How Many Divisions Are There In The Chinese Army


China is well-known for its army, The People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Its active personnel exceeds 2 million and is organized into 18 Army Corps across its seven Military Regions, four of which are highly concentrated in the east of the country. But how many divisions are part of the PLA? There are several divisions besides the Army Corps, including the Navy, the Air Force and the three other Support Services – Technical, Logistics, and Medical. It is estimated that the Chinese Army has around 200 divisions of varying size, spread among these branches.


China’s military history dates back thousands of years, and the form it has today largely emerged during the 20th century. The PLA was formed in 1927 for the purpose of overthrowing the Kuomintang, and since then it has undergone multiple reorganizations and experienced notable developments in weaponry and technology. Currently, the PLA is composed of the five branches listed earlier and is the largest standing army in the world.


Most of the 200 divisions are located in the seven military districts and their size can range from tens of thousands to around 20 million for the Army Corps. These divisions are further subdivided into numerous regiments, brigades, battalions and other types of combat units. The Navy and Air Force are composed of a mix of vessels, submarines, and different types of aircraft like fighter jets, bombers, and helicopters. The three other services (Technical, Logistics, and Medical) provide support for the front line by supplying soldiers with food, equipment, ammunition, medical services and technical expertise.

Special Units

One of the most prominent military units of the PLA is the Army Special Forces, commonly known as the “720 Strike Force”. This unit is specially trained and equipped to carry out high-risk operations such as hostage rescue missions, secret operations in enemy territory, and anti-terrorism actions. They are also known for their capability to quickly deploy to different places in the world and their expertise in using a variety of weapons, including explosives and communications equipment.

The Marine Corps is another important division of the PLA. This branch is specially trained and equipped to carry out amphibious landings, airborne operations, and operations in polar areas. It is estimated they have around 5,000 active personnel and are responsible for garrison duty along China’s coast.

Militarization of the South China Sea

The PLA has been increasingly present in the South China Sea with PLA Navy vessels regularly conducting military exercises and patrols in the area. In recent years, China has also been known to deploy various military facilities to the region, including airstrips, observation posts and naval bases. Furthermore, the country has militarized some disputed islands with the deployment of antiaircraft missiles and other combat systems.

To secure its military presence in the sea, the Chinese government has used its maritime militia to help defend its sovereignty in the area. This militia consists of civilian fishing vessels that Beijing considers part of its civilian law enforcement to protect its interests in the South China Sea.

Technology advancement

The PLA has invested heavily in new military technology to modernize its forces, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, combat robots and artificial intelligence. Furthermore, there has also been an increased focus on information technology, as the PLA has acquired advanced electronic and communication equipment that could help them operate more efficiently in both conventional and unconventional warfare.

The Chinese government has also taken strides in its defense research and development, including the development of fighter jets, submarines, tankers and the production of nuclear warheads. Such advancements are intended to ensure the military’s superiority among its regional rivals.

Military spending and personnel

China is widely seen as the world’s second-largest military spender after the United States. It is estimated that the military budget for 2021 was around $261 billion with the budget for the PLA being around $175 billion. Additionally, the estimated number of active PLA personnel (including military reserves) is around 2.3 million.

To ensure the readiness of its forces, the Chinese government has implemented the military conscription system, where males aged 18-19 are required to register for military service. Military conscription is seen as an important contributing factor to the country’s high personnel numbers.

Influence abroad

In recent years, China has increased its presence in strategic areas around the world, such as Africa and the Middle East. This presence often takes the form of providing military personnel, weapons and ammunition to countries in need. Beijing also has a growing number of military alliances with countries such as Pakistan and North Korea, countries with close political ties to the Chinese government.

The reach of the PLA has been felt in the South China Sea, where the military is present in almost all of the important islands of the region. They have also been involved in the conflict in Taiwan, where the US Navy has provided support to the Taiwanese government against Chinese vessels in the area.

Implications on world politics

The increasing size and capability of China’s military has had a significant impact on world politics. From a US perspective, there are rising concerns about the possibility of a direct clash between the two countries’ armed forces, as the PLA has adopted a more assertive role in international waters. This has prompted the US government to increase its military presence in East Asia and Southeast Asia to act as a deterrence against potential Chinese aggression.

Moreover, the growing influence of the PLA has sparked unease among other countries in East Asia. Japan, India, and Vietnam have all expressed their concerns about the expanding Chinese military presence in their immediate neighbourhood.


The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the largest standing army in the world, with an estimated 2.3 million active personnel and 200 divisions located in seven military districts. The Navy, Air Force, and three other Support Services complete the five branches that make up the PLA. China has invested heavily in new military technology and the number of military personnel and military spending have been on the rise. In recent years, China has increased its presence in strategic areas around the world, sparking concern and unease among other countries in East Asia, including the US.

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.

Leave a Comment