Xi outlines off-base conduct rules in bid to clean up military
Two orders governing soldiers' off-duty behaviour and how the military promotes Communist Party cadres represent the latest push in President Xi Jinping's effort to professionalise the People's Liberation Army.
In his capacity as chief of the decision-making Central Military Commission (CMC), Xi ordered more restrictions on soldiers' conduct while off base, including increased military police powers. He also called for military leaders at all levels to establish fairer systems for recruiting and cultivating party members.
Analysts said the moves further illustrate Xi's determination to clean up the PLA, which has long been criticised for lax discipline and corruption.
"The delivery of those orders showed the public that Xi is confident and determined to restrain the army, to turn it into a disciplined and capable modern army," said Xu Guangyu , a retired PLA general and military analyst.
The rampant corruption in the PLA - which, with some 2.25 million personnel, is the world's largest military force - has been an open secret for years. But the problem has been hard to fix because the PLA, unlike most other major world fighting forces, serves the party, not the state.
Since becoming commander-in-chief in November, Xi has issued at least eight major orders seeking to modernise the military and enforce discipline.
Xi has required all senior officers to spend at least two weeks a year serving alongside the soldiers of the lowest ranks. He has also banned military licences for luxury cars and introduced a registration system for military number plates, as the abuse of such credentials has bred much public resentment.
Xu said Xi's familiarity with PLA affairs, including a stint in his late 20s as an aide to a secretary-general of the CMC, had given him the knowledge and confidence to pursue reform.
"Xi dares to promote such a thankless mission because of his background and his military experience," Xu said. "He knows the army's corrupt practices."
The latest orders were issued within a day of each other last week. The first, which takes effect on October 1, National Day, revised the PLA Garrison Ordinance to better ensure servicemen adhere to army rules while off base, the PLA Daily reported.
Xu said the ordinance would also make it possible for civilians to report any wrongdoings or misbehaviour by soldiers. Military police will also increase patrols outside garrisons to make sure soldiers behave themselves.
"The garrison ordinance and other guidelines are aimed at restoring PLA's morality and its soul and during today's time of peace," Xu said, adding that doing would also make the military more combat-ready.
Dr Zeng Zhiping , a retired lieutenant colonel and military law expert, said Xi's two immediate predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao , paved the way for reform by improving soldiers pay and benefits and modernising their equipment.
"The two key problems were solved, so Xi can now speak loudly to army," said Zeng, of the Nanchang Institute of Technology in Jiangxi . "Now, it's their turn to meet the requirement of being a modern army."