Air, land, or sea; They're all in the Army.
When the People's Liberation Army's 'Pingjing' Campaign to crush the 'Beiping'(now 'Beijing')-Tianjin pocket of 500 000 Guomindang troops was complete, it established itself as the dominant military power in China. After breaking the defensive line on the Yangzi, they went on to accomplish total victory over the Guomindang in just a year - bringing The Chinese Civil War to an end after 34 years of warfare and 8+ million dead
. When taken together with the 10-20 million dead of the Second Sino-Japanese War
this left Communist China as the one of the most war-devastated states in the (history of the) entire world. It also left her with the second-largest military after that of the Soviet Union
Being the country with the largest population in the world, it's not surprising that China has more active-duty and reserve military personnel than any other nation, with nearly three million
serving in the PLA. In addition, China also maintains around one and a half million para-military personnel in the form of the People's Armed Police, although the PAP is not part of the PLA, instead answering to the State Council. As a proportion of its population, however, China's armed forces are not large; many countries, including the USA, have a higher percentage of their populations in uniform.
Technically, military service with the People's Liberation Army is obligatory for all male and female Chinese citizens, but in practice the supply of volunteers is such that conscription has never been enforced. All eighteen-year-olds have to register themselves with the government authorities, in a manner somewhat similar to the Selective Service System of the United States. Chinese soldiers and armed police swear the following oath of loyalty:
"I am a member of the People's Liberation Army. I promise that I will follow the leadership of the Communist Party of China, serve the people wholeheartedly, obey orders, strictly observe discipline, fight heroically, fear no sacrifice, loyally discharge my duties, work hard, practice hard to master combat skills, and resolutely fulfill my missions. Under no circumstances will I betray the motherland or desert the army."
You will notice this oath places the Communist Party first, ahead of both the people and motherland. For this reason, it has raised eyebrows among more apolitical militaries.
All armed forces of the People's Republic of China are part of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), leading to its air and naval forces being referred to in English as the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), respectively. The PLA is in the process of shifting its emphasis from massed ground forces to increasing the strength of its naval and air power, as China's focus now shifts from defending its land frontiers to projecting its interests in the rest of the world.
China has reasonably capable air forces, but only in its local region. Most of its technology is Soviet in origin, starting from the Mig-17 to the newest order of 48 Su-35s. The naval branch is medium sized and transitioning from a primarily coastal defence force to one with regional capability. More modern nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers (the first one is the Liaoning
, a retrofitted former Soviet aircraft carrier) are much-discussed potential additions. The PLA also has ASBMsnote
, missiles to destroy aircraft carriers. Aircraft carriers are seen as a top priority for the PLAN, largely as a matter of national prestige; Chinese officials have expressed the belief that "all great powers have aircraft carriers", and thus consider it essential that China must have them.
Currently, China has been making huge pushes to modernize their armed forces to be able to compete with the United States. In addition to trying to build their own blue water navy, China has developed its own homegrown stealth jet. The PLAAF now have a prototype for a fifth-generation (according to Chinese sources) stealth fighter. It is nicknamed by Chinese bloggers and military forumgoers "黑丝Black Silk" and "Mio
". The first nickname is because it's black and a fourth generation fighter, which sounds like silk in Chinese, and "Mio" is born from a random comment on how much this plane's shape looks like the hairstyle of... Mio Akiyama from K-On!
. It's now know as the J-20.
Despite the trope name, the Chinese do not employ attack helicopters and gunships in the same manner as the U.S. or Russia, and most Chinese "attack" helicopters are utility helicopters that have been refitted to fulfill support roles. This is expected to change following the introduction of China's first true dedicated attack helicopter, the Z-10
, which is nicknamed 城管, or "Urban Management Chopper" for a joke that the chopper might be deployed by law enforcement offices to use them on street vendors. The Z-10 was designed by the Russian firm Kamov (despite lacking the usual Kamov trademark of coaxial rotors) but will be manufactured exclusively in China. A second dedicated type WZ-19, upgraded from Z-9 or Eurocopter AS365, is also being deployed.
