China on Tuesday revealed the military strength of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) for the first time, saying it had 1.483 million personnel divided into 18 different corps.
Titled, the "national defence white paper", it also revealed for the first time, the identities of the "group armies", or the 18 different corps the PLA has.
Beijing, diplomatic sources said expectedly, did not reveal the details of its strategic missile corp though it gave out the lineup of its main missiles.
Sources said the format of this year's paper had also changed from the one last released in 2010 - this year's overdue paper had more details under different headlines.
China has so far released eight white papers related to defence since 1998.
The document warned that China faces multiple and complicated security threats and challenges but "will never seek hegemony or behave in a hegemonic manner, nor will it engage in military expansion."
According to the document, quoted in the state-run Xinhua news agency, China will build a strong national defense and powerful armed forces which are "commensurate with China's international standing and meet the needs of its security and development interests."
In terms of numbers, the paper was a marked departure from earlier similar documents.
"China now has about 850,000 army servicemen in 18 combined corps and additional independent combined operational divisions (brigades)," the paper said.
The combined corps, composed of divisions and brigades, are under seven military area commands in Shenyang, Beijing, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
"The combined corps, composed of divisions and brigades, are respectively under the seven military area commands: Shenyang (16th, 39th and 40th Combined Corps), Beijing (27th, 38th and 65th Combined Corps), Lanzhou (21st and 47th Combined Corps), Jinan (20th, 26th and 54th Combined Corps), Nanjing (1st, 12th and 31st Combined Corps), Guangzhou (41st and 42nd Combined Corps) and Chengdu (13th and 14th Combined Corps)," the paper said, revealing the identities of the divisions for the first time.
Interestingly, most the seven military command headquarters are located near urban areas.
Currently, the PLA Navy has a total strength of 235,000 officers and men, and commands three fleets -- the Beihai Fleet, the Donghai Fleet and the Nanhai Fleet.
"The PLA Air Force now has about 398,000 officers and men and an air command in each of the seven military area commands of Shenyang, Beijing, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Chengdu. In addition, it boasts one airborne corps," the white paper said.
The PLA Second Artillery Force, the country's core force for strategic deterrence, is composed of nuclear and conventional missile forces and operational support units, according to the paper.
"It is equipped with a series of "Dong Feng" ballistic missiles and "Chang Jian" cruise missiles.
It also has under its command missile bases, training bases, specialized support units, academies and research institutions," the paper said.
The paper said the PLA Navy was intensifying research and training on tasks in complex battlefield environments, highlighting the training of remote early warning, comprehensive control, open sea interception, long-range raid, anti-submarine warfare and vessel protection at distant sea," it says.
During the training, the PLA navy took effective measures to respond to foreign close-in reconnaissance and illegal interference activities by military ships and aircraft, it says.
China is currently locked in disputes with several of its neighbours over the ownership of islands on the South and East China seas.