Party steps up efforts to keep generals in line
The Communist Party has stepped up an ideological campaign to bring the People's Liberation Army under tighter control ahead of the party's leadership reshuffle this autumn.
The People's Liberation Army Daily and the party's top mouthpiece, the People's Daily, have published a series of commentaries since January urging the army to remain loyal to party general secretary Hu Jintao, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, which controls the PLA .
The latest commentary in the PLA Daily even called on the army to resist some 'wrong ideas' such as 'an army without a party, depoliticisation of the military and PLA nationalisation', which it said would harm the party's control over the world's biggest fighting force.
'Historical experience shows that hostile forces at home and overseas will seize the chance to make trouble when our party and our country are busy dealing with important issues,' the article said, referring to the top leadership shake-up due at this autumn's party congress.
'We should unswervingly advocate the absolute leadership of the party and implement it ... to make sure the whole army listens to the central leadership of the party as well as CMC chairman Hu.'
The article follows rumours that the deputy chief of general staff, Zhang Qinsheng, a front runner to succeed Liang Guanglei as defence minister, is under investigation for supporting 'army nationalisation'. Zhang made a public appearance at the annual session of the National People's Congress in Beijing early this month, but he refused to be drawn on speculation over his alleged 'wrong ideas'.
Since January, top brass on the CMC including vice-chairman Xu Caihou, Liang, Chief of the General Staff Chen Bingde and Chief of the General Political Department Li Jinai have called on their comrades to support the party leadership. Those calls were backed by PLA deputies at the NPC meeting.
'The party and our country are demanding an army with a higher standard ahead of the coming party congress,' Xu told officers of the Guangdong Military Command during an inspection last week, the PLA Daily reported.
'All levels in the army should focus on the special requirements by studying chairman Hu's speech ... and ensure its ideological and political development are under control.'
A Shanghai-based retired senior colonel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the calls indicated that the party's central leadership wanted to rule out any uncertainty at the party congress.
'In today's top decision-making Politburo Standing Committee, none of them are heavyweights in the army like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping [were],' he said.
'The current ideological campaign of the party's central leadership indicates Hu wants to consolidate his grip on the army because the other PLA leaders in the CMC were promoted by Jiang Zemin .
'Hu might want to pave the way for Xi Jinping to succeed him as CMC chairman in the future.' He said the protestations of allegiance to Hu by Xu, Liang and other PLA leaders showed their willingness to co-operate with Hu.
'Since many leaders in the CMC like Xu and Liang will retire after the party congress this autumn, their friendly co-operation will help them to increase their political capital even when they retire,' the retired senior colonel said.
The PLA, the world's largest military force, has about this many members