IV. The Army
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).
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