Why China’s Military Isn’t As Mighty As You Think

Despite having more soldiers than any military in the world, China's military isn't even in the top 10 in terms of soldiers per capita

People's Liberation Army — AFP/Getty Images(PLA) soldiers deployed for United Nations (UN) peace keeping mis
Sep 03, 2015 at 2:39 PM ET

Chinese officials announced on Thursday that they are cutting their military by 300,000 troops, which is 13 percent reduction to the country’s 2.3 million active armed forces. Even with the huge cut, the Chinese active-duty military is still the largest in the world. However, with about 1.3 billion people, China’s military isn’t even in the top 10 when it comes to soldiers per capita.

The Chinese military has 9.2 soldiers for every 1,000 people, which makes the People’s Liberation Army the 18th largest in the world, according to data from the International Institute for Strategic Studies

Kim Jong-un’s 1.2 million person active-duty military in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea tops the list with 48.7 soldiers per 1,000 people. Like many of the countries in the top 10, North Korea has mandatory military service. Unlike any country in the world, however, North Korea requires a minimum of 10 years of military service, while most countries with enforced conscription require a maximum of two years.

The United States, which spends nearly five times more on its military than any other nation on earth, comes in at 58th on the list with 4.2 soldiers per 1,000 people.