MilitaryMain article: People's Liberation Army
With 2.3 million active troops, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is the largest standing military force in the world, commanded by the Central Military Commission (CMC). The PLA consists of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF), the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), and a strategic nuclear force, the Second Artillery Corps. According to SIPRI, China's military expenditure in 2011 totalled US$129.2 billion (923 billion yuan), constituting the world's second-largest military budget. However, other nations, such as the United States, have claimed that China does not report its real level of military spending, which is allegedly much higher than the official budget. A 2007 report by the US Secretary of Defense noted that "China's actions in certain areas increasingly appear inconsistent with its declaratory policies". For its part, China claims it maintains an army purely for defensive purposes.
As a recognised nuclear weapons state, China is considered both a major regional military power and a potential military superpower. As of August 2011, China's Second Artillery Corps is believed to maintain at least 195 nuclear missiles, including 75 ICBMs. Nonetheless, China is the only member of the UN Security Council to have relatively limited power projection capabilities. To offset this, it has begun developing power projection assets, such as aircraft carriers, and has established a network of foreign military relationships that has been compared to a string of pearls.
China has made significant progress in modernizing its military since the early 2000s. It has purchased advanced Russian fighter jets, such as the Sukhoi Su-30, and has also produced its own modern fighters, most notably the Chengdu J-10 and the Shenyang J-11, J-15 and J-16. China is furthermore engaged in developing an indigenous stealth aircraft, the Chengdu J-20. China's ground forces have also undergone significant modernisations, replacing its ageing Soviet-derived tank inventory with numerous variants of the modern Type 99 tank, and upgrading its battlefield C3I and C4I systems to enhance its network-centric warfare capabilities.
China has acquired the Russian S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, and has constructed indigenous air defense missiles such as the HQ-9. A number of other indigenous missile technologies have also been developed – in 2007, China conducted a successful test of an anti-satellite missile, and the country now possesses numerous cruise missiles, including the CJ-10 and DH-10 land-attack warheads. In 2011, the Pentagon reported that China was believed to be testing the JL-2 missile, a submarine-launched nuclear ICBM with multiple-warhead delivery capabilities.
In recent years, much attention has been focused on enhancing the blue-water capabilities of the People's Liberation Army Navy. In September 2012, China's first aircraft carrier, the refurbished Soviet vessel Liaoning, entered service. China furthermore maintains a substantial fleet of submarines, including several nuclear-powered attack and ballistic missile submarines. On 13 March 2011, the PLAN missile frigate Xuzhou was spotted off the coast of Libya, marking the first time in history a Chinese warship sailed into the Mediterranean. The ship's entrance into the Mediterranean was officially part of a humanitarian mission to rescue Chinese nationals from the Libyan civil war, though analysts such as Fareed Zakaria viewed the mission as also being an attempt to increase China's global military presence.
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