PLA denies rumors of massive cutbacks

15:16, May 09, 2011      

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A H-6K prototype parks in an unidentified airfield. The photo has been widely circulated in online military forums since Friday. Photo: anonymous

Analysts say the downsizing of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) appears to be a long-term trend, after a senior army officer dismissed online rumors of massive cutbacks to the military.

Speculation on the demobilization of 800,000 military personnel began to circulate online after the Ministry of National Defense released a blueprint of China's army's talent pool last month.

The speculation claimed that "the size of PLA will be reduced to 1.5 million in 10 years in order to build a high-tech and highly qualified army."

The Ministry of National Defense website quoted an anonymous official with the General Staff Headquarters of the PLA as saying that "such rumors are not true" and "China has always controlled the numbers and size of its armed forces within the limit allowed by its national strength and which is necessary to maintain state security."

"The current size of the PLA, which numbers 2.3 million, is appropriate," the officer said.

China plans to increase its defense spending by 12.7 percent this year to 601 billion yuan ($91.5 billion), a return to double-digit growth after a slowdown in 2010, according to Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the annual session of China's National People's Congress in March.

Geng Yansheng, a National Defense Ministry spokesman, rejected rumors of a Chinese military threat caused by the growing size of the PLA navy last month in response to the China Security Report released by Japan's Defense Ministry and concerns voiced by Japanese Defense Minister Kitazawa Toshimi, the People's Daily reported.

According to the Oriental Morning Post, the size of the PLA was 3.23 million in 1987 after a 1985 decision to cut military numbers by 1 million servicemen. The number of military personnel further dropped after a similar plan to cut 500,000 in 1997 and another in 2003 to cut 200,000, it reported.

The US has over 1.43 million people in service and has the world's largest defense budget, according to the US Department of Defense.

Liu Yong, with China Security magazine, told the Global Times that with the PLA's focus shifting from its ground forces to the air force and navy, the number of personnel in service has already decreased remarkably.

"Though the rumor was denied, the decrease in the number of servicemen is a trend. In a high-tech information war, highly trained officers who are capable of operating sophisticated weaponry are needed and the PLA cannot secure victory only through the size of its army," Liu said.

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Source:Global Times
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