PLA Reforms

Beginning in late November 2015, the PLA began to make a series of announcements about implementing the long awaited major PLA structural reforms.  

Below and on the linked pages we have gathered information about the known reforms that have already taken place, and some speculation about what is yet to come.

These reforms include a restructure of the CMC and national headquarters, the reorganization of the standing theater-level commands from Military Regions (MR) into Theater Commands (TC), and changes to the military services resulting in service headquarters focused on a military-building (建军), or a “man, train, and equip” mission.  

The new PLA command system is described as:


  • CMC Manages Over-all
  • Theater Commands master over operations
  • Service headquarters master of military-building

Full details of the final resulting PLA structure continues to evolve, but many elements are known, and the general direction of some others can be assessed with enough certainty to make looking at the changes now, even before they have been fully implemented, worth while for PLA researchers.

Prior to the announced reforms, the major elements of PLA structure from National leadership, to the basic campaign-capable military unit of the PLA (Juntuan, 军团, legion or campaign-capable large formation) could be described as depicted in the graphic below.  These charts also available as a downloadable MM Brief in PDF.

The chart below is a side by side comparison of the previous PLA structure above, and the changes that have already been announced or leaked.

The following chart displays the new PLA organization, after the major 2016 / 2017 reforms have begun to take shape.  The Charts also available in PDF: MM Brief in PDF.

CMC and GHQ Changes:

The NEW multi-department Central Military Command structure, and the 15 named functional departments of the New CMC is one of that largest changes in the reforms.  We provide some information, makes some comparisons, and takes a ‘guess’ at the relation between the new CMC and the known structures of the old CMC-GHQ system on this page: 2016 CMC Reforms.

Military Services Changes:

The newly formed PLA Army Headquarters, the rebranded PLA Rocket Force, and completely new entity PLA Strategic Support Forces, add to the existing PLA Navy and PLA Air Force to form five service headquarters.

PLA Services:

  • PLA Army (解放军陆军)
  • PLA Navy (解放军海军)
  • PLA Air Force (解放军空军)
  • PLA Rocket Force (解放军火箭军)
  • PLA Strategic Support Force (解放军战略支援部队)

These services, under the guiding concept of “军委管总,战区主战,军种主建”, are likely NOT have a major role in commanding operational units, but will take on a institution building role.  Most expect this to be similar to what the U.S. military calls the “Man, Train, and Equip” mission of U.S. service headquarters. Information about the service reforms on this page: 2016 Service Reforms.

Theater Command Structure Reform:

On February 1st 2016 the PLA announced the Five Great Theater Commands (五大战区):

  • Eastern Theater Command (ETC, 东部战区)
  • Southern Theater Command (STC, 南部战区)
  • Western Theater Command (WTC, 西部战区)
  • Northern Theater Command (NTC, 北部战区)
  • Central Theater Command (CTC, 中部战区)

At this point, the Theater Commands, their headquarters locations, the subordinate service component commands (Theater Army, Theater Navy (Fleet), and Theater Air Forces), as well as Group Army assignments are known.  However, the exact areas of responsibility or subordinated units of the new theater command structure is still not fully public information.  See some of what we have developed on the new Theater Commands on the page: 2016 Theater Reforms.