The standard rifle is the QBZ-95-1, QBZ-95 (bullpups) and QBZ-03 (an improved Type 81 design) rifle, all of which fire a 5.8x42mm round that is slightly more powerful and longer-ranged than either the NATO 5.56x45mm or Russian 5.45x39mm rounds. Older rifles such as the Type 81 or Type 56 (AK-47) are used for training purposes or in secondary forces. The PLA is also testing an OICW weapon system based on the QBZ-03 and features of the French FELIN system. Recently, the QBZ-95 has started to be phased out in favor of the QBZ-95-1, starting with the Hong Kong garrison. Improvements include a slant/forward ejection system, a heavier barrel for improved accuracy and a more ergonomic safety selector switch.
For a while, from 1965 to 1988, the PLA did not have any military ranks (the early Soviet Army, the Albanian Army during the later Hoxha era, and the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia also did not have ranks, as a way to equalize the officers and the soldiers) and were forced to wear the iconic Mao Suit but with a red rectangle in their collars, specific to the PLA. This was done by Mao Zedong to take the PLA back to its guerrilla roots, and to curb what he saw as elitism in the armed forces. Thus the highest military commanders to ordinary soldiers didn't have ranks. This didn't go very well during the Sino-Vietnamese border war, where the PLA's chain of command was easily disrupted by their more hierarchical Vietnamese opponents. The military ranks were revived in 1988, and so the new PLA uniforms and badges of rank were first widely seen in Western media, most infamously in the Tiananmen Square protests.
The traditional PLA strategy in case of a major war was centered around the idea of "people's war"—a plan which called for luring the enemy deep, using guerrilla warfare to slow him down, and defeat him once he was overextended. After Mao's death; the need to prepare the armed forces to defend against a Soviet conventional attack; and the PLA's dismal performance in the Sino-Vietnamnese War, the 1980s PLA adopted the "people's war under modern conditions" strategy. This strategy consisted of a strong strategic defense phrase against a surprise attack, combined with guerrilla operations against mechanized forces' logistics lines; a strategic counterattack phase with armored forces against a stalled enemy; and finally a strategic offensive to push the enemy back to the international border.
In concert with this strategic reform was a reorganization of PLA infantry-heavy field armies into combined arms group armies, and the purchase of Western arms. These arms included tank fire control systems and 105mm tank guns, American and British counterbattery radars, helicopters like the UH-60 Blackhawk, modern avionics fitted on the J-7 (MiG-21 clone) and J-8 fighters, 45/52-caliber 155mm howitzers, and antitank missiles. Understandably, Western military aid ceased after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
PLA strategy after the 1991 Gulf War has moved away from these traditional concepts in favor of a modern doctrine suitable for fighting post-industrial wars.
Beginning at the turn of the century and continuing on into The New Tens
, the Chinese military has been placing a lot of emphasis on deploying unmanned aerial vehicles
to extend their airspace defensive zones.
There is an extremely extensive and active subculture of Chinese netizens - the junmi
- who obsessively document and follow the Chinese military - at least to the extent the CPC allows. The tendency towards nicknaming Chinese equipment (due to Article 432 of the Chinese Criminal Code punishing disclosure of military secrets) now extends to foreign equipment and armies too - the Yanks with Tanks
are nicknamed the "World PD
" or the "Global Liberation Army
", whilst the ubiquitous F-16 Fighting Falcon is called the "Pomegranate Sister", which is a homonym with the Chinese word for "sixteen". The Chinese authorities have a strained relationship with them. On one hand the junmi
tend towards extreme nationalism and statism, on the other their analysis of Chinese military photos is sometimes too good for PLA comfort - not to mention an occasional source of information for the many foreign intelligence agencies with their eyes fixed on China's rising military.
China's military in fiction
Anime & Manga
- The People's Republic possesses and deploys nuclear weapons. Their number and capabilities are state secrets, and publicly-available estimates are pretty much guesswork. See The Dragon's Teeth for more details. China promised not to use nuclear weapons in preemptive attacks and only will deploy one after being attacked by one, so many Chinese are pissed about it.
- Chen Guoming and Karen Lo are ex-PLA Ground Force officers in Jormungand. Chen is the CEO of Daxinghai, a security company focused on advancing Chinese national interests in Africa. Karen is his bodyguard.
- Chinese soldiers appear in Canaan when the Snakes take over the Shanghai convention center in the middle of a conference and take multiple world leaders hostage. They actually speak Mandarin (though pretty badly) in the Japanese audio; the English dub didn't bother to do this and did a straight translation of their dialogue into English.
