How Strong is the Chinese Army?

When it comes to propagating the propaganda, so called People’s Liberation army (PLA) remains unbeaten. How strong is Chinese army in reality? In the series of the articles we are going to look at some facts and figures which proves that PLA is not that strong as it appears to be on paper. Also, we are going to have a brief comparison between PLA and the Indian armed forces beyond figures and numbers.


China’s combat experience

  • On paper the PLA looks quite impressive and powerful but the ground reality is very far from on paper strength. PLA might have the largest army in the world but at certain areas it significantly lags behind its rivals not only in Asia (i.e. India) also in the in the world (i.e. USA). The most significant area is experience. The last full-fledged war of that so-called People’s Republic of China (PRC) (Ironic name though) was the Sino-Vietnamese war of 1979. But still we cannot say that war had ended with a Chinese victory but rather Vietnamese victory seems to be more evident.
  • PLA had only titular participation in War on terror, Operation ocean shield, Northern Mali conflicts or the Syrian civil war. PLA hasn’t participated in any major conflict in a significant manner over 40 years. It reasons behind to safely assume that no commander in PLA has ever seen real conflict during his entire service life. The leadership of China lacks the experience of leading its troops in case of a full-fledged conventional war.
  • China has really a good experience in making propaganda videos which are nothing more than state sponsored high budget Hollywood like combat scenes, meant only to intimidate its adversaries.

China’s adversaries’ combat experience

  • On the other hand, if we talk about its adversaries in the world and Asia, they are way ahead in terms of combat experience. United States of America, the main adversary of PRC in the world is light-years ahead of PLA in terms of experience as well as technology. Starting from war of independence or the civil wars, America has always been on. In the 20th century, right from the starting America has been a part of every major conflict starting from the World War- II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Kosovo conflicts, The Gulf war, ongoing Afghanistan war and many others. China’s biggest threat in the region i.e. India has also way ahead in terms of combat experience. India has fought Kargil war just 20 years ago.
  • The soldiers at that time are now commanders. India is still fighting with insurgency in Kashmir valley for over three decades. Indian army remains engaged in cross border firing with Pakistan all the time. In 2015 Para SF (elite commando unit of Indian army) conducted surgical strikes in Myanmar on NSCN-K insurgents in response to an ambush on convoy of Dogra regiment which suffered heavy casualties. In a similar way Para SF also conducted surgical strikes on 4 terrorist launchpads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) in response to a brutal attack on Bihar regiment in which 19 soldiers were martyred. At UN peace keeping missions also, Indian armed forces are one of the key contributors. Thus, PLA lags behind both of them.

Forced Conscription in China

  • Moving on to the next point, a large section of PLA is forced conscripts unlike professionals. In The Chinese system operates through a process of draft registration. The process for registering for the draft is written in Part 13, Article II of the Military Service Law of the People’s Republic of China. Citizens who reach the age of 18 by 31 December of the year should register for the draft before 30 June of the year. 
  • In practice, registering does not mean that the person doing so must join the People’s Liberation Army. But if someone refuses to join the PLA, he/she faces severe punishment and banned from all government jobs. Thus, for most of the young soldiers in PLA it is the only obligation because of which they are in the army. Its difficult to maintain the morale of these kind of troops during a war. On the other hand, Indian army is a professional army. Even the option of short service or temporary commission is there but the minimum service duration is of 14 years.
  • All the personals in Indian army are professionals and are recruited solely based on their merit and physical capability. Each and every soldier in Indian army is highly motivated and willingly serving in it. There is no forced conscription in Indian Army. Indian army’s officer selection system is one of the toughest systems in the world. Only highly dedicated and determined candidates make it to the army.

Psychological Factors

  • If we come to the psychological factors, due to the single child policy in China, most of the soldiers are the only child of their parents. This hinders the soldiers from taking life risks in most of the cases. Though exceptions are always there. Since most of the soldiers are conscripts, they refrain from taking personal risks for making the supreme sacrifice. On the other hands India has witnessed countless brave hearts who have sacrificed their lives to keep their nations safe. Col Santosh Babu and his 19 men of 16 Bihar were among them.

Mountain Warfare

  • China has very little experience in fighting mountain warfare whereas Indian army specializes in that. In Mountain warfare and Jungle warfare Indian army is unmatchable and unbeatable. Even United States forces receives training from Indian army for these fields in various exercises. Any potential small-scale war between China and India would be a mountainous war with very limited troops involved. Here china would not get advantage of its large army. So, any aggression against Indian Army at its highest state of preparedness would be devastating for the PLA.

Role of PLA- People’s suppression Army

  • Ironically so-called people’s liberation army is not at all liberating people but rather supressing them. Right from the formation of People’s Republic of China PLA has been suppressing   every upraising against the communist party of China. Tiananmen square incident is one of such incidents. PLA can show its power only against its unarmed and innocent civilians. PLA is responsible for human rights violation in Xinjian province against the Uygur Muslims and in Tibet. Its not surprising that PLA lacks professionalism. Technically they are not at all a professional army, because at the time of the commissioning of the soldiers they swear to remain loyal to communist party of China, rather than China itself or even the Chinese constitution. So, basically PLA soldiers are not soldiers but armed goons of a political party whose only job is to maintain the fear of Communist party among its citizens, crush uprisings and violate human rights.

Physical Factors

  • Some factors which cannot be confirmed but are most probably found to be true. According to some reports large numbers of Chinese soldiers are physically unfit for their jobs. Some are overweight, some have poor eyesight, and some are extremely addicted to alcohol and narcotics that they are incapable of fighting. Internal corruption is huge. The efficiency of the entire organisation under tight circumstances which is not pre planned is highly doubted. Although these are just reports and hence cannot be authenticated.

2016 South Sudan incident

  • We can get the proof of above-mentioned facts and perspectives from the 2016 incident in South Sudan when Chinese troops on UN peace keeping duty abandoned their posts and ran away when came under attack. The attacker killed the refuges whom the Chinese soldiers were supposed to protect. Later an Indian army unit (kept in reserve) was called to liberate that camp. Indian army valiantly fought and repelled the attackers and liberated the camp. Read the entire article here


  • We can only hope that these two armies never engage in any sort of war but if the war occurs  the result of that war would be very futile and devastating for PLA who has till now boasted of its dominance and large numbers. China brags of 1962 Sino-Indian war in which it earned a decisive victory. The truth behind that war that before that event India never considered China as a foe but rather a friend. China never talks of 1967 Nathu La conflict in which it received a humiliating defeat from Indian army, which was fully prepared at that time.
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Sheershoo Deb

I am a defense aspirant preparing to be an officer in the prestigious Indian armed forces. Earning the prestigious blue uniform is my dream.

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