China Military - 2023


GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES  Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese

Military and security forces

People's Liberation Army (PLA): Ground Forces, Navy (PLAN, includes naval aviation), Navy Marine Corps (PLANMC), Air Force (PLAAF, includes airborne forces), Rocket Force (strategic missile force), and Strategic Support Force (information, electronic, and cyber warfare, as well as space forces); People's Armed Police (PAP, includes Coast Guard, Border Defense Force, Internal Security Forces); PLA Reserve Force (2023)

note 1: the Strategic Support Force includes the Space Systems Department, which is responsible for nearly all PLA space operations, including space launch and support, space surveillance, space information support, space telemetry, tracking, and control, and space warfare

note 2: the PAP is a paramilitary police component of China’s armed forces that is under the dual authority of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Central Military Commission and charged with internal security, law enforcement, counterterrorism, and maritime rights protection

note 3: in 2018, the Coast Guard was moved from the State Oceanic Administration to the PAP; in 2013, China merged four of its five major maritime law enforcement agencies – the China Marine Surveillance (CMS), Maritime Police, Fishery Law Enforcement (FLE), and Anti-Smuggling Police – into a unified coast guard

Military expenditures

1.5% of GDP (2022 est.)

1.5% of GDP (2021 est.)

1.7% of GDP (2020 est.)

1.7% of GDP (2019 est.)

1.7% of GDP (2018 est.)

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 2 million active-duty troops (approximately 1 million Ground; 250,000 Navy/Marines; 350-400,000 Air Force; 120,000 Rocket Forces; 150-175,000 Strategic Support Forces); estimated 600-650,000 People’s Armed Police (2022)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the PLA has a wide mix of older and modern domestically produced systems heavily influenced by technology derived from other countries; Russia has been the top supplier of foreign military equipment in recent years; China has one of the world's largest defense-industrial sectors and is capable of producing advanced weapons systems across all military domains (2023)

note: the PLA is in the midst of a decades-long modernization effort; in 2017, President XI set three developmental goals for the force - becoming a mechanized force with increased information and strategic capabilities by 2020, a fully modernized force by 2035, and a world-class military by mid-century

Military service age and obligation

18-22 years of age for men for selective compulsory military service, with a 2-year service obligation; women 18-19 years of age who are high school graduates and meet requirements for specific military jobs are subject to conscription (2022)

note: the PLA’s conscription system functions as a levy; the PLA establishes the number of enlistees needed, which produces quotas for the provinces; each province provides a set number of soldiers or sailors; if the number of volunteers fails to meet quotas, the local governments may compel individuals to enter military service

Military deployments

425 Mali (MINUSMA); 225 Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO); 420 Lebanon (UNIFIL); 1,050 South Sudan (UNMISS); up to 2,000 Djibouti (2022)

Military - note

established in 1927, the PLA is the military arm of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which oversees the PLA through its Central Military Commission; the Central Military Commission is China’s top military decision making body

the PLA is the World’s largest military; its primary responsibility is external security but it also has some domestic security duties; China’s stated defense policy includes safeguarding sovereignty, security, and development interests while emphasizing a greater global role for the PLA; the PLA conducts air, counterspace, cyber, electronic warfare, joint, land, maritime, missile, nuclear, and space operations; it is a professional force that trains regularly, including multinational and multiservice exercises, deploys overseas, and participates in international peacekeeping missions 

the majority of the Ground Forces are organized into 13 group armies with approximately 80 subordinate combined arms brigades--some of which are amphibious units--that serve as the primary ground maneuver forces; each group army also controls artillery, air defense, aviation/air assault, special operations, engineer, and logistics brigades; there are also a several independent mechanized and motorized infantry divisions 

the Navy is numerically the largest in the World with an overall battle force of some 380 ships and submarines, including 2 aircraft carriers (with a third in trials), 8 cruisers, more than 80 destroyers and frigates, and approximately 60 submarines; it also has a large naval aviation force, as well as a growing Marine Corps comprised of 6 amphibious brigades supplemented by aviation and special operations forces
the combined aviation forces of the Air Force and Navy are the largest in the region and third largest in the World with nearly 3,000 total aircraft, of which more than 2,200 are combat aircraft, including fighter, bomber, ground attack, and multipurpose fighter aircraft; the Air Force also has an airborne/rapid reaction corps with a mix of airborne, air assault, special operations, and aviation brigades; the PLA's ground-based air defense forces operate surface-to-air missiles, air defense artillery, jammers, and a variety of sensors; the PLA Rocket Force manages the PRC’s land-based conventional and nuclear missile units

the PRC's internal security forces consist primarily of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the Ministry of State Security (MSS), the People’s Armed Police (PAP), and the militia; the PLA support the internal security forces as necessary:

--the MPS controls the civilian national police, which serves as the first-line force for public order; its primary mission is domestic law enforcement and maintaining order, including anti-rioting and anti-terrorism

--the MSS is the PRC’s main civilian intelligence and counterintelligence service

--the PAP is a paramilitary component (or adjunct) of the PLA; its primary missions include internal security, maintaining public order, maritime security, and assisting the PLA in times of war; it is under the command of the Central Military Commission; the China Coast Guard (CCG) administratively falls under the PAP; the CCG has a variety of missions, such as maritime sovereignty enforcement, surveillance, resource protection, anti-smuggling, and general law enforcement; it is the largest maritime law enforcement fleet in the world with approximately 150 large patrol craft

--the militia is an armed reserve of civilians which serves as an auxiliary and reserve force for the PLA upon mobilization, although it is distinct from the PLA’s reserve forces; militia units are organized around towns, villages, urban sub-districts, and enterprises, and vary widely in composition and mission; they have dual civilian-military command structures; a key component of the militia are the local maritime forces, commonly referred to as the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM); the PAFMM consists of mariners (and their vessels) who receive training, equipment, and other forms of support from the Navy and CCG (although the PAFMM remains separate from both) to perform tasks such as maritime patrolling, surveillance and reconnaissance, emergency/disaster response, transportation, search and rescue, and auxiliary tasks in support of naval operations in wartime; the PAFMM’s tasks are often conducted in conjunction or coordination with the Navy and the CCG; it has been used to assert Beijing's maritime claims in the Sea of Japan and South China Sea (2023)

NOTE: The information regarding China on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of China 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about China 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 06 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.