How Many People In The Chinese Army


The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was established in 1927 with a primary mission of ‘safeguarding China’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity’. The Chinese army has grown to become the largest standing army in the world today with an estimated 2.3 million active personnel and 800,000 reserve personnel. Over the years, the Chinese army has developed into a sprawling paramilitary force, complete with its own bureaucracy, special operations forces, intelligence organization, and vast logistics network ensuring the seamless operation of its forces. The Chinese army’s size is both impressive and daunting but how many people are actually part of the Chinese army?

Types of Personnel In the Chinese Army

The Chinese army consists of three branches, namely the ground forces, navy, and air force, which are made up of over 1.6 million full-time troops and over 800,000 reserves.The ground forces are the largest branch, constituting about 85% of the entire army with a total of 1.4 million active personnel, the navy has over 250,000 active personnel, and the air force has about 72,000 active personnel. Other personnel such as engineers, cooks, mechanics, drivers, and IT specialists constitute about 4%. The Chinese army also includes paramilitary paramilitary personnel, who are not members of the military but are organized and managed by various government departments and military units for special operations purposes.

Composition of the Chinese Army

The Chinese army is composed of both conscripts and volunteers, with most of the latter serving in non-combat roles such as medical staff, administrative personnel, and research and development personnel. The conscription age in China is 18-years old, and most conscripts serve a two-year term in the military, although veterans are able to serve up to 10 years. Most conscripts and volunteers are permeated with a strong sense of national pride, which gives them a strong commitment to the military.

Training and Education in the Chinese Army

In the Chinese army, rigorous training is provided to all personnel, regardless of their age or rank. Units in the Chinese army undergo regular training in different aspects of warfare, from basic combat skills to more advanced tactics, and from weapon training to electronic warfare. Every soldier in the Chinese army is also educated on morals, ethics and the law, as well as Communist Party ideology. Soldiers also learn about national defense, political affairs and history.

Command Structure of the Chinese Army

The Chinese army is commanded through a hierarchical chain of command that starts with the Central Military Commission and moves down through regional military commands, corps, divisions, and finally to the platoon level. Every platoon is commanded by a platoon leader, usually a high ranking non-commissioned officer, and is usually more than 50 soldiers in size. From here, the chain of command moves down to individual squads, which are around 10-12 soldiers in size.

Organizational Structure of the Chinese Army

The Chinese army is organized into a number of different aviation, armor, mechanized infantry, special operations, and other combat and support branches, as well as large numbers of auxiliary units. Each branch is divided into a number of units, which generally range in size from a few hundred to a few thousand personnel. These units are further divided into smaller element units and then into individual soldiers.

Significance of the Chinese Army

The Chinese army plays a significant role in maintaining the security of the People’s Republic of China. By having such a sizable fighting force and a complex command structure, the Chinese army can effectively defend the country from external threats and also respond to internal challenges and emergencies. The Chinese army also serves a political purpose, both in the sense of national pride and in its use as a tool to carry out the foreign policy objectives of the Chinese government.

China’s Growing Military Presence

In recent years, China has begun to build up its military presence in the region, with an increasing focus on modernizing its forces and building new bases and outposts. Several countries, including Taiwan, Japan, and the United States, have expressed concern over China’s growing military power, especially given its flexing of muscles in the South China Sea. However, despite all the concerns, China maintains that its military presence is strictly for defensive purposes and does not threaten anyone.

Public Perception of the Chinese Military

Despite its presence, the Chinese army rarely makes international headlines. This, on the surface, may appear to be a sign of the Chinese military’s relative obscurity. However, within China, the military commands a great deal of respect and admiration, both from the members of the general public, and also from the political elites. This is both due to the perception that the Chinese army is a formidable force that is able to protect the nation’s sovereignty, as well as the fact that the Chinese people have a deep-rooted pride in the nation’s military might.

Innovation and Technology in the Chinese Army

The Chinese army is also investing heavily in innovation and technology to ensure it can keep up with the latest advances in military science. This includes research into artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, and autonomous systems, as well as investments in sophisticated surveillance technologies. The Chinese army also uses cyber warfare, both offensively and defensively, to gain the tactical advantage over its adversaries.

Chinese Army Combat Readiness

The Chinese army is notably well-prepared for combat. It is believed to have the second largest arsenal of weapons in the world and its arsenal includes state-of-the-art tanks, fighter jets, and other military hardware. The Chinese army is also highly mobile and can deploy troops to different parts of the world both quickly and stealthily. In addition, its special forces units are trained to carry out stealthy and highly effective operations.

The Impact of the Chinese Army on Chinese Politics

The Chinese army has a direct impact on Chinese politics, and is seen by many as the ultimate arbiter of power in the country. The Chinese military not only protects the nation from external threats, but it also is the final authority on internal matters, especially in cases of political unrest. The army also often serves as a check on the power of the central government, and thus, it is able to influence the political trajectory of the nation.

The Chinese Army’s Contributions to International Security

The Chinese army is one of the largest contributors to international security operations, and participates in multiple regional and global peacekeeping initiatives. It has also taken an active role in fighting terrorism and assisting disaster relief efforts. The Chinese army has also helped to maintain regional stability in East Asia, and its involvement in major international forums, such as the United Nations, reinforces China’s image as a responsible member of the international community.


The Chinese army is one of the largest and most powerful forces in the world today. The Chinese army serves a critical role in protecting the sovereignty and security of the People’s Republic of China, and its size and capabilities are an important part of the nation’s power projection. The Chinese army’s presence also has an important impact on internal Chinese politics, and its contributions to international peacekeeping operations cannot be overlooked. In total, the Chinese army has an estimated 2.3 million active personnel and 800,000 reserve personnel, making it the largest standing army in the world.

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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