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PLA strives for transparency

By Zhao Lei (China Daily) Updated: 2013-04-17 00:13

China declassified a host of details on its military on Tuesday, a move experts suggest is a big stride by the armed forces to boost transparency and openness.

In a white paper titled "The Diversified Employment of China's Armed Forces", which was published by the State Council Information Office, the PLA disclosed the strength and formation of its ground force, air force, navy and missile arm. The structure and missions of the Armed Police Force and Chinese militia were also made public.

PLA strives for transparency

According to the document, the eighth of its kind issued by the Chinese government since 1998, the mobile operational units of the PLA ground force consist of 18 combined corps and several independent combined combat divisions or brigades. These units have a strength of 850,000.

The paper for the first time unveils the designations of combined corps and the military command that directs them. It also reveals that the PLA navy has 235,000 people in active service, and the air force has 398,000 servicemen and servicewomen. In addition, there is an airborne corps under the air force's control.

The PLA second artillery force, the country's core force for strategic deterrence, has an arsenal of Dongfeng (East Wind) ballistic missiles and Changjian (Long Sword) cruise missiles. It is the first time that the Chinese military has publicly mentioned the codenames of its missiles.

"This is the first time that the Chinese government has issued a white paper that focuses on one of the specific factors of its armed forces," said Senior Colonel Wen Bing, a researcher at the national defense policy research center under the PLA Academy of Military Science.

"The release of the document is of great importance for enhancing the system of white papers on national defense and expanding military transparency."

Wen said the international community has some concerns over China's increasing use of its armed forces, so the Chinese government decided to explain the diversified missions of its armed forces, such as in disaster relief, high sea escorts as well as joint drills with foreign militaries.

"(The paper's) content will help to better understand China's resolve to uphold peaceful development," he said.

Senior Colonel Hou Xiaohe, a strategy expert of the PLA National Defense University, said: "The disclosure of a lot of previously classified information, like the combined corps' designations and the strength of each military branch, is in response to the international community's attention. Moreover, the move signals that China now has the confidence of being a responsible power."

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