China Reconfiguring its Military as it Increases Size of its Airforce and Navy
PLA marines based in Zhanjiang stand at attention during a visit by a U.S. admiral. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

China which has the world’s largest armed force, has slashed the size of its Army by about 50 per cent and boosted other units like strategic support force responsible for cyber warfare, its air force and navy personnel according to the country's official news agency Xinhua. “This new data is unprecedented in the history of the PLA (People's Liberation Army) – the army now accounts for less than 50 per cent of the total number of PLA troops; almost half of our non-combatant units have been made redundant, and the number of officers in the PLA has been reduced by 30 per cent,” the news agency said.

It said the four other branches of the PLA – the navy, air force, rocket force and strategic support force, which is responsible for areas such as cyberwarfare – now jointly make up more than half of the Chinese military, overtaking the army.

In the last few years, the PLA has downsized its army by retrenching three lakh troops under the military reforms initiated by President Xi Jinping. But it still remains the world's largest military with two million personnel in the ranks.

China has been spending huge amounts of money to boost its naval capabilities – it currently has one aircraft carrier with another undergoing trials and a third in the construction phase. It plans to have six aircraft carriers operational in the next few years.

Another recent report had revealed that China is working on developing hypersonic cruise missiles that could destroy a U.S. aircraft carrier. Such a missile system could be in place by 2020. Read: China's PLA Conducts Mock Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Strike

China's military today has five branches – the army, navy, air force, rocket force – the strategic and tactical missile operator – and strategic support force, which is in charge of cyber, space, and electronic warfare.

Significantly, Indian Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat, on Sunday had indicated that the Indian Army was aware of China's increased spending to develop cyber warfare capabilities and artificial intelligence and that Indian Army would need to be ready for this future dimensions of war.

Rawat had said a revolution was taking place in the military affairs due to the advancement in technology.  "Our adversary on the northern borders is spending a huge amount of money on artificial intelligence and cyber warfare. We cannot be left behind. It is time for us also to focus on artificial intelligence and big data analysis rather than just keeping in confined to near definitions," Gen Rawat had said.

Earlier, Chinese President Xi Jinping had said the armed forces must strengthen their sense of urgency and do everything they can to prepare for battle. Xi,  who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, had told a meeting of the top military authority that China faced increasing risks and challenges, and the armed forces must work to secure its security and development needs.

On January 12, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s intelligence wing, released an annual report highlighting the radical reorganization of China’s PLA to become faster-responding, more flexible and more lethal than ever before. “This report offers insights into the modernization of Chinese military power as it reforms from a defensive, inflexible ground-based force charged with domestic and peripheral security responsibilities to a joint, highly agile, expeditionary, and power-projecting arm of Chinese foreign policy that engages in military diplomacy and operations across the globe,” wrote Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, who heads the Pentagon’s intelligence arm. (With ANI inputs)