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China's military might: Here is how People's Liberation Army is flexing its $152 bn defence muscle

Chinese president Xi Jinping on Sunday, while reviewing a massive military parade of 12,000 troops, boasted that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has the capability of vanquishing "all invading enemies".

It was for the first time that Xi was presiding over such a large-scale parade (see the photos from the event here), which kicked off to mark the 90th founding anniversary of the world's largest armed force. "Our military has the confidence and ability to write a new chapter in building a strong military, and making new contributions towards realisation of China's dream of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and safeguarding world peace," said Xi, who heads the Central Military Commission, which holds the overall command of the PLA.

While there was no reference in his speech to the month-long India-China military standoff at Doka La in Sikkim, his remarks came in the midst of shrill official media campaigns and assertions by the foreign and defence ministries in Beijing accusing Indian troops of trespassing into Chinese territory at the tri-junction border involving Bhutan.

Sunday's PLA parade was the biggest since 2015, and the PLA army and air force displayed their most modern weapons.

China demonstrated its new DF-31AG intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time, which has a reported range of around 15,000 kilometres. China has at least 90 ICBMs, out of which 66 are land-based and 24 are submarine-based, according to a report in The Indian Express. China also has missile shields that intercept incoming missile threats before they reach Chinese territory, the report added.

 Chinas military might: Here is how Peoples Liberation Army is flexing its 2 bn defence muscle

People's Liberation Army troops. AP

According to a defence white paper titled 'China's Military Strategy', published in 2015, the PLA boasts of around 7,000 tanks with 1.6 million active troops. Self-propelled artillery are weapons like howitzers, which can be mounted on motorised vehicles. China has 1,710 of them — about six times the number that India possesses.

While China possess 1,271 fighter aircrafts, India lags behind with just 676.

In terms of naval power as well, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) has 283 major surface combatant warships, four times more than those under the control of the Indian Navy (66), says an IndiaSpend analysis.

China is taking the lead in cutting edge propulsion technology, which would help it build more elusive submarines, according to a South China Morning Post report. On 28 June, China launched its most advanced domestically produced destroyer, taking a giant stride in building indigenous yet complex naval platforms at a time of rising competition with other naval powers such as the US, Japan and India.

According to the Arms Control Association, a US-based nonpartisan membership organisation, China has around 270 nuclear warheads. China is also investing heavily in American Artificial Intelligence (AI) companies to develop future weapons system, The New York Times had reported on 20 July. The report added that China was planning to integrate AI into guided missiles.

In August last year, China had  successfully launched the world's first quantum-enabled satellite, which was a major breakthrough in quantum information science, BBC reported. Quantum technologies hold great strategic implication in terms of future warfare. Some Chinese experts have even compared the strategic impact of quantum power with nuclear weapons.

On 4 March, Beijing announced that it would increase military spending by about 7 percent this year, BBC had reported. China's increased defence spending had raised concerns in South Asia, where the country has been taking an increasingly assertive stance regarding territorial disputes. At $152 billion, China's defence budget is the second largest in the world, only after the US military's.

The PLA Daily, official newspaper of the Chinese military, had reported on 12 July that it would be downsizing the 2.3 million-strong military to under one million in the biggest troop reduction in its history as part of a restructuring process.

The report had said that the number of troops in the PLA Navy, PLA Strategic Support Force and the PLA Rocket Force would be increased, while the PLA Air Force's active service personnel will remain the same.

So why is China cutting down on its troops? The Central Military Commission (CMC) has said it wants to transform the PLA from a "quantitative to a qualitative force", The Diplomat said, citing reasons for the downsizing.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jul 31, 2017 20:33:41 IST