How Powerful is China’s Marine Corps?

China's Marine Corps?

According to reports, the People’s Liberation Army Marine Corps/ China’s Marine Corps currently has 8 marine brigades, 1 special operations brigade, and 1 aviation brigade, with a total strength of more than 50,000. This article will discuss how powerful China’s Marine Corps is and how the People’s Liberation Army Marine Corps compares to the U.S. Marine Corps.

China's Marine Corps?

First, let’s talk about the differences between the People’s Liberation Army Marine Corps and the United States Marine Corps. The U.S. Marine Corps is not under the management of the U.S. Navy but is an independent service and has a parallel relationship with the U.S. Navy.

During World War II, the U.S. Marine Corps undertook a series of important amphibious operations missions and gradually established its position. According to statistics, the total strength of the U.S. Marine Corps currently reaches more than 190,000, making it the world’s largest and most powerful naval force.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has built its Marine Corps in several stages. To compete for islands along the southeastern coast of China, the PLA Navy established eight marine divisions in the 1950s, which were mainly deployed in Southeast and South China.

As islands and reefs along the coasts of Southeast and South China were gradually settled, the eight Marine Divisions were withdrawn in 1957. The PLA Navy did not establish its own Marine Corps during the 1960s and 1970s.

China's Marine Corps?

During the 1960s and 1970s, the Navy was facing several challenges. It lacked large and medium-sized amphibious ships, and its transportation capacity for the Marine Corps was insufficient, which weakened its overall strength. As the external environment started changing in the late 1970s, the Navy’s South China Sea Fleet responded by establishing the first Marine Corps Brigade in 1980.

Later, in 1998, the 164th Infantry Division of the Army’s 41st Group Army was reorganized into a Marine Brigade and transferred from the Army to the Navy. This move happened during a troop reduction of 500,000.

In the late 1990s, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy had two marine brigades that were only used in the South China Sea Fleet. The East China Sea Fleet and the North Sea Fleet didn’t have a marine force at that time, and they only had their own amphibious landing group. As of the early 21st century, the PLA Marine Corps was still relatively weak. It’s unclear how many officers and soldiers they had during this period.

China's Marine Corps?

China had limited national strength during the mentioned period. The Navy lacked sufficient large and medium-sized amphibious ships, resulting in an insufficient ability to transport troops for large-scale amphibious landing operations, especially in terms of ocean transportation capabilities.

As per reports in Chinese media, the People’s Liberation Army Marine Corps had a marine brigade comprising three marine battalions, one tank battalion, one artillery battalion, one amphibious mechanized battalion, one communication battalion, and several other forces such as the frogman company, chemical defense company, engineer company, and amphibious reconnaissance team. This brigade had a total of over 5,000 personnel.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy currently has a total of two marine brigades comprising over 10,000 personnel. In 2016, the military carried out comprehensive reforms, leading to the establishment of two marine brigades in the East China Sea Fleet and North Sea Fleet, both of which were adapted from the army’s units. Additionally, the Naval Special Warfare Brigade and Naval Aviation Brigade have been upgraded to enhance the Navy’s capabilities further.

China's Marine Corps?
05 series amphibious combat vehicle

It has been reported that the PLA Marine Corps currently comprises 6 marine brigades, 1 aviation brigade, and 1 special operations brigade, making a total of 8 brigades. In the last couple of years, foreign media reports suggest that the People’s Liberation Army Navy has established two additional marine brigades, bringing the total number of marine brigades to 8. The Marine Corps has a total strength of over 50,000, including other types of troops. It is important to note that the accuracy of these foreign media reports may vary, and there could be discrepancies.

From another perspective, the progress of the Chin’s Marine Corps mirrors the overall improvement of Chinese national strength. China’s overseas interests have become increasingly important. Safeguarding these interests and commercial channels has become a top priority.

Additionally, with the boost in China’s national strength, the Navy has significantly increased its number of large amphibious ships. To date, China has constructed 10 Type 071 dock landing ships and 4 Type 075 amphibious assault ships, which have greatly enhanced ocean delivery capabilities.

China's Marine Corps?

In such a general environment, the size of China’s Marine Corps has naturally gradually increased. Of course, after the military reform, the establishment and specific configuration of each of our country’s marine brigades will definitely be classified.

However, judging from a series of news reports, a Marine Corps brigade has a series of units, including a synthetic battalion, a reconnaissance battalion, an artillery battalion, an air defense battalion, an air assault battalion, and a support battalion. It is further improved than the previous standard.

Equipped with Type 15 light main battle tank, Type 05 amphibious landing vehicle, Type 05 amphibious assault vehicle, Type 08 wheeled infantry fighting vehicle, Type 11 wheeled 105mm assault gun, PCL-181 vehicle-mounted 155mm howitzer, 05A Type 122mm self-propelled howitzer, 40-tube 122mm self-propelled rocket launcher and a series of equipment.

