Chinese President Xi Jinping was seen in new military uniforms when he visited troops stationed near the border with Mongolia on Sunday, state media reported on Monday morning.
The visit is seen as the latest gesture in Xi’s campaign to further enhance his authority within the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and prioritise national defence on his political agenda.
Pictures published by the official news agency Xinhua showed Xi, in a military-issue overcoat, standing in thick snow and shaking hands with soldiers who patrolled the border with their horses. The PLA Daily said it was the first time Xi was wearing the new camouflage military uniform in public.
“I’m standing guard together with you today,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying to the troops. “The country and our people thank you [for your hard work].”
Other pictures from the visit, which caught Xi having a simple lunch with soldiers in their cafeteria, went viral on social media on Monday, as netizens pointed out that Xi was having steamed buns again -- after a much-publicised trip a month ago to a Beijing steamed-bun shop spawned a media craze and brought unprecedented business and publicity to the eatery chain.
Xi appears to enjoy a closer relationship with the military than his two predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Early in his political career, he had served as personal secretary to Geng Biao, a former defence minister and Central Military Commission (CMC) secretary general.
Since he became the chairman of CMC, the top commanding body of the Chinese military, in November 2012, Xi has visited army, navy, air force, missile and the paramilitary Armed Police units stationed in various parts of the country.
Former US defence secretary Robert Gates also noted in an interview On January 13 that Xi has greater control of the military than his predecessor, which increases the need for a strong White House relationship with him.