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Downsizing the PLA, Part 1: Military Discharge and Resettlement Policy, Past and Present

By October 26, 2016April 29th, 2023No Comments

Former Chinese military personnel represent a large and important constituency within Chinese society. Large numbers of young, mostly rural men and women join the PLA through China’s conscription system and either leave the PLA or continue their careers after a two-year stint. A smaller number stay on and advance through the ranks, or increasingly, join from universities to become officers. Retired PLA personnel have also become a vocal political force, evidenced most recently during a protest in which more than 1,000 veterans gathered in front of the Ministry of Defense to seek redress for unpaid discharge allowances and benefits (New Tang Dynasty News, October 11). In September 2015, Xi Jinping announced that 300,000 military personnel would be downsized, reducing the total size of the PLA from 2.3 million personnel to 2 million (People’s Daily, September 11, 2015), potentially further complicating the issue of veteran dissatisfaction. A year into the downsizing, few concrete details have emerged about the reduction and its implications for the Chinese economy and society that must absorb the downsized troops, one of the Chinese Communist Party’s most important constituencies. A close look at this demobilization process and the PLA’s plans for larger troop reductions provides important insights into the reorganization program and long-term modernization goals.

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