The PLA, originally called the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, was founded in 1927 when Communist soldiers seized the southern Jiangxi provincial town of Nanchang.
China held a parade of its armed forces Sunday to mark the 90th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in a display of military might.
Since coming to power in 2012, President Xi Jinping has led efforts to modernise the PLA — still the world's largest standing military — and to consolidate the ruling Communist Party's control over the armed forces.
At the expansive Zhurihe training base in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous region, Xi, who has also trumpeted building a stronger, combat-ready army, appeared wearing a camouflage military suit.
He stood inside an open-top field jeep that drove past lines of troops for his inspection.
"Comrades, you have worked hard," he said, to which the troops responded: "We are serving the people!"
Tanks, vehicle-mounted nuclear-capable missiles and other equipment rolled by, as military aircraft flew above, including H-6K bombers, which have been patrolling near Taiwan and Japan recently, the J-15 carrier-based fighters and new generation J-20 stealth fighter.
China said in March it would raise its defence spending by around seven percent this year, the slowest annual percentage increase since 1991.
Beijing is engaged in a decades-long build-up and modernisation of its once-backward armed forces, as it seeks military clout commensurate with its economic might and increasingly asserts its disputed territorial claims in Asian waters.
The PLA, originally called the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, was founded in 1927 when Communist soldiers seized the southern Jiangxi provincial town of Nanchang from Nationalist Party ("Kuomintang") armies in what is known today as the Nanchang uprising.
It was the first time China has marked Army Day, which formally falls on Aug. 1, with a military parade since the Communist revolution in 1949, state news agency Xinhua said.
It was also the first time Xi has reviewed troops in the field like this, Xinhua added.
China's military is more nimble and technologically proficient following reforms to make it more compact and responsive, and less reliant on its sheer troop numbers, Xi said last week.
China has not fought a war in decades and the government insists it has no hostile intent, but simply needs the ability to properly defend what is now the world's second-largest economy.