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China embarks on military modernisation programme

Military delegates dressed in the latest uniform attend the reception of the 80th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) at the Great Hall of the People August 1, 2007. China called its growing military strength a force for peace and Communist Party rule on the 80th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army on Wednesday, even while a senior commander warned Taiwan not to risk war. REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA)

Plans have been revealed for a modernisation programme of Chinese military power.

The plan calls for a drastic expansion of the People’s Liberation Army Navy which is set to include more vessels and personnel.

The move also includes an expansion of Strategic Support Force and Rocket Forces.

Airforce numbers are set to remain the same.

The biggest change is that the People’s Liberation Army forces will be reduced from their present 2.3 million to just under 1 million, still making it the largest standing army in the world.

Far from a show of weakness, this is an example of China’s focus on the modern military needs of a confident super-power.

The age where a country’s strength was measured purely on the size of its standing army is long over. Today, one’s technological capabilities, one’s ability to mobilise rapidly and to have a presence felt on the sea and in the air is vital to deterring an attack and defending against aggression.

China has taken the steps to make its already extremely powerful and highly trained armed forces even stronger in this respect.

According to a report from the PLA Daily

“The old military structure, where the army accounts for the vast majority, will be replaced after the reform. The reform is based on China’s strategic goals and security requirements. In the past, the PLA focused on ground battle and homeland defence, which will undergo fundamental changes”.

This move also demonstrates that China is increasingly interested in projecting world-power rather than having to maintain a massive standing army to fight regional wars. As China and India are both members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the idea of a war with India is becoming increasingly absurd from the perspective of leaders in both Beijing and New Delhi.

By contrast, America’s refusal to respect China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea has doubtlessly been a motivating factor in China’s plans to expand its Naval presence in a move that could deter further acts of US provocation in East and South East Asia.

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