In terms of specific tasks, the Marine Corps no longer just targets beach landings but has begun to improve its vertical strike capabilities and deep assault capabilities.

How Powerful is China's Marine Corps?

With further development, the Marine Corps will definitely accompany the naval fleet to the oceans. Without the assistance of its Army brethren, the Marine Corps is likely to need to face various challenging tasks alone and have the ability to stand on its own. After the military reform, each Marine Corps Brigade, Aviation Brigade, and Special Operations Brigade are not under the separate management of the three major fleets of the Navy.

China has established a specialized Marine Corps command organization to directly manage various units stationed in various places instead of each of the three major fleets managing a part. The advantage of unified management is that it facilitates coordination, mobilization and deployment of weapons, equipment, manpower and material resources in all aspects. For example, the defense mission of my country’s first overseas base, the Djibouti Comprehensive Support Base, is handled by the Marine Corps.

How Powerful is China's Marine Corps?
Type 15 light tank landing.

Currently, China’s Marine Corps is the second-largest naval force in the world, second only to the United States. However, it is important to note that China’s Marine Corps has different fundamental missions compared to the U.S. Marine Corps. This also translates to differences in their weapons, equipment, and specific organizations.

For instance, the U.S. Marine Corps has several Marine Divisions, while China’s Marine Corps has Marine Brigades. Furthermore, the U.S. Marine Corps possesses over 160 F35 series fighters, which sets it apart from the People’s Liberation Army Marine Corps.

How Powerful is China's Marine Corps?
PLA Navy Type 075 amphibious assault ship

The U.S. Marine Corps forms different types of military units depending on the combat mission. These include Marine Expeditionary Forces, Expeditionary Detachments, and Expeditionary Task Forces. The Marine Expeditionary Force is a large-scale operation that involves deploying troops from various Marine Divisions.

The Expeditionary Unit is a medium-scale operation that generally involves several thousand officers and soldiers. Expeditionary Task Forces, on the other hand, are small-scale assaults or operations and usually consist of company-level troops.


What is the size of China’s Marine Corps compared to the US Marine Corps?

China’s Marine Corps, with over 50,000 personnel, is the second-largest in the world, trailing behind the United States Marine Corps, which boasts a total strength of more than 190,000 personnel.

How has China’s Marine Corps developed over time?

Answer: China’s Marine Corps has undergone significant development, starting from the establishment of marine divisions in the 1950s to the formation of marine brigades in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Corps has evolved to adapt to changing strategic priorities and technological advancements.

What are the primary missions of China’s Marine Corps?

Answer: China’s Marine Corps is tasked with a range of missions, including amphibious operations, safeguarding national interests, protecting overseas assets, and contributing to maritime security. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in China’s territorial defense strategy.

How does China’s Marine Corps differ from the US Marine Corps in terms of organization and capabilities?

Answer: While both Marine Corps have similar amphibious warfare capabilities, they differ in organizational structure and equipment. For example, China’s Marine Corps consists of marine brigades, whereas the US Marine Corps includes marine divisions. Additionally, the USMC possesses advanced weaponry like the F35 series fighters, setting it apart from its Chinese counterpart.

What role does China’s Marine Corps play in the country’s overall military strategy?

Answer: China’s Marine Corps is integral to the country’s maritime strategy, which emphasizes safeguarding territorial waters, protecting maritime interests, and ensuring access to sea lanes. The Corps contributes to enhancing China’s overall naval capabilities and projecting power in the maritime domain.

How has China’s economic development influenced the growth of its Marine Corps?

Answer: China’s economic growth has facilitated the expansion and modernization of its Marine Corps. As China’s overseas interests have grown, so too has the need to protect its assets and ensure maritime security. This has led to investments in naval capabilities, including the Marine Corps.

What are the future prospects for China’s Marine Corps?

Answer: With ongoing military reforms and advancements in technology, China’s Marine Corps is expected to continue evolving. It will likely focus on enhancing its amphibious assault capabilities, deep strike capabilities, and expeditionary operations. Additionally, it may play a more significant role in China’s global presence and overseas missions.

How does China’s Marine Corps contribute to international security and cooperation?

Answer: China’s Marine Corps participates in various international exercises, joint operations, and peacekeeping missions, contributing to regional stability and cooperation. Through these engagements, the Corps builds partnerships, enhances interoperability, and promotes maritime security in collaboration with other nations.

What challenges does China’s Marine Corps face in its operations?

Answer: China’s Marine Corps faces challenges such as logistical constraints, technological gaps compared to more advanced militaries, and geopolitical tensions in the region. Additionally, maintaining readiness and adaptability in the face of evolving threats and scenarios poses ongoing challenges for the Corps.

How does China’s Marine Corps coordinate with other branches of the military and government agencies?

Answer: China’s Marine Corps operates within a unified command structure, coordinating closely with other branches of the military, such as the Navy and Air Force, as well as government agencies involved in maritime affairs. This coordination ensures effective response capabilities and integrated operations in various scenarios.