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Quiz: How many people worldwide serve in the military?

For those of you who don’t subscribe to the bimonthly print edition of Foreign Policy, you’re missing a great feature: the FP Quiz. It has eight intriguing questions about how the world works. The question I’d like to highlight this week is: How many people worldwide serve in the military? a) 10.5 million           b) 20.5 ...

Feng Li/Getty Images
Feng Li/Getty Images

For those of you who don’t subscribe to the bimonthly print edition of Foreign Policy, you’re missing a great feature: the FP Quiz. It has eight intriguing questions about how the world works.

The question I’d like to highlight this week is:

How many people worldwide serve in the military?

a) 10.5 million           b) 20.5 million           c) 40.5 million

Answer after the jump …

Answer:

B, 20.5 million.

Worldwide in 2009, there were 20.5 million people — or one out of every 330 — serving in the armed forces, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) report, "The Military Balance 2009." There were also an estimated 49.8 million reservists and 7 million serving in paramilitary units. China had the biggest military, with 2.185 million in the armed services. (Above, Chinese People’s Liberation Army sailors march past Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Oct. 1, 2009, during the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.)

Here are the countries with at least half a million military personnel, according to the aforementioned IISS report:

  • China: 2.185 million
  • United States: 1.54 million
  • India: 1.281 million 
  • North Korea: 1.106 million
  • Russia: 1.027 million
  • South Korea: 687,000
  • Pakistan: 617,000
  • Iraq: 577,000
  • Iran: 523,000
  • Turkey: 511,000

Here are the countries with a least half a million reservists, according to the IISS. I’m guessing some smaller countries are showing up due to rules about mandatory service.

  • Russia: 20 million
  • Vietnam: 5 million
  • North Korea: 4.7 million
  • South Korea: 4.5 million
  • Taiwan: 1.657 million
  • Brazil: 1.34 million
  • India: 1.155 million
  • Ukraine: 1 million
  • United States: 979,000
  • China: 800,000
  • Israel: 565,000

For more questions about how the world works, check out the rest of the FP Quiz.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP