Cold War ArmsA Chinese soldier from the 1970s, with basic light equipment including backpack , helmet, and an anti-tank weapon. Chinese leaders envisioned that large scale conflict during the 1970s and 1980s would still involve mass infantry assaults, high casualties, and population advantages.
Chinese Future WarriorA presenter showcasing equipment and protection for future Chinese infantry ... few if any differences in outward appearance from contempoary U.S. and Western forces.
Political LessonsThe People's Liberation Army has always been the military arm of the Communist Party: here soldiers receive political education in the 1970s.
Victory In 1949The People's Liberation Army enter Beijing in early 1949, after defeating Nationalist forces in a major campaign. The communists establish Beijing as China's new capital months later and found the People's Republic on October 1st.
The Revolution ... Is Sometimes A Dinner Party?Foreign soldiers on exchange and visiting with the military in China attend a banquet and reception held on August 1 to commemorate the 85th year anniversary of the founding of the PLA.
85th Birthday PartyForeign and Chinese soldiers China attend a banquet and reception held on August 1 in Beijing to commemorate the 85th year anniversary of the founding of the PLA.
Invincible People's ArmyA military propaganda poster from the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), extolling the martial prowess of the three branches of the armed forces.
Chengdu J-7The J-7 was China's mainstay interceptor for much of the Cold War, first flying in 1966. It still serves in China's air force, mostly as a trainer aircraft. No longer in production, it has been gradually replaced over past years by more modern and more capable designs.
Chengdu J-20The J-20, also designed and produced by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group, is China's most advanced airplane. With stealth features, state of the art electronics, and powerful engines, it will compete in the future with U.S. jets like the F-22 and Russia's T-50.
Cold War NavyDuring the Cold War, China's fleet consisted mostly of small coastal defense ships and torpedo boats. Their task was limited largely to coastal defense and harassment of enemy vessels of major navies like those of the U.S. and USSR.
Modern FleetThe modern Chinese navy is a different creature altogether, analysts say with global aspirations. Here, China's yet unnamed aircraft carrier, the converted ex-Soviet Varyag, is towed from harbor in Northeastern China for sea trials.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China is 85 years old today.
From a tiny force of 20,000 -- which rose up on August 1, 1927 in defiance against China's then Republican - Nationalist government crackdown on Communist elements -- China's unabashedly Communist military is now the world's largest, with 2.2 million active-duty personnel.
Its navy and air force, nearly non-existent before 1950, now ranks among the world's largest -- though the PLA Navy doesn't yet outweigh the U.S. Navy in total tonnage and the air force remains smaller in total size than the U.S.' and Russia's.
Over the past 30 years, as China modernized to become more economically open and competitive, resources flowed towards military modernization, changing a land and mass-infantry dominated force increasingly into one fixated on the seas, air, and cyberspace.
It has also shown through reverse engineering and autonomous innovation that it can build sophisticated weapon systems to rival those produced in the West.
And unlike during the Cold War when the PLA dedicated itself to border defense and preparations for confronting either a possible American or (later) Soviet invasion, it is now looking overseas: Chinese warships patrol waters off the coast of Somalia, providing protection for international vessels transiting through the area.
In the early 1950s the PLA fought United States and United Nations troops to a bloody standstill on the Korean Peninsula. Today, increasingly large numbers of Chinese troops are serving with the UN (in non-combat peacekeeping roles), in the Middle East and Africa.
So it seems that while it's raising the hairs on the necks of the defense community in Washington, Tokyo, Manila, New Delhi, Moscow, and Hanoi, the octogenarian PLA is exerting more of an impact on the rest of the world than ever before.