China's joint military exercise between key regions tests war capability
An exercise involving more than 40,000 People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers from the Nanjing and Guangzhou commands demonstrates that President Xi Jinping, chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), has overcome the traditional rivalry between these powerful military regions, experts say.
The Mission Action 2013 drill aims to test the combat capabilities of the regions' land and air forces in joint operations.
The Nanjing and Guangzhou commands are the only two among the seven military regions to have been involved in actual combat, against Taiwan and Vietnam, since the late 1950s.
Half of the eight incumbent CMC members are from the Nanjing and Guangzhou regions. They are Fang Fenghui, Zhang Yang, Zhao Keshi and Ma Xiaotian.
Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said that of the PLA's seven military regions, Nanjing and Guangzhou are the last two to work together face to face.
"Battle achievements have made the Nanjing and Guangzhou commands into two powerful forces that have suffered from overwhelming sectarianism and bureaucratism," Wong said, adding that Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao had started to solve these problems.
"After years of efforts, it seems likely that Xi has successfully convinced generals of the two military regions to listen to him."
The PLA Daily said the two military commands were expected to manoeuvre more than 30,000 kilometres by road, rail, sea and air to test their capabilities in a real war situation.
The army would also test the co-ordination of different army units and organise co-operation between military and civilian forces.
Shanghai-based military expert Ni Lexiong said it was significant for soldiers from Nanjing and Guangzhou to work together. Both military regions have been designed to support each other in the event of attack by Taiwan or Vietnam, he said.
Beijing-based military commentator Xu Guangyu said there were a series of military exercises for air and naval forces, and now it was the turn of the land forces to show their muscle.
Another PLA drill to encourage co-operation among different commands and dubbed kuayue [Chinese for "stride"] was launched in 2009, with 50,000 heavily armoured troops from four military regions testing the army's long-distance mobility.