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The Militia

In addition to the active ground forces, China has a large militia that can be mobilized in wartime to support the war effort within their home provinces. During wartime, militia may be mobilized to support the war effort within their home province. The functions of militia vary from locality to locality, covering diverse tasks such as air defense, emergency response, and technical support which can include technical maintenance and repair, as well as computer network operations.

Chinas militia system provides a large pool of personnel for national defense. All PRC males between the ages of 18 and 35 not currently serving in the military are technically part of the militia system. Many members of the militia do not belong to organized units, and Chinas 2004 Defense White Paper claimed that ten million people were organized into militia units. Chinas 2008 Defense White Paper indicates that these numbers will decrease to 8 million by the end of the 11th Five Year Plan (2006-2010).

The Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie said in an interview with Xinhua on 29 December 2010 that China had reduced the number of people in its militias from 10 million to eight million over the past five years. It is the first time the Chinese government had given the exact number of people in the reserve forces and militias. In times of emergencies, the reserve forces and militias can be ordered to assist China's 2.3-million regular troops [according to the Xinhua repoot], the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The militia is an armed mass organization not released from production. It is a reserve force of the PLA and the basis for the prosecution of a people's war under modern conditions. The General Staff Headquarters administers the building of the militia under the leadership of the State Council and the CMC. Under the command of military organs, the militia in wartime helps the standing army in its military operations, conducts independent operations, and provides combat support and manpower replenishment for the standing army. In peacetime, it undertakes the tasks of performing combat readiness support, taking part in emergency rescue and disaster relief efforts, and maintaining social order.

In accordance with provisions in the Military Service Law of the PRC, male citizens from 18 to 35 years of age who are fit for military service, excluding those enlisted for active service, shall be regimented into militia units to perform reserve service. The militia has two categories: the primary and the ordinary. A selected group of militiamen under the age of 28, including soldiers discharged from active service and other persons who have received or are selected for military training, are regimented into the primary militia; other male citizens belonging to the age group of 18 to 35, who are qualified for reserve service are regimented into the ordinary militia. The primary militia may recruit female citizens when necessary.

Militia work is under the unified leadership of the State Council and the CMC, and the leadership of local Party committees, local governments as well as the local military commands. The General Staff Headquarters supervises militia work nationwide. The military area commands are responsible for militia work in their respective jurisdictions. Provincial military commands, prefectural military commands and people's armed forces departments of counties (county-level cities or districts) are the organs of military leadership and command, and responsible for the militia work in their respective jurisdictions. The grass-roots people's armed forces departments established in town-ships (towns), urban sub-districts, enterprises and public institutions are responsible for organizing and carrying out militia work. Local Party committees and governments at all levels make overall plans and arrangements for militia work.

In recent years China has persisted in reform and innovation in militia force buildup, adjusted its size and structure, and upgraded its weaponry and equipment. The organizational structure has optimized to increase the capabilities of the militia to support combat and emergency response forces, and to gradually shift the center of its responsibilities from rural areas to cities, areas along communication lines and other key areas. Importance has been attached to establishing militia organizations in emerging enterprises and high-tech industries to increase the technology content of the militia force. Investment in weaponry and equipment has been increased to systematically and organically provide a series of new types of militia air defense equipment such as air defense artillery and portable air defense missiles in key areas. Equipment for emergency response and stability-maintenance operations has been improved. Some types of weapons have been upgraded.

Rural towns and townships, administrative villages, urban sub-districts, and enterprises and institutions of a certain scale are the basic units in which the militia is organized. Primary militiamen are separately organized for concentrated military training in militia military training bases of administrative areas at the county level. Currently, there are emergency detachments, and such specialized technical detachments as anti-aircraft artillery, anti-aircraft machineguns, portable air defense missiles, ground artillery, communications, chemical defense, engineering and reconnaissance detachments.

To ensure that militiamen are always ready to respond to the call in case of a contingency, the Chinese government has formulated a militia combat readiness system, whereby combat readiness education is carried out regularly among the militia with the purpose of enhancing their national defense awareness, and exercises are conducted in accordance with combat readiness plans to enhance the militia's operational capabilities.

The role of the militia and the degree of party and PLA control over it have varied over the years. During the 1940s the militia served primarily as a PLA support force. After 1949 the party consolidated control over the country and gradually used the militia to maintain order and help the PLA with defense of the borders and coast. In the mid-1950s Minister of National Defense Peng Dehuai attempted to build a reserve system incorporating the militia. Peng's efforts were thwarted when the party expanded the militia, assigning it duties as a production force and internal security force during the Great Leap Forward. Lin Biao reduced the size of the militia and reemphasized military training in the early 1960s.

In the 1960s, the Chinese peasantry was organized through the commune system into a vast people's militia. In all, about a quarter of the population was involved. The militia was given simple training, often with wooden rifles, by militia departments which were staffed by PLA officers. An important part of the training process was ideological work: learning from the various model soldiers which were held up for emulation,

The militia was fragmented during the early years of the Cultural Revolution, but in the 1970s it was rebuilt and redirected to support the PLA. The Gang of Four attempted to build up the urban militia as an alternative to the PLA, but the urban militia failed to support the Gang of Four in 1976, when Hua Guofeng and moderate military leaders deposed them. The militia's logistical support of the PLA was essential during the Sino-Vietnamese border war of 1979. In the 1980s Chinese leaders undertook to improve the militia's military capabilities by reducing its size and its economic tasks.

By the late 1980s the militia was controlled by the PLA at the military district level and by people's armed forces departments, which devolved to civilian control at the county and city levels as part of the reduction in force. The militia was a smaller force than previously, consisting of 4.3 million basic or primary -- armed -- militia, and the 6-million-strong general or ordinary militia. The basic militia was comprised of men and women aged eighteen to twenty-eight who had served or were expected to serve in the PLA and who received thirty to forty days of military training per year. The basic militia included naval militia, which operated armed fishing trawlers and coastal defense units, as well as specialized detachments, such as air defense, artillery, communications, antichemical, reconnaissance, and engineering units, which served the PLA. The ordinary militia included men aged eighteen to thirty-five who met the criteria for military service; they received some basic military training but generally were unarmed. The ordinary militia had some air defense duties and included the urban militia. Efforts were made to streamline militia organization and upgrade militia weaponry. By 1986 militia training bases had been established in over half the counties and cities in the nation.

The militia's principal tasks in the 1980s were to assist in production, to undergo military training, and to defend China's frontiers in peacetime. In wartime, the militia would supply reserves for mobilization, provide logistical support to the PLA, and conduct guerrilla operations behind enemy lines. In May 2007 the General Staff Headquarters released a new edition of the Outline for the Training and Evaluation of the Militia. The new outline adds over a hundred training tasks in dozens of categories covering specialties of the Navy, Air Force and Second Artillery Force, marking a shift from traditional single-service to multi-service/arm specialized militia training. Based on the principles of integrating resources, pooling strengths, organizing training level by level and conducting trans-regional training, the military training of the militia has a four-level organizational system: The provincial military commands are the backbone; the prefectural military commands are the main body; the people's armed forces departments are the basis; and the grass-roots people's armed forces departments are the supplement. The militia is improving its technology-based training, and promoting on-base, simulated and web-based training step by step. Prominence is given to such tasks as rapid mobilization of specialized detachments, coordination with active units and operations in complex electromagnetic environments. In addition, efforts are being made to enhance training in emergency response and rescue. The aim is to raise the militia's capabilities in combat operations, emergency rescue, disaster relief, crisis response and social stability maintenance.

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