PLA generals take rare step of swearing loyalty to President Xi Jinping

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 5:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 5:34am

Eighteen senior generals of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) swore allegiance to their commander-in-chief, President Xi Jinping - a rare move that analysts say reflects Xi's strong hold on the military.

But the analysts speculated that it also reflected the precarious atmosphere within the ranks as the party launches a high-profile anti-graft campaign in the PLA.

During a study meeting on Xi's military philosophy last week, the generals made speeches vowing to study hard and implement Xi's thoughts on defence and military strategy.

They included air force commander-in-chief Ma Xiaotian , the commanders of China's seven military regions and the paramilitary police, the deputy commanders of the navy and second artillery force, the presidents of China's three top military academies and senior officers with the four PLA service departments.

The PLA Daily yesterday devoted two full pages to speeches. Qian Gang, a media researcher at the University of Hong Kong who once worked for the newspaper, said that type of coverage was rare.

Zhang Lifan , a Beijing-based political affairs commentator, said the loyalty check could also safeguard the generals' careers.

This week, former PLA deputy logistics chief Gu Junshan was charged with a raft of corruption charges, while his former boss and ally, former Central Military Commission (CMC) vice-chairman Xu Caihou , was detained.

"It might be related to the recent anti-corruption campaign in the military and reflects some kind of nervous atmosphere in the military. Everybody in the military needs to swear loyalty [to Xi]," said Zhang.

As CMC chairman, Xi is the highest commander of the nation's forces. Unlike his predecessor Hu Jintao , Xi quickly consolidated his military influence in late 2012, promoting dozens of senior generals.

Last month the CMC ordered all military units to hang the inscriptions of five former and current top leaders, including Xi, in their meeting rooms. "[That aims] to make clear the top position of Xi and the generals are expressing their loyalty … through the newspaper," said Zhang.