com­bin­ing recon­nais­sance, ear­ly warn­ing, com­mand and con­trol, and infor­ma­tion coun­ter­mea­sures and inter­cep­tion. The engi­neer­ing com­po­nent has been work­ing to accel­er­ate the estab­lish­ment of a sys­tem of both spe­cial­ized and mul­ti­func­tion­al engi­neer­ing sup­port forces which can be used both in peace­time and wartime. It has devel­oped rel­a­tive­ly strong capa­bil­i­ties in the fields of accom­pa­ny­ing sup­port, rapid bar­ri­er breach­ing, com­pre­hen­sive pro­tec­tion, counter-ter­ror­ist explo­sive ord­nance dis­pos­al, emer­gency res­cue and dis­as­ter relief. The chem­i­cal defense com­po­nent has been work­ing to devel­op new types of pro­tec­tion forces. It has estab­lished a pre­lim­i­nary inte­grat­ed sys­tem of nuclear, bio­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal ear­ly warn­ing, recon­nais­sance and mon­i­tor­ing, pro­tec­tion com­mand and pro­tec­tion forces. 

The Army avi­a­tion wing is one of the com­bat arms of the Army, and has a three-lev­el (gen­er­al headquarters/departments, the­aters and com­bined corps) admin­is­tra­tion sys­tem. In recent years it has been work­ing to shift from being a sup­port force focus­ing on trans­porta­tion mis­sions to being an inte­grat­ed com­bat force focus­ing on air assault mis­sions; it has stepped up train­ing in fire assault, air­craft-borne oper­a­tions, air mobil­i­ty and air ser­vice sup­port; and active­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in counter-ter­ror­ism, sta­bil­i­ty main­te­nance, bor­der clo­sure and con­trol, emer­gency res­cue, dis­as­ter relief and joint exer­cis­es. The pur­pose is to build a well-equipped and mul­ti­func­tion­al Army avi­a­tion force which is appro­pri­ate in size and opti­mal in structure. 

The bor­der and coastal defense force of the Army, under the lead­er­ship of gen­er­al headquarters/departments, mil­i­tary area and provin­cial mil­i­tary com­mands, is the main­stay for safe­guard­ing nation­al sov­er­eign­ty and ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty, and main­tain­ing secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty in bor­der and coastal areas. In recent years, adher­ing to the prin­ci­ples of plac­ing equal empha­sis on land and sea, strength­en­ing bor­der defense by means of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy, giv­ing pri­or­i­ty to key projects and pro­mot­ing coor­di­nat­ed devel­op­ment, the bor­der and coastal defense force has focused on com­bat readi­ness, and com­pre­hen­sive­ly enhanced its recon­nais­sance and sur­veil­lance, com­mand and con­trol, quick response and defen­sive oper­a­tions capa­bil­i­ties. It has con­sis­tent­ly strength­ened the defense and pro­tec­tion of major direc­tions and sen­si­tive regions, water­cours­es and sea waters in bor­der and coastal areas. It has inten­si­fied bor­der con­trol and man­age­ment, and par­tic­i­pat­ed in emer­gency-han­dling and dis­as­ter-relief mis­sions. It has car­ried out exten­sive exchanges and coop­er­a­tion on bor­der defense with neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, and dealt with bor­der and coastal affairs proac­tive­ly and appro­pri­ate­ly. As a result, it has made impor­tant con­tri­bu­tions to peace and sta­bil­i­ty, reform, open­ing-up, and social and eco­nom­ic progress in bor­der and coastal areas. 

Infor­ma­tion Office of the State Coun­cil of the People’s Repub­lic of China 

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