Province in bid to win PLA backing
By WILLY WO-LAP LAM
GUANGDONG officials are spearheading a national drive to salute the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as the 'steel Great Wall' that protects the party and country.
Provincial and municipal cadres from the rich southern province have showered honour and material support on soldiers in the Guangzhou Military Region in the run-up to the August 1 Army Day.
Political sources in Beijing said Guangdong leaders were anxious to secure the backing of the Army in view of the political uncertainties surrounding the incapacitation of patriarch Deng Xiaoping.
They said members of the dominant Shanghai Faction in Beijing, including President Jiang Zemin, had criticised the Guangdong leadership for failing to toe the line from the centre.
The Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening Post reported yesterday that provincial party secretary Xie Fei and Governor Zhu Senlin had visited troops stationed in areas including Guishan Island in the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone, and Shangchuan Island near the city of Taishan.
'As representatives of the people of Guangdong, the [provincial] leaders have expressed their regards and respect to the broad masses of officers and soldiers who are guarding the frontiers of the motherland,' the official paper said.
Mr Xie, also a Politburo member, pointed out in a speech that army and civilian populations in Guangdong fully understood the principle that 'when the soldiers and the people are united as one, they will become invincible'.
He pledged to translate the Guangdong people's 'deep love and profound feelings' for the Army into providing concrete help and 'doing actual things' for the troops as well as their relations.
'We must devote tremendous resources to sustaining army construction and reform so as to push the work of 'supporting the army and giving preference to their relatives' to a new height,' Mr Xie said.
Also yesterday, Guangzhou Mayor Li Ziliu paid a visit to the 1,000-odd PLA soldiers doing volunteer work for a new park in the city.
He pointed out that Guangzhou's goal of becoming an international metropolis depended on the support of different sectors of society, 'particularly the support of the Army'.
Other Guangdong cities have formed special 'support the Army' units to show respects to the soldiers ahead of Army Day.
It is understood that provincial and municipal officials have pledged funds and other resources to improve the livelihood of Guangdong-based troops.
Army analysts in Beijing said Guangdong authorities were also responding to calls by senior generals such as General Chi Haotian to promote 'national education in defence awareness'.
They said the Beijing leadership had highlighted the contribution of the PLA given the tense relations with Taiwan and the US.