The Chinese army is all set to discard erstwhile Soviet-style bulky military and opt for lean US-style forces for quick deployment with plans to retrench the world’s largest military.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) which together with navy and airforces constitutes 2.3 million strong forces, the world’s largest, will phase out its army corps as it tries to mould a more nimble fighting force, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
The move will also impact the military deployment along the India-China borders, the PLA now plans to turn its 18 Army Corps into 25 to 30 divisions.
The size of a corp varies from 30,000 to a lakh of soldiers.
The current approach was inherited from the Soviet Union, but it’s a bulky model no longer suited to the demands of modern warfare, which prizes modularity, a retired senior colonel based in Beijing said.
Instead the the style of the US 101st Airborne Division is the best example that the PLA land forces will study, he said.
“This is a main trend in modern warfare. Even the Russian army has tried to learn from the US army by reducing the size of their troops, making land forces become more nimble and quick-response,” the veteran said.
“The style of the US 101st Airborne Division is the best example that the (People’s Liberation Army’s) land forces will study, especially its quick deployment, equipment and logistic supplies, as well as other supporting networks, which reflect the success of its nimble and efficient system,” he said.
A Chinese defence white paper last year highlighted the importance of building small, multifunctional and modular units that could take on different purposes for joint operations.
As part of the overall military reforms initiated by President Xi Jinping, who also heads the decision-making Central Military Commission, the PLA has dissolved the four general headquarters and instead set up 15 new organisations including the Headquarters of the Joint Force.
The seven military commands were reshaped into five theatre commands.
Also Xi has proposed to cut three lakh troops by next year.
It was only a matter of time for the army corps units to be either downsized or scrapped, although the change would inevitably encounter strong opposition from the ground force, the report said.
The transition to divisions is likely to result in the dismissal of tens of thousands of military personnel and, hence, trigger huge resistance from the troops affected, it said.
Under the new arrangement, divisions will receive instructions from the relevant theatre command, which reports directly to the Joint Staff Headquarters, which is now part of the Central Military Commission, before giving orders to frontline troops.
Since Xi took over in 2013, PLA’s focus was fixated on winning local wars with heavy hands on training using live ammunition.
Currently the biggest land force in the world, the army comprises 1.55 million soldiers, of which 850,000 are mobile troops, most of whom are under the army corps, while the rest are regional garrison troops.
Xi appears to be tightening his grip on military power by letting go of some generals while promoting others who have his trust, as he tries to streamline the force and root out corruption within the ranks.
Over 40 top military officials faced corruption probes in the massive anti-grant campaign launched by Xi, which in turn also strengthened his position, making him the strongest Chinese leader in recent time.
While inspecting the Guangzhou Military Command in less than month after he took over power, Xi said, “when you are summoned, you must come at once; when you come, make sure you can fight, and when you fight, be certain to win.”