Sure China has the largest standing army in the world, with 2.3 million people, a military budget of 120 billion dollars, and experimental spider tanks. But it turns out that China's People's Liberation Army might not be as powerful as you think. And here are 10 reasons why.
The People's Liberation Army Special Operations Forces (simplified Chinese: 中国特种部队; traditional Chinese: 中國特種部隊; pinyin: Zhōngguó tèzhǒng bùduì) is the Special forces branch of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Ground Force. It specialises in rapid reaction combat in a limited regional war under high-tech conditions, commando operations, counter-terrorism, and intelligence gathering. Although the size of the Special Operations Forces is classified, it is estimated to number 7,000 ~ 14,000 troops.
China's Special Operation Forces (SOF) are very different from their American counterparts, writes Dennis J Blasko, a retired lieutenant colonel of the United States Army specializing as a Military Intelligence and Foreign Area Officer in China, in an article for the Washington-based War on the Rocks.
[youtube height=”500″ width=”800″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGs_dcXt-3k[/youtube]
They are not established for direct action, strategic reconnaissance, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, civil affairs operations, counterterrorism or military information support operations, the main job description of US special forces, Blasko said, likening them more to the 75th Ranger Regiment of the US Army.
Like other services and units in the PLA, the SOF units pledge their loyalty first to the Communist Party, Blasko said. While all generals and officers are party members, the party is led by a civilian, the general secretary. Xi Jinping, the current general secretary, is also the president of the People's Republic of China and head of the Central Military Commission. Under this structure, the PLA SOF units are directly commanded by the party leader.
The SOF units of the People's Armed Police have a dual command structure under the Central Military Commission and the State Council through the Ministry of Public Security. China does not have a national-level special operations headquarters responsible for all SOF activities, Blasko said. In addition, the SOF units are not supported by special air support as is the cases with US special forces.
China's SOF units are established in each of the country's seven military regions. The special forces units of all PLA branches, including navy, air force and the Second Artillery Corps are estimated to have between 20,000 and 30,000 personnel, roughly 1% of the entire PLA, Blasko said. A dedicated Special Operations Academy was founded in Guangzhou in 2012 to prepare junior officers for special forces units.
Unlike American special forces, dedicated to defending US national interests abroad, the most important task for Chinese SOF units is to support domestic security operations, Blasko said. The PLA and PAP SOF units are established to deal with non-traditional security threats called the "three forces:" terrorism, separatism and extremism. Nonetheless, the PLA special forces units are also likely trained to carry out unconventional warfare and operations involving Taiwan.
Since Beijing considers Taiwan part of its own territory, PLA SOF units can be be used in contingency operations. Primarily, they would be used to support "Fifth Column" fighters on the island. However, there is little open source evidence that Chinese special forces are preparing for such missions in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia or Latin America. Such activity in Southeast and East Asia might be more feasible due to cultural affinities and the presence of overseas Chinese.
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