A History Of The Modern Chinese Army

A History of The Modern Chinese Army

When discussing the Military of China, one cannot overstate the importance of the developments made by the nation that has lasted over a millennium. As far back as the ancient Chinese dynasties, the country has developed armies that have evolved over time to become the highly disciplined and complex force that exists today.

In the mid-1800s, Wei Yongqing developed one of the first modern Chinese armies. This army relied on the teaching of the classic Chinese military treatise, the ‘Six Secret Teaching’, by Wei Qing and Sun Tzu. This army was in place when the Qing Dynasty was overthrown in 1912, after a civil war fought between the nationalist and the communists.

The Chinese Communist Party established the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 1927. The Chinese Communist Party established regular forces having modern training and weaponry, along with functional management and educational bases. This allowed the Chinese PLA force to benefit from the experience of numerous armed struggles, in particular during the Chinese Civil War between 1945 and 1950.

In the 1950s and 60s, the Chinese government began the modernisation and expansion of its militarry forces. This included the implementation of Soviet-style armed propulsion and research, technology, and personnel training, as well as purchases of modern weapons from the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries in Europe. As a result, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), and the Second Artillery Force (SAF) were established and the ‘Mass-Line’ policy was implemented.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army was reformed again in the mid-1980s and the early 1990s. This reform and modernisation focused on professionalising the Chinese forces, increasing their military strength, and enhancing their technological capabilities, with precision strike capabilities and high-tech warfare. This period also saw the development of new weapons systems, such as the J-20 stealth fighter, the DF-21 ballistic missile, and the Wing Loong drone.

From the mid-1990s to the present day, the Chinese government has taken further steps to modernise the Chinese military by building new air, land and naval forces, purchasing new weapons systems, and establishing new training bases. The Chinese military boasts numerous modernised capabilities, such as stealth technology, Akizuki-class destroyers, DF-31 launch vehicles and layered missile defence systems.

Today, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army is the world’s largest standing army, with over 2.25 million active personnel. It is also the most advanced and well-equipped army in the world and is rapidly becoming one of the most powerful military forces.

Weapons Systems

One of the aspects of the modern Chinese Army that has developed significantly over the years is its range and type of weapons systems. The Chinese army has invested heavily in the development of state-of-the-art weapons technology and has been able to integrate these weapons into its arsenal.

The Chinese military have been developing a range of conventional weapons systems ranging from nuclear missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles, miniaturised nuclear devices, drones and various other weapons that have advanced the Chinese military’s technological capabilities.

The Chinese military have also developed aircraft such as the J-20 Stealth Fighter, the Y-20 strategic bomber and the Wing Loong UAV to enhance its advanced weapons capabilities. In the naval side, the Chinese have also developed the Type 052D missile destroyer and the Type 055 missile cruiser, to add to its powerful array of advanced naval vessels.

In addition to these weapons systems, the Chinese military has also developed a range of cyber-warfare capabilities, such as the Great Firewall of China, which is the world’s largest and most sophisticated internet censorship and surveillance system.

The Chinese Army has also had the ability to build a range of military satellites for surveillance, communication, and satellite navigation. In addition, the Chinese military has integrated new information systems to its operations in order to gain a greater tactical advantage in reconnaissance and battlefield intelligence.

Military Spending

One of the major contributors to the Chinese military’s success has been its tremendous and ever increasing budget. The Chinese government has made considerable investments in the Chinese armed forces, with military spending having increased dramatically in recent years, particularly since 2012. In 2020, the budget was $261, 1 billion USD, and it is estimated to reach $280, 8 billion USD in 2021.

The Chinese military has put much of its budget into modernising its existing forces. This includes buying weapons, upgrading personnel training and facilities, and purchasing new technology, such as aircraft, missiles and satellites.

