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90 years on: PLA a valuable legacy to China and the world

By Rabi Sankar Bosu | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-08-02 08:43
90 years on: PLA a valuable legacy to China and the world

The flag raising ceremony during the military parade at Zhurihe training base in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region Sunday, July 30, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

August 1, 2017, marks the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). It is a historically important milestone for China and all oppressed peoples of the world. The past 90 years have witnessed glorious achievements made by the PLA under the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Founded in 1927 and originally called the "Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army", the Chinese military has played a key role in determining the course of the country. Undoubtedly, the army has made great contributions to the nation's socialist construction and reform drives as well as demonstrating its increasing capacities and unshakable determination to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, in particular, its defense responsibilities in Hong Kong and Macao.

In the words of President Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the PLA with multidimensional characters has "loyally committed to its sacred duty of defending the security of the motherland and the peaceful life of the people, and loyally committed to the sacred duty of safeguarding world peace". In present times, the PLA with its highest combat capability and "live-fire exercises" is known throughout the world as a mighty, civilized force for global peace.

Indeed, the PLA has been through a long revolutionary process with its course over the past 90 years. On August 1, 1927, with only 20,000 soldiers, the Red Army, the forerunner of the PLA, held an uprising in Nanchang city, capital of East China's Jiangxi province, which marked the founding day of the armed forces of the CPC. On that day, Zhou Enlai, He Long, Ye Ting, Zhu De and Liu Bocheng commanded their troops to attack and occupy the city of Nanchang. The Nanchang Uprising marked the first shots of the armed resistance against the Kuomintang (KMT, or Nationalist Party of China) reactionary forces, and has been recorded as a great event in China's revolutionary history.

The PLA, led by the late leader Mao Zedong and many others fought courageously the Agrarian Revolutionary War (1927-37), the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) and the War of Liberation (1946-49) and through an arduous struggle of 22 years defeated enemies from both within and outside the country and founded the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

More than 35 million soldiers and civilians were killed and injured in China, the main oriental theatre of the Second World War. The hard-working spirit of the Red Army has never faded. China's contributions and sacrifices against Japanese Aggression have been stored in the people's collective memory from generation to generation. The Long March spirit is with the Chinese people today, and its aim is to make Chinese dreams come true.

China follows a 'defensive' defense policy, providing the guarantee for maintaining China's security and unity, and realizing the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way. In the past 90 years, the PLA, under the CPC's collective leadership with Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, has made indelible contributions to national independence, prosperity and strength, and the well-being of the Chinese people.

Today, the PLA is vastly different from its humble origins of 1927. Currently it is the world's largest military force. The PLA is composed of five main service branches, consisting of the PLA Army, PLA Navy, PLA Air Force, Second Artillery Corps (strategic missile force), and the PLA Reserve Force. The PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force were established in late 2015. According to a national defense white paper entitled "China's Military Strategy," published in 2015, the PLA boasts 2 million soldiers, 800,000 reservists, and an Armed Police Force numbering 1.5 million.

Since its establishment, the PLA has evolved significantly and rapidly, particularly when it comes to the defense technologies and the weapons it uses. During the 1960's China emerged as another nuclear power in the world. The 1964 atomic bomb test at the Lop Nur nuclear test site in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region made China the fifth nuclear power. Over the last decade, the PLA has built up capabilities–including nuclear submarines, anti-ship missiles, advanced fighter jets and an aircraft carrier–that are designed to prevent the US from intervening in a conflict in Asia.

Founded on November 11, 1949, the Air Force began developing during the Korean War from 1950. It is the largest air force in Asia and the third-largest in the world, after the United States and Russia. In recent years China's air force is moving forward to the fourth generation from the third-generation fighters. In July last year, the Xi'an Y-20, a large military transport aircraft, entered service with the air force. The Chengdu J-20, China's independently developed fourth-generation stealth fighter, entered service on March 9 this year. China's J-15 "Flying Shark" fighter jet is considered one of the most advanced military aircraft in the world. Today, the air force is no longer dependent on Russian-made air defense missiles or transport planes, thanks to its own indigenous, cutting-edge HQ-9B long-range surface-to-air missile and the Y-20 strategic transport aircraft.

