Xi Jinping

President Xi Jinping heading party's military reform panel

Task requires more courage and determination than other reforms, defence analysts warn

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 March, 2014, 7:06pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 March, 2014, 11:05am

President Xi Jinping is heading a new steering group that will tackle reform of the military, a task one analyst said required more courage and determination than other areas targeted by the leadership for change.

The Communist Party's leading group for deepening reform of national defence and the armed forces held its first meeting yesterday, Xinhua reported. It was the first time state media had referred to the group.

Xi, head of the Central Military Commission, said the goal of armed forces reform was to "build a strong army".

"National defence and military reform are important parts and an important symbol of China's overall reform," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying in the meeting. Change would proceed in a "proactive yet prudent" manner.

The Communist Party has established several new steering groups after senior members approved the reform blueprints of Xi's administration in November.

So far, Xi is chairing all of the new panels, including the powerful National Security Commission and the central leading group on comprehensively deepening reforms. State media also reported this month that Xi was head of a new internet security panel.

Xinhua said both vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission, General Fan Changlong and General Xu Qiliang, serve as the leading group's deputy heads.

Ni Lexiong, director of a defence policy research centre at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said Xi's new role was a response to the need to strengthen the military at a time of growing tension with some of China's neighbours.

"The military reform is the most important one in terms of implications. Xi is the only person who can handle it and it is a good opportunity to strengthen his authority over the army by pursuing new policies and making appointments," he said.

Yue Gang, a retired colonel, warned that the leadership may face a challenge in shaping the distribution of political power among military officials.

The reform, which was very likely to change the command structure by improving co-ordination between the different parts of the armed forces, would hurt the interests of power groups in the PLA, Yue said.

"Such reforms need more courage and determination to kick off," he said.

Xi said that reform of the armed forces should ensure the Communist Party's "absolute leadership" over the military, according to Xinhua.