A significant portion of the budget has also gone into the development of new, more advanced weapons systems, such as hypersonic missiles, semi-automated drones, and nuclear submarines. These advancements have further strengthened the Chinese armed forces and provided them with a greater degree of tactical advantage in any potential conflict.

Regional Presence

The Chinese military has been actively increasing its presence in regions outside of mainland China in recent years. This includes the establishment of military bases in disputed regions such as the South China Sea, as well as training and exercising with other international military forces.

The Chinese military has also established numerous training programs and joint-exercises with other regional powers such as Russia, Pakistan and North Korea. This has allowed the Chinese army to gain a better understanding of regional security issues, increase their tactical capabilities and better prepare for potential military conflicts.

The Chinese military has also engaged in several peacekeeping operations in various parts of Africa and the Middle East, in order to maintain global peace and stability. This has strengthened the Chinese presence in these regions and enabled the Chinese military to build strong relationships with international forces.

The Future of the PLA

It is clear that the Chinese armed forces have come a long way since their inception and have become a formidable force in the international arena. It is predicted that China’s military ambitions will continue to grow, given the country’s rapidly increasing budget and the focus that the Chinese government has put on military modernisation.

The Chinese military is also likely to continue to increase its regional and international presence, as it continues to build stronger ties with other countries and regional powers. This is likely to enable the PLA to learn more about regional security and prepare for potential conflicts.

As the Chinese military continues to modernise and expand its capabilities, the PLA is set to become an integral part of global security in the future. With the PLA’s technological capabilities, geographical reach and increasing budget, the Chinese military is likely to be one of the most important forces in the world’s security in the near future.

Indo-Pacific Strategy

In recent years, the Chinese military has taken a greater focus on the Indo-Pacific region, in particular the South China Sea. This has included investments in infrastructure, military outposts, and numerous other initiatives. The Chinese military have also taken steps to build closer relationships with regional powers, some of whom are allies such as Pakistan, while others are rivals such as Japan and India.

The Chinese military has also increased its naval presence in the region, including the deployment of warships and submarines. This has enabled the PLA to project power into the region, maintain regional peace and stability, and better defend its territorial claims.

The Chinese military’s focus on the Indo-Pacific region is part of its wider strategy to increase its global presence. The PLA’s presence in the region has had a major impact on the region’s security and stability, and it is likely to continue to do so in the future.

Foreign Relations

The Chinese armed forces’ relationship with foreign militaries has traditionally been strained. This has been largely due to the numerous territorial and maritime disputes that have plagued East Asia since the early-twentieth century.

However, in recent years, the Chinese military has worked to improve its foreign relations, in particular with the United States. The Chinese government has sought to build closer economic ties with the US, as well as increased collaboration in military-to-military relations, such as joint-exercises and training programs. This has enabled the two countries to build a better working relationship, which has improved the prospects for a peaceful resolution of their disputes.

The Chinese military has also taken steps to build closer relations with other military powers, such as the EU and NATO. The increased cooperation between the Chinese military and other foreign powers, such as Russia and North Korea, has also improved relations between the countries, and has enabled the PLA to learn more about foreign troops and their capabilities.


The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is one of the most advanced and well-equipped militaries in the world. It boasts numerous advanced weapons systems, a rapidly increasing budget for modernisation, and a growing presence in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. The PLA is committed to building closer relationships with other militaries, particularly with the United States, and has sought to build collaborative exercises to increase their understanding of each other. As the Chinese military continues to modernise and build an even greater presence and influence in the international arena, it is certain to become an even more important player on the global stage in the coming years.

Letha Wimmer is a military expert with more than a decade of direct experience in the U.S. Army and National Guard. She specializes in researching and writing about the world's armies and their capabilities, equipment, capabilities, strategies, organizations, and operations. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation from Middle Tennessee State University as well as an Aerial Firefighting Certificate and numerous other advanced aviation certifications. She also enjoys traveling to distant lands to gain firsthand knowledge about their military forces and has written extensively for various websites on the subject.

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