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People’s Liberation Army turns 90 amid modernisation drive

August 1, 2017 - CHINA

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) turns 90, an occasion for a massive military parade and for more news about President Xi Jinping's blueprint for "building a strong army through reforms."

The South China Morning Post predicts that there will be a parade, with the president inspecting the troops. Beijing organised a massive precision-marching spectacle in Tiananmen Square to mark the 70th anniversary in Sep 2015 of the end of World War II.

According to the country's national broadcaster, CCTV, Xi has stressed on many occasions that "a prosperous nation and a strong army" are the foundations upon which national rejuvenation will be built. On Dec 31, 2015, China unveiled three new units at an inauguration ceremony in Beijing - the PLA army general command, the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force.

The PLA is the unified organisation of China's land, sea, and air forces, and is commonly described as the largest military force in the world, with 2.11 million troops (CCTV figures) serving on the ground, in the air and at sea.

The Los Angeles Times notes that with Beijing's increasing military assertiveness, most notably in territorial disputes with other Asian nations in the region, many are taking a hard look at the PLA and Beijing's ambitions to modernise it.

The PLA traces its roots to the 1927 Nanchang Uprising of the Communists against the Nationalists. Initially called the Red Army, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, it grew under Mao Zedong and Zhu De from 5,000 troops in 1929 to 200,000 in 1933. After World War II the Communist forces, renamed the People's Liberation Army, defeated the Nationalists, making possible the formation of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

China announces changes to military structure (CCTV 11 Jan 2016)

Xi brings strength, integrity to Chinese armed forces (Xinhua 30 Jul 2016)

China's military: How strong is the People's Liberation Army? (LA Times 2 Sep 2015)

People's Liberation Army (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Massive parade tipped for PLA's 90th birthday (SCMP Mar 2017)

Date written/update: 2017-07-12