Want ChinaTimes has run an article stating that China has more tanks in service than any other nation. Putting the number of PLA tanks at 6,500, the article attributes the figure to the Moscow-based website Independent Military Review.
By early 2015, China had a total of 5,900 medium tanks, 640 main battle tanks, 750 light tanks and 200 reconnaissance tanks. In addition, China has 13,000 artillery pieces, 924 anti-tank missile systems, 3,966 recoilless rifles and 1,788 anti-tank guns, making the PLA one of the most powerful ground fighting forces in the world, the report said.
The PLA has also focused on the development of air defense and aviation capabilities. The PLA ground force has about 7,376 anti-aircraft guns and man-portable air defense systems as well as 296 air defense missile batteries. The aviation arm of the PLA ground force has 150 attack helicopters, 351 multi-role helicopters and 338 transport helicopters. Between 2017 and 2018, the PLA ground force is expected replace 70% of its obsolete hardware.
The article does not break down the tanks in service by type, although the use of the term “medium tank” is a bit odd. It’s probably a fair guess to say that the “640 main battle tanks” refer to the newer Type 99 while the “5,900 medium tanks” refers to all the other older tank types. It is interesting to note that these figures are quite a bit lower than those provided by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies in 2012 which put the number of Chinese MBTs at 7,950 and Light tanks at 1,200.