Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Details, details, trivia, details

The longer you study something, the more you learn about it (hopefully). When I began teaching about China, the Cultural Revolution was in full swing and my cousin-in-law's husband was a barefoot doctor in Anhui province. Not all that he and I learned about China in the 1960s and '70s is relevant to his international business or my attempts to help students prepare for an exam about government and politics.

I have to keep in mind that what's an interesting detail to me might well be irrelevant trivia to a student striving to earn college credit through a high stakes exam.

So, when I saw this headline, I was intrigued. In the proper context, the topic might be more than trivial for students of comparative government and politics. However, for most students, this is beyond the scope of what's necessary for success on an exam. It still might be interesting. It might offer evidence to use in responding to an exam question. And Celia Hatton, the BBC Beijing correspondent and I have added some context. See what you make of it.

China 'reveals army structure' in defence white paper
PLA assembly
China has revealed the structure of its military units, in what state-run media describe as a first.

The army has a total of 850,000 officers, while the navy and air force have a strength of 235,000 and 398,000, China said in its defence white paper…

China's defence budget rose by 11.2% in 2012, exceeding $100bn (£65bn)…

The white paper reveals details of China's military structure… The territorial army has 18 combined corps in seven military area commands… The air force has… an air command in the same seven military areas, while the navy commands three fleets…

The paper also describes the role of China's second artillery force, which contains China's nuclear and conventional missile forces.

The force is crucial to China's "strategic deterrence", and is "primarily responsible for deterring other countries from using nuclear weapons against China, and carrying out nuclear counterattacks and precision strikes with conventional missiles," the paper said…

Analysis
China's People's Liberation Army is on a fast path to modernisation. Following years of double-digit budget increases, the military has acquired submarines and naval destroyers. Aircraft carriers and Chinese-made fighter planes are in development. In 2010, technology to destroy missiles in mid-air was tested…

In its latest white paper, the defence ministry… confirms information on the military's structure that previously was only available from analysts outside mainland China: The names of the PLA's divisions and brigades and the numbers of active personnel they contain, in addition to the missile line-up.

Of course, the PLA is far from an open book; a great deal of information is still classified. However, the bid to come across as a modern, professional military with nothing to hide marks a change from times past…
More context
The PLA is the largest military force in the world, with about 2.3 million people on active duty. In comparison, the U.S. military has 1.4 million people on active duty in the military and another 850,000 people in reserve units.

Russia has just over 1 million active duty personnel. The UK has nearly 200,000; Iran has over 500,000 military personnel on active duty and 1.5 million paramilitary (basij); Mexico has over 250,000 people on active duty; and Nigeria has about 80,000.

When it comes to military spending, the USA leads the rest of the world.
  • US $682 billion (4.4% of GDP)
  • China $166 billion (2.0% of GDP)
  • Russia $91 billion (4.4% of GDP)
  • UK $61 billion (2.5% of GDP)
  • Iran $7.5 billion (1.8% of GDP)
  • Mexico $4.9 billion (0.5% of GDP)
  • Nigeria $1.7 billion (0.9% of GDP)

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