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Paramilitary: The Chinese Total Force
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September 29, 2008: China is reorganizing its military reserves by reducing the number of infantry units, and increasing the number of combat support troops. This is a trend begun in the United States three decades ago. Many reserve units were converted to provide support functions, and trained to be rapidly mobilized to provide support for the active duty combat units. In the past, and for many other nations to this day, most of the reserves are combat units.

In the 1980s, China finally created a modern, organized, reserve force. Previously, China had a large (over 100 million men) militia. This force was organized at the local level, to either defend against attack, turn into guerillas if their locality was overrun by the enemy, and to provide replacements for combat casualties in regular army units. This militia selected men who had previous military experience, or planned to join the army, as its core leadership. Local Communist Party officials were heavily involved, as they would take the lead in recruiting, and running the show if the local militia had to switch to guerilla operations.

The 1980s reforms disbanded the traditional militia forces (most of which were inactive anyway), and recruited the best men into a 4.3 million man reserve force, with another six million serving as a higher quality militia. The active duty army provided instructors, and some leadership, for the new reserve force, which was organized and equipped largely as combat units. These troops got 30-40 days of training a year, and were paid. They were also subject to inspection to make sure their equipment and training were adequate.

The new reforms are reorganizing and retraining nearly a quarter of these troops to provide support functions, both for the active duty armed forces (the army, navy and air force), as well as being ready to deal with civil disorder, terrorism or natural disasters. Some units are being trained for Cyber War, and other to assist in increasing the capabilities of the navy and air force (to keep ships at sea longer, and to put aircraft into the air more frequently.) All this is costing billions of dollars, but the Chinese are slowly making the money available, and creating a modern reserve force.

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