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The Big Picture – China reducing Military Strength: What is the signal?

The Big Picture – China reducing Military Strength: What is the signal?



In a spectacular display of its military strength, China recently commemorated 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war. The announcement made by the chinese president that the China’s military strength will be reduced by 3 lac troops has surprised many across the world. The unexpected reduction in the chinese military strength, has put focus on the chinese military power and its capability. It is being said that, after the reduction, which will be done by 2017, the strength will be brought down to 2 million. This is said to be the largest cut since 1997 when 5 lac troops were cut followed by another 2 lac.

Basic questions raised by this issue:

  1. Why is China indulging in such massive troop reduction?
  2. What is the signal it is trying to send out?
  3. How would it affect its capabilities?
  4. How India looks at this reduction?
  5. Is there any pressure on India to follow the same?

Why this parade was conducted?

China does not very oftenly conduct such parade. This is the 4th parade held so far and this is also the first time that China is commemorating the end of the second world war. The main symbolism of this parade was to show China’s military might against Japanese aggression. Analysts also say that this parade showcased China’s self confidence. It is also being said that this is an attempt by Chinese President Xi Jinping to show that China is a big power. It is also being seen as a reponse to heavy accumulation of US forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

China is very confidently projecting contour of its comprehensive military capability. The intention of this parade was to draw attention on its missiles. This parade also showed china’s indigenous capability.

Troop reduction is an ongoing process in China since 1980s. It has gained significance in the recent times only due to the change in threat perceptions. It is also true that China is taking up military modernisation. Given the changing times, this reducation is not much significant. The nature of warfare is also changing with focus shifting on to new methods like cyber warfare, wars involving UAVs, space warfare, non conventional warfare etc. This might also indicate that China is becoming more technological dependent modern armed force.

It is laso true that the given economic situation in China, it is difficult to stand such a huge standing army. Personnel are a massive cost in a military budget, and there’s been a lot of growth in military wages in China in recent years, so there are sensible capability reasons to cut personnel numbers without cutting effectiveness. This could also free up part of the budget for rebalancing the PLA towards more advanced capabilities. Given the internal situation, it is necessary for China to increase its internal security forces.

Huge, powerful military troops in Pakistan had taken over the control of civilian administration in Pakistan in the past. China might have also reduced its strength taking note of this point. Some also say that this move reflects the inner hollowness of China. They believe that this whole act was to cover up the inernal problems that China is going through, especially in the economic field.

The internal politics of China is also vey complex. In a way, this was an attempt by President Xi jinping to demonstrate that he is incharge of everything. This was also to demonstrate the domestic audience that China is still a credible power.

Now, the government will be under pressure to find jobs for the demobilized soldiers, many with limited skills. China’s grand parade is likely to trigger an arms race in its neighbourhood. Countries like India and Japan, which have territorial disputes with China, are likely to act quickly on the basis of Beijing’s new weapons capability and will try and match its capability.