- The current arc of Black Lagoon, "The Wired Red Wild Card", features a female hacker named Feng Yifei who was formerly a People's Liberation Army operative that specialized in hacking into foreign agencies' files. At the start of the arc, she comes to Roanapur at Janet Bhai's request to do a hack job into a German corporation, but things get botched and she gets disavowed by the PLA. Things go From Bad to Worse for her as the PLA is now looking to permanently silence her. Notable for being a rare look into the cyber-espionage activities of the PLA, which makes a lot of headlines in Real Life but is almost totally unrepresented in fiction.
- When they appear it's usually to do with Taiwan. They invade the place in Dale Brown's Fatal Terrain (after tricking the US into destroying a civilian ferry) and then proceed to nuke Guam.
- Rather implausibly described invading Russia in Tom Clancy's The Bear and the Dragon, where they were massacred by Russians with American high-tech support.
- Ha Jin's novel War Trash depicts the experiences of a Chinese soldier sent with troops to Korea during the 1950-53 conflict.
- The People's Liberation Army featured in Command & Conquer: Generals. The PRC government issued a ban on said game, considering the portrayal to be insulting. Given that no one buys original software in China, this doesn't really make much of a difference either way. Apparently the CCP objected to the first three missions, which involved a nuclear attack on the capital in one and you blowing up the HK convention center and the Three Gorges Dam in the second and third. That and the fact that the start of the game's plot has the Chinese get the stuffing kicked out of them by terrorists who are uncomfortably close to what it fears. Ironic when you consider the PLA were ultimately the good guys in that game, driving the GLA terrorists out of Western Asia and Central Europe, and in the cancelled sequel, Command and Conquer 2013, they would have been the leader of the Asia-Pacific Alliance. note
- Red Alert 2, a previous Command & Conquer game, featured the opposing armies of the Allies and the Soviets. The Chinese weren't happy about the fact that they weren't included, so macho fans made tons of game modifications, which added the PLA as a Purposefully Overpowered faction that simply invalidated the use of any other.
- Also absent in Red Alert 3, though the Paradox mod is scheduled to add THREE Chinese factions (1 full faction called the Atomic Kingdom of China, 2 small ones, the PLA and the Nationalist Army) just as batshit insane as the other factions, drawing inspiration from Atom Punk, Star Trek and Sucker Punch.
- A slightly higher-tech PLA was one of the playable factions in Battlefield 2, including use of UAVs and advanced command-and-control systems. The Armored Fury expansion pack has them launching an invasion of the United States via Alaska.
- And Battlefield 2142 featured the PAC, the Pan-Asian Coalition, an alliance between Chinese and Russian military, outfitted with cutting edge technology, including hovertanks, energy weapons on their battlewalkers and VTOL craft fully enclosed in armor with rear projection cockpits, all of that opposed to the more conventional EU forces.
- And they're back again in Battlefield 4.
- They are the antagonists in the (quite appropriately named) open-world FPS Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising and its sequel Red River.
- In Fallout backstory, The End of the World as We Know It was caused by an U.S.-China war which escalated into a nuclear war after the invasion of Alaska, which can be seen in Fallout 3 Expansion Pack Operation Anchorage.
- China is one of the recurring factions in the Mercenaries series, and plenty of their hardware and troops are featured in the games.
- Chinese soldiers serve as Mooks during the Chinese Embassy levels in the original Splinter Cell. Less of a straight example, since they are led by a rogue nationalist general in league with the Georgian government.
- Communist China is a playable faction in Hearts of Iron.
- The PLA is a playable faction in Graviteam Tactics: Zhalanashkol 1969, which covers the fighting along the Kazakh SSR-Xinjiang border in August 1969.
- Much like in the Red Dawn remake film example above, China was meant to be the opposing army in both Homefront and the first Crysis until it was changed to North Korea.
- The Chinese military plays an important role in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. If you complete all the optional Strike Force missions, they will also assist you in the final mission.
- The final chapter of World in Conflict has China allying with the Soviet Union against the United States and NATO. A loading screen shows them launching offensives in Asia against South Korea, India, and Taiwan. To make matters worse, they are sending a whole bunch of fresh troops to the American west coast to reinforce the Soviet invaders in Washington State (and given just how many troops China has at it's disposal that's a VERY BAD thing). So the final three missions of the game have the U.S. forces desperately trying to liberate Seattle and drive the Soviets off American soil to stop the Chinese. (It's stated in-game that the Chinese do not have the ability to stage an effective amphibious assault of their own which is why they need the Soviet beachead.)