Chinese military overhaul to tighten Xi Jinping’s grip on armed forces, say analysts

New agencies to be controlled directly by the Central Military Commission, which the president heads

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 January, 2016, 1:47am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 January, 2016, 1:47am

President Xi Jinping is seeking to consolidate power in the Central Military Commission by dissolving the four main headquarters of the armed forces and putting 15 new agencies in their place, military analysts said yesterday.

Under sweeping changes to the military, the headquarters of the General Staff, General Political, General Logistics and General Armaments departments are being replaced with seven departments, three commissions and five affiliated institutions, state-run CCTV reported on Monday.

The new units will come under the CMC’s direct control rather than be overseen by one of the headquarters.

Defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said the agencies would become “advisory, implementation and service bodies to the CMC”.

Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military analyst, said the restructure would help the agencies focus on their jobs and improve overall combat readiness.

“The flattening of the power structure enables fast and effective implementation of the CMC’s will,” he said.

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Analysts said Xi, who heads the CMC, had shown determination to shake up the army, especially in contrast to his predecessor, Hu Jintao, who was treated as a figurehead by his deputies who had close ties to former president Jiang Zemin, the South China Morning Post reported earlier.

Xi addressed the heads of the new agencies on Monday and called on them to firmly obey the Communist Party and the CMC.

Of the heavyweights at the meeting, General Wang Hongyao, previously the political commissar of the General Armaments Headquarters, was most likely to head the new CMC Joint Staff Department, the combat command unit of the armed forces, observers said.

Wang, 64, is a member of the party’s Central Committee and was seated first after the CMC members. He came after Rocket Force commander General Wei Fenghe, and before CMC General Office director Lieutenant General Qin Shengxiang.

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“Those key posts should be staffed by heavyweight individuals,” Ni said.

General Zhang Yang, 64, previously chief of the General Political Department, has been officially confirmed as the head of the new CMC Political Work Department.

General Du Jincai, 63, deputy secretary of the party’s Central Commission of Discipline Inspection, is tipped to head the new CMC Discipline Inspection Commission.

Discipline inspection was likely to play a large part in Xi’s military overhaul, said Chen Daoyin, a military analyst at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

Corruption in the military had been a priority issue since the toppling of former CMC vice-chairman Guo Boxiong and former chief of the General Political Department Xu Caihou, Ni said.

Xi urged the officers to draw lessons from the fall of Guo and Xu, and to combat graft.

Chen said Xi’s overhaul would ensure those filling the top jobs would be loyal first and foremost to the CMC, or Xi himself.

Confirmed appointments (and previous post)

  • General Office: Qin Shengxiang (director of General Office)
  • Political Work Department: Zhang Yang (chief of General Political Department)
  • Science and Technology Commission: Liu Guozhi (director of science and technology committee of General Armaments Department)

Expected appointments:

  • Joint Staff Department: Wang Hongyao (political commissar of armaments department)
  • Discipline Inspection Commission: Du Jincai (deputy secretary of CCDI)
  • Politics and Law Commission: Li Xiaofeng(chief procurator of the military procuratorate)
  • Office for International Military Cooperation: Guan Youfei (director of defence ministry’s foreign affairs office)
  • Audit Office: Guo Chunfu (chief auditor of PLA