During the massive military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the victory of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War in Beijing, held on September 3, 2015, China displayed a host of home-made conventional and nuclear weaponry which included the Dongfeng-5B intercontinental strategic missiles, designed to carry nuclear warheads, and the Dongfeng-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles described by some media as the "carrier killer."

Other cutting-edge weaponry included the PLA's state-of-the-art tanks, unmanned aerial vehicles, and its new generation of airborne early warning and control aircraft, carrier-based fighters and attack helicopters which streaked low across the skies. Surely, these high-profile weapons reflect the latest modernization of the Chinese armed forces, which was a result of the country's economic and technological progress.

The PLA Navy has developed rapidly under Xi's military modernization. On June 28, 2017, China became a global naval power when it launched its new generation destroyer, the Type 055 with domestic designs and well equipped with air defense weapons. The new destroyer is one of the largest and mightiest of its kind in the world, compared with other destroyers like the United States' Arleigh Burke, South Korea's Sejong the Great, and Japan's Atago. The nuclear-powered Type-094 ballistic missile submarines along with Type-093 and Type-091 nuclear-powered attack submarines give the PLA Navy the capability to better execute open sea missions.

China launched its first domestically developed aircraft carrier, after the Liaoning, on April 26 this year. The ship is the largest and most sophisticated surface vessel China has ever built. Before that, the PLA Navy operated a single aircraft carrier, the CNS Liaoning, which is a refitted Soviet-era vessel. According to a report published in China Daily, the PLA Navy commissioned 18 ships in 2016, including missile destroyers, corvettes and guided missile frigates.

China's armed forces have been actively expanding their military cooperation with other countries. The PLA is participating in many missions such as international peace-keeping, anti-piracy, humanitarian aid, disaster relief and other international activity. At present, 2,409 Chinese peacekeepers are engaged in UN peacekeeping missions around the world. The PLA provided medical aid to those affected by the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, in 2014 with unprecedented generosity. This is the responsibility that the PLA accepts as the armed forces of a major country.

The PLA Navy officially established its first overseas base ever, the Djibouti base, in the African nation's capital, Djibouti City on July 11, 2017. The United States, France and Japan now have military bases in Djibouti. But it should be noted here that China's Djibouti Logistics Support Base has not been established for China's strategic deployment of military forces, but for implementing the country's escorting, peace-keeping and humanitarian aid missions in Africa and West Asia.

Nine decades later, China's army is in the process of wide-ranging modernization with the aim of reducing its size while upgrading its technological prowess. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the PLA has resolutely abided by the decisions and instructions of the CPC Central Committee and the Central Military Commission, earnestly studied and implemented the content of Xi's important speeches, in particular his exposition on national defense and army building.

President Xi announced on September 3, 2015, that he would reduce the country's military personnel by 300,000 in coming years to present the People's Liberation Army as a force for peace and regional stability. According to the PLA Daily article published on July 11,2017, China will downsize its army to under a million and will increase the numbers of other services, including the Rocket Force, Air Force, Navy and Strategic Support Force (mainly responsible for electronic warfare and communication), with more resources and inputs.

On July 24, 2017, during a group study attended by members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, President Xi urged "all-out efforts" to deepen national defense and military reform. "Quantity should be reduced and quality improved to build a capable and efficient army, and labor intensity should become science and technology-oriented,” he said. It can only be hoped that reducing the organizational mass of the PLA, China can fulfill its growing mission and win modern wars with a smaller but more capable military under the new global situation.

The army is moving in the right direction with the support of the entire nation and the CPC. The PLA, true to its name, has always maintained its basic peoples' army character. PLA men and women are resolutely supporting the realization of the "two centenary goals" and the Chinese dream of great national renewal, following the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, and Deng Xiaoping Theory. However, the army always should bear in mind what Mao Zedong taught, "Army is more like a fish and people are like the water in a river."

Since late 2012, China's military system has been changed from quantity to quality and from human-intensive to scientific-intensive in accordance with the country's ongoing national defense and military reform guided by Xi's. It is hoped the PLA will faithfully strive to fulfill the sacred duty of protecting China's security and people's well-being, and carry out the noble mission of upholding world peace and progress of humanity.

The article was first published on the website of China Plus of China Radio international.

Rabi Sankar Bosu is the Secretary of New Horizon Radio Listeners' Club in West Bengal, India.

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