Asia

How China is ruled: Armed Forces

Armed forces

Thirty years ago, soldiers in China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) spent as much time on "political work" and reading party speeches as military training.

Reforms introduced since the 1980s have made the armed forces much more professional. They have shed one million men in a bid to concentrate on quality not quantity. Emphasis is being put on better training, better weapons and better pay.

Nevertheless, the military's position as defender of the party means it will never be de-linked from politics. Officers and men still have to declare their loyalty to party principles, study its teachings and read leaders' important pronouncements.

PLA officers are also party members, and there is a separate party machine inside the military to make sure rank and file stay in line with party thinking.

In keeping with its more professional role, the PLA has lost influence over non-military affairs. It was forced to give up a vast business empire and is no longer has a seat on the politburo's standing committee.

Some analysts think PLA generals are happy with this, so long as they retain influence over the areas which really matter to the military - specifically the Taiwan issue and relations with America.