The Largest Military Forces In The World

China boasts the largest military in the world in terms of available active military manpower, Global Firepower reports.

According to Global Firepower, active military personnel refers to the “ready-to-fight” elements or a military force. In other words, they are the initial elements a country would employ for combat. 


The following is a list of the total numbers of the eight largest military forces as of 2019.


For the complete rankings, check out Global Firepower’s report.

At an estimated 2, 183, 000 elements, China leads the list. China is followed by India, the United States, North Korea, Russia, Pakistan, South Korea, and Iran. 

The combined numbers of the second and third placers India and the United States are nearly occluded by the sheer magnitude of China’s total available military manpower. 

Only five countries: China, India, United States, North Korea, and Russia have available military elements that exceed 1 million in number. 

In the context of an impending war

These numbers are quickly becoming relevant now that the world is potentially going into a state of war. 

Recently, the death of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) sparked an escalated conflict between Iran and the US.  

Iran retaliated by launching ballistic missiles in the US forces situated in Iraq, a rare instance of a direct fire between the two forces who for decades have only fought in the form of proxy fires. 

In eighth place, Iran has an estimated 523,000 available active elements. Iran is clearly dwarfed by the estimated 1,281,900 available active elements of the US.

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However, just last month, Iran held joint naval drills with China and Russia. Both China and Russia are coordinating with the United Nations Security Council after Soleimani’s death. 

Meanwhile, a member of the Russian Defence Ministry’s public council has suggested that Russia could sell Iraq its missile system to “ensure the country’s sovereignty and reliable protection of airspace.” 

With these dynamics and rivalries, we can see how these escalations can eventually lead to an all-out war. 

However, even the powerhouse China urges restraint to be practised by both parties, seeing that war is of no one’s interest. 

There’s always a room for discussions

In spite of the capacity to use force, discussions are still the preferred method of settling the tensions between the two parties. This is something echoed by the world leaders in the aftermath of the Iranian attack on the US forces.

“The use of weapons must stop now to give space to dialogue. We are all called upon to do everything possible to rekindle talks. There cannot be enough of that,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview.

However, now that the tensions have escalated at this magnitude, it is hard to see how discussions can still end up being productive between the two parties. With so many unpredictable factors to key in, it is difficult to see how these matters will end. 

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