Beijing, Sept. 1 (Reuters): China today announced 200,000 job cuts to its People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the world’s largest military, by the end of next year with information technology replacing manpower as the key to modern warfare.
The move would reduce the strength of the PLA to 2.3 million troops, the official Xinhua news agency said, in an apparent scale-down of what at least two Chinese sources said had been plans to cut strength by up to 500,000 over the next two years.
Former President Jiang Zemin, now chairman of the Central Military Commission, announced the cuts during a visit to Changsha, capital of the southern province of Hunan, to “accelerate modernisation”, Xinhua said. “The form of war is changing from mechanised warfare to information warfare,” said Jiang, who was in Hunan to attend celebrations marking the 50th founding anniversary of the National Defence Science and Technology University.
“A further reduction of the size of the military would be conducive to focusing our limited strategic resources and accelerating the pace of our military information building.” Western military analysts said the PLA would still be designed and able to reclaim Taiwan, or at least be daunting enough to prevent the self-ruled island, which Beijing considers a renegade province, declaring independence.
Analysts said the cuts would make the PLA leaner and meaner. “Fewer men but with better weapons and communications equipment would replace a bloated army,” said Shi Yinhong, an expert on the PLA at People’s University in Beijing. Military analysts estimate the current strength of the army at about 1.7 million, the navy 220,000 and the air force 420,000. A fourth branch, the Second Artillery Corps, which is responsible for nuclear missile forces, makes up the rest of the PLA. Jiang’s visit to Hunan also took him to Mao Zedong’s birthplace of Shaoshan to underscore the fact he is still commander-in-chief of the armed forces.