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People's Liberation Army

Xi repeats demand for China’s military to serve party

President delivers his call to the restructured corps-level units at PLA headquarters

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 11:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 11:29pm

President Xi Jinping has demanded military units be absolutely loyal to the Communist Party, in a call that comes just months before a key political meeting in the autumn, state ­media reported.

Speaking at the PLA’s headquarters in Beijing on Tuesday, Xi also said the army should remain on high alert and be ready for war at any time, according to the PLA Daily website.

Xi, who chairs the overarching Central Military Commission, delivered the imperative to chief officers of the 84 newly restructured corps-level units, which fall under the 15 main departments of the PLA.

He has made similar calls for the military to serve the party in the past, but this was the first one directed at the new units.

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His remarks come as the party prepares for a major congress, held once every five years, in the autumn. A majority of the seats on the Politburo Standing Committee are expected to change, and Xi is likely to use the transition to ­further consolidate his power.

Xi has launched sweeping reforms of the military including an unprecedented anti-corruption drive that led to the downfall of many high-ranking officers, including former CMC vice-chairmen Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong.

He is also cutting troop levels by 300,000 and streamlining organisation and command structures to turn the military into a more effective fighting force as China grows increasingly assertive about its sovereignty claims in the Asia-Pacific region and seeks to expand its military prowess overseas.

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Xi said the creation of the 84 units was a major step towards building a world-class army that could safeguard national sovereignty, safety and interests, ­according to the report.

Retired PLA Major General Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher at the Beijing-based China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said the corps-level units were rebuilt after Xi kicked off the overhaul in late 2015.

These include provincial military commands, military academies and universities that come directly under the Defence Ministry, and head offices of the land, navy, air force, and rocket force.

“The new structure also indicates President Xi’s efforts to turn the PLA into a nimble and capable modern fighting force,” Xu said.