US Military Personnel Better Trained Than Chinese Soldiers

Part 1 of the 2-part series: US-China Troop Comparison
November 24, 2021 Updated: November 26, 2021

News Analysis

The Chinese regime’s military modernization has concentrated on employing new technology. But all wars eventually come down to soldiers fighting soldiers, and the U.S. troops are much better suited to combat than the Chinese.

Beijing’s intentions are clear, according to a U.S. Department of Defense report on China’s military ambitions. The report states that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wishes to “reshape the international order to better align with its authoritarian system and national interests.”

As part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is modernizing, developing its capabilities to carry out long-range precision strikes, relying on space-wars weapons, counterspace technology, cyber capabilities, and expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal. The PLA’s new development plan states that it is preparing to operate as a networked system of “intelligentized” warfare.

Regardless of how high-tech the hardware becomes, a country needs competent soldiers. “All this technology is awesome, but it’s going to come down to city fighting, chucking grenades, and being able to do that over and over,” said Lt. Gen. Ted Martin, commandant of the United States Army Command and General Staff College.

The CCP also realizes that it needs to improve training for Chinese soldiers. Xi’s 2015 military reform campaign was just concluded in 2020. One of the weaknesses that he identified is the PLA’s shortfall in cultivating quality personnel. Consequently, one of the primary focuses of the PLA’s transformation into a “world-class military” is to attempt to recruit, train, indoctrinate, and retain talented personnel, particularly in the officer corps. The existing officer corps had developed out of a Cultural Revolution-era military, which detested the educated class while stressing political indoctrination.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers taking part in military training at Pamir Mountains in Kashgar, northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, on Jan. 4, 2021. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

In order to improve the quality of its soldiers and officers, the PLA needs to attract and retain educated people. One of the enticements on offer is fast-track promotions. The result of racing young officers up the ladder, however, is that the PLA has managed to thin out the experience in its higher ranks. Not only do these fast-tracked officers not have combat experience, but they have very limited military experience. And now, they are occupying higher positions.

Salary is an obstacle, which the PLA seems unable to overcome. A military cybersecurity employee may earn an annual salary of $13,000 plus bonus, whereas with the same education, he/she could earn $94,000 per year at Alibaba.

The PLA has around 2.1 million active troops, whereas the U.S. forces have only 1.4 million. The U.S. ground forces, while smaller in number than China’s, have better equipment, training, and education. China’s draft pool, those already of military age, is around 617.2 million potential recruits, five times that of the United States. Additionally, nearly 20 million Chinese turn draft age each year. One numbers advantage on the U.S. side is that its reserve forces, at around 845,500, are larger than China’s by about 60 percent.

An important point, when comparing the U.S. reserves to the reserves in other countries, is that the U.S. reserves and National Guard are trained to the same standards as the regular military. They attend basic training and Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) job school, alongside active-duty soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen, but then return home to serve one weekend a month and two weeks per summer, rather than going on active duty.

The U.S. reserve and National Guard units are equipped with the latest weapons and are given numerous opportunities to go on active-duty training. Additionally, they are frequently deployed overseas. National guard troops made up about 45 percent of the soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as, 18 percent of the casualties. This is not true of China’s reserve forces, nor the reserve forces of most other nations.

China has a militia, also called paramilitary, of about 600,000 troops. The United States, in addition to the national guard, also has state militias. Twenty-two U.S. states have active militias, called State Defense Forces. Most are army, but some have naval and air-support militias. Their funding, training, and equipment varies dramatically, from state to state. In recent years, legitimization and funding for the State Defense Forces has increased significantly, and it now officially participates with Homeland Security.

The CCP has spent a great deal of money in modernizing its military, buying the best and most advanced equipment, battleships, and fighter planes.

According to Kinichi Nishimura, a former Japanese Self-Defense Force officer who worked at the Defense Intelligence Headquarters of the Ministry of Defense, the proficiency of the Chinese crews who are operating this advanced equipment is poor, owing to the PLA’s inability to train them properly. Nishibashi said that this is one of the reasons that the CCP has stepped up its investment in unmanned aircraft and ballistic missiles.

Ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles have clearly become a priority for the PLA, as China has compiled an arsenal of roughly 2,000.

A PLA doctrine, learned from the Russians during the early days of Communism says, “In the initial battle of war, launch a large number of missiles and then immediately leave the front line.”

It is quite telling that the CCP has to tailor their war plans, based on an inability to train PLA troops to use sophisticated weapons.

Read part 2 here.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Antonio Graceffo, Ph.D., has spent over 20 years in Asia. He is a graduate of Shanghai University of Sport and holds a China-MBA from Shanghai Jiaotong University. Antonio works as an economics professor and China economic analyst, writing for various international media. Some of his books on China include "Beyond the Belt and Road: China’s Global Economic Expansion" and "A Short Course on the Chinese Economy."