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Chinese Army Seeks To Upgrade

December 13, 1998

BEIJING (AP) _ China’s People’s Liberation Army has sent more than 20,000 members abroad to study since 1990 to improve professionalism and upgrade weapons technology, an official report said Sunday.

The 2.9-million-strong PLA, the world’s largest military force, also has invited foreign specialists to provide military-related training in China, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The exchanges have helped modernize the PLA and strengthen relations with military forces in Western countries, the report said.

China’s military also has taken a more active role in international peacekeeping in recent years. Since 1989, it has sent more than 1,200 military personnel to participate in six U.N. peacekeeping missions.

The report quoted an unidentified official of the National Defense Ministry as saying military diplomacy will continue to expand.

The PLA is in the midst of a sweeping effort to reduce its ranks by 500,000 over the next three years and upgrade its military technology.

It also faces economic changes. The ruling Communist Party has set a mid-December deadline for the PLA and the People’s Armed Police to transfer vast business holdings to civilian control. The order is aimed at combating corruption and forcing the military to focus on defense.

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