The People's Liberation Army is the armed forces of China. It consists of the PLA Ground Forces, PLA Navy, and the PLA Air Force. The commander-in-chief is Hu Jintao, who is the President of the People's Republic of China.
With approximately 3 million members, it is the largest military in the world. Military service in China is compulsory, in theory, for all men who attain the age of 18; women may register for duty in the medical, veterinary, and other technical services at ages as young as 14. However, a draft in China has never been enforced due to large numbers of volunteers from China's huge population. Demobilized servicemen are carried in a ready reserve, which is reinforced by a standby reserve of veterans and by the militia.
Hu Jintao has defined the missions of the PLA as:
- Consolidate the ruling status of the Communist Party
- Help ensure China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and domestic security in order to continue national development
- Safeguard China’s expanding national interests
- Help maintain world peace