People's Liberation Army

The People's Liberation Army (PLA; simplified Chinese: 中国人民解放军; traditional Chinese: 中國人民解放軍; pinyin: Zhōngguó Rénmín Jiěfàngjūn) is the military arm of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the de facto armed forces of the People's Republic of China, consisting of land, sea, strategic missile and air forces. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 which is celebrated annually as "PLA Day". The People's Liberation Army's insignia consists of a roundel with a red star bearing the Chinese characters for "Eight One", referring to August 1 (Chinese: 八一), the date of the 1927 Nanchang Uprising.

The PLA is the world's largest military force, with approximately 3 million members, and has the world's largest (active) standing army, with approximately 2.25 million members. The PLA comprises five main service branches, consisting of the PLA Ground Force, PLA Navy (PLAN), PLA Air Force (PLAAF), Second Artillery Corps (strategic missile force), and the PLA Reserve Force.

Military service is compulsory, in theory, for all men who attain the age of 18; women may register for duty in the medical, veterinary, and other technical services at ages as young as 14. However, a draft in China has never been enforced due to large numbers of volunteers from China's huge population. Demobilized servicemen are carried in a ready reserve, which is reinforced by a standby reserve of veterans and by the militia.

The PLA is formally under the command of the Central Military Commission of the CPC; there is also an identical commission in the government, but it has no clear independent functions. The Ministry of National Defense, which operates under the State Council, does not exercise any authority over the PLA and is far less powerful than the Central Military Commission (CMC). The ministry assures continuing CPC control over the armed forces, and its primary role is that of a liaison office with foreign militaries. The political and military leadership have made a concerted effort to create a professional military force restricted to national defense and to the provision of assistance in domestic economic construction and emergency relief. This conception of the role of the PLA requires the promotion of specialized officers who can understand modern weaponry and handle combined arms operations. Troops around the country are stationed in seven military regions and more than 20 military districts.

Chairman Hu Jintao has defined the missions of the PLA as:

  • Consolidate the ruling status of the Communist Party
  • Help ensure China's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and domestic security in order to continue national development
  • Safeguard China's expanding national interests
  • Help maintain World Peace

Read more about People's Liberation Army:  History, Conscription and Terms of Service, Military Budget, Commercial Interests, Peacekeeping Operations

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