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200,000 troops to go, upgrade on battle tech
( 2003-09-02 06:57) (China Daily)

Another 200,000 troops will be cut from China's army by 2005, reducing the overall number to 2.3 million, it was announced Monday.

It follows the disarmament of 500,000 personnel from 1996 to 2000.

The decision was jointly made by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and the Central Military Commission (CMC). It was announced yesterday by CMC Chairman Jiang Zemin during a celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the National University of Defence Technology of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Changsha, capital of Central China's Hunan Province.

Jiang said the reduction is not only in accordance with world military trends for reform, but also out of necessity for China's economic construction.

With the development of modern science and technology, especially information technology, global competition in military affairs has been intensified, he said.

During the current transformation from mechanized warfare to information warfare, the information capability of the army plays an increasingly decisive role.

"Further reducing the scale of the army will help us concentrate our limited resources to speed up the army's information technology construction'' said Jiang.

The chairman said it is a very significant decision which will promote the construction of the nation's army, accelerate the modernization drive of the army, stimulate national economic development and contribute to the peace and development of the whole world.

The total force of the PLA, including both active and reserve components, has been maintained below the 2.5 million-strong mark.

According to a white paper on China's national defence issued in December 2002, the Chinese Government has always been strict in its control, management and supervision of defence spending, and has formed a complete system of relevant laws and regulations for that purpose.

Based on continuous economic growth, China's defence expenditure has increased at a fairly low level, and the increase is basically of a compensatory nature.

According to a budget approved by China's legislature in March, the Chinese Government earmarked 185.3 billion yuan (US$22.3 billion) for national defence in 2003, a 9.6 per cent increase over the figure for the previous year.

However, defence expenditure, which accounts only for 1.69 per cent of the country's budgetary expenditure, remains much lower than developed countries, neighbouring countries and also the world average, which stands at 3 per cent.

Slimmer but stronger

China's latest plan to cut its troops by an additional 200,000 is the third largest since the 1980s and is part of efforts to modernize the armed forces.

In 1985, then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping declared a cut of 1 million to trim the bloated military from 4 million to 3 million. The process, which lasted until 1987, targeted major military commands, departments and affiliated units of the State Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence. Many military-run enterprises were restructured for production for civilian purposes.

In 1997, the then Party leader Jiang Zemin declared that China would cut its troops by another 500,000 in three years. The aim was to optimize the structure of various services and make the armed forces more oriented towards science and technology instead of sheer scale.

PLA's past strategy to trim down

Since 1949, the size of the PLA has been scaled down nine times.

The first instance came in June 1950, when the number of soldiers was to be reduced from 5.5 million to 4 million. Within the year, 239,000 soldiers had been deactivated. But in 1951, when the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea started, the number rebounded to 6.27 million - the largest in the army's history.

Second, in January 1952, Chairman Mao Zedong approved a disarmament plan which resulted in only 4.2 million soldiers by September 1953.

The third disarmament plan was made in December 1953 to decrease the number of soldiers to 3.5 million. The aim was reached by the end of 1954.

The fourth reduction, which was made in January 1957, left the number of soldiers standing at 2.5 million.

During the fifth round of cuts in the middle of 1975, the army decided to deactivate 600,000 soldiers within three years but the plan was aborted because of the "Cultural Revolution (1966-76)."

The sixth, seventh and eighth disarmament periods were undertaken in March of 1980, September of 1982 and late May of 1985, respectively. A total of 1 million soldiers were deactivated in 1985.

The ninth reduction came in 1997, when the army said it would deactivate 500,000 soldiers within three years. The aim was achieved by the end of 1999.

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