Yasir Habib Khan
Since late 2012, China’s military system has been changed from quantity to quality and from human-intensive to scientific-intensive
China always upholds its charismatic features. Among others, its military aura–blended with peace and affability–is unique in the world. On August 1, 2022, the Chinese Army, known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marked 95 years of its foundation. Throughout the period, the Chinese army has neither pursued hegemonic policy nor desired any expansion plan despite having marshal prowess to do so. It is still positioned to show its military muscles by establishing an army basis in many countries, having mastered its super military awe and top-notch advancement. However, PLA, under the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), continues to create a ripple of global peace by respecting others’ sovereignty and safeguarding its own geographical and ideological boundaries.
Celebrating the 95th anniversary of the establishment of the PLA is a historically important milestone for China and all those countries that respect one another on the yardstick of equality, harmony and law-based world order. On August 1, 2022, President Xi Jinping, General-Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), attended a reception to commemorate the 95th founding anniversary of the PLA. The reception was held at the Great Hall of the People by the Ministry of National Defense.
President Xi was joined by other senior leaders of the Party and the state, including Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji, Han Zheng and Wang Qishan. Founded in 1927 and originally called the Chinese Workers and Peasants’ Red Army, the Chinese military has played a key role in determining the course of the country. Undoubtedly, the army has made great contributions to the nation’s socialist construction and reform drives as well as demonstrating its increasing capacities and unshakable determination to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, in particular, its defence responsibilities in Hong Kong and Macao.
Indeed, the PLA has been through a long revolutionary process. On August 1, 1927, with only 20,000 soldiers, the Red Army (forerunner of the PLA), held an uprising in Nanchang city, the capital of East China’s Jiangxi province, which marked the founding day of the armed forces of the CPC. On that day, Zhou Enlai, He Long, Ye Ting, Zhu De and Liu Bocheng commanded their troops to attack and occupy the city of Nanchang. The Nanchang Uprising marked the first shots of the armed resistance against the Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party of China) reactionary forces and has been recorded as a great event in China’s revolutionary history.
Led by the late leader Mao Zedong, the PLA fought courageously in the Agrarian Revolutionary War (1927-37), the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) and the War of Liberation (1946-49). After an arduous struggle of 22 years, it defeated enemies from both within and outside the country and founded the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. More than 35 million soldiers and civilians were killed and injured in China, the main oriental theatre of the Second World War. The hard-working spirit of the Red Army has never faded. China’s contributions and sacrifices against Japanese Aggression have been stored in the people’s collective memory from generation to generation. The Long March spirit is with the Chinese people today, and it aims to make Chinese dreams come true.
China follows a “defensive” defence policy; providing the guarantee for maintaining China’s security and unity, and realising the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in an all-around way. In the past 95 years, the PLA, under the CPC’s collective leadership of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, has made indelible contributions to national independence, prosperity and strength, and the well-being of the Chinese people. Today, the PLA is vastly different from its humble origins in 1927. Currently, it is the world’s largest military force. The PLA is composed of five main service branches: PLA Army, PLA Navy, PLA Air Force, Second Artillery Corps (strategic missile force), and the PLA Reserve Force. The PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force were established in late 2015.
Since its establishment, the PLA has evolved significantly and rapidly, particularly when it comes to the defence technologies and the weapons it uses. During the 1960s, China emerged as another nuclear power in the world. The 1964 atomic bomb test at the Lop Nur nuclear test site in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region made China the fifth nuclear power. Over the last decade, the PLA has built up capabilities–nuclear submarines, anti-ship missiles, advanced fighter jets and an aircraft carrier–designed to prevent the US from intervening in a conflict in Asia. Founded on November 11, 1949, the Air Force began developing during the Korean War in 1950. It is the largest air force in Asia and the third-largest in the world, after the United States and Russia. In recent years, China’s air force is moving forward to the fourth generation from the third-generation fighters. Last July, the Xi’an Y-20, a large military transport aircraft, entered service with the air force. The Chengdu J-20, China’s independently developed fourth-generation stealth fighter, entered service on March 9. China’s J-15 “Flying Shark” fighter jet is considered one of the most advanced military aircraft in the world. Today, the air force is no longer dependent on Russian-made air defence missiles or transport planes, thanks to its own indigenous, cutting-edge HQ-9B long-range surface-to-air missile and the Y-20 strategic transport aircraft.
The PLA Navy has developed rapidly under Xi’s military modernization. On June 28, 2017, China became a global naval power when it launched its new generation destroyer, the Type 055 with domestic designs and well equipped with air defence weapons. China’s armed forces have been actively expanding their military cooperation with other countries. The PLA is participating in many missions such as international peace-keeping, anti-piracy, humanitarian aid, disaster relief and other international activity. At present, 2,409 Chinese peacekeepers are engaged in UN peacekeeping missions around the world. The PLA provided medical aid to those affected by the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, in 2014 with unprecedented generosity. This is the responsibility that the PLA accepts as the armed forces of a major country. Since late 2012, China’s military system has been changed from quantity to quality and from human-intensive to scientific-intensive in accordance with the country’s ongoing national defence and military reform guided by Xi. It is hoped the PLA will faithfully strive to fulfil the sacred duty of protecting China’s security and people’s well-being and carry out the noble mission of upholding world peace and the progress of humanity.