China’s military top brass gather to hone modern warfare preparations

Hundreds of senior commanders gather for training session in Xinjiang region amid ongoing drive to transform PLA into up-to-date fighting force

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 8:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 10:35pm

Four hundred senior Chinese army officers have met for a training session focusing on modern land warfare techniques, state media has reported.

Senior officers and commanders from the People’s Liberation Army’s Ground Forces began a four-day training session in Korla city in the northwestern region of Xinjiang on Tuesday, according to a report from state news agency Xinhua published on the same day.

The PLA is in the process of undergoing an extensive overhaul with the aim of making it a modern fighting force with the ability to project its influence over a long range.

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Xinhua’s report said the officers present at the exercise had “experienced a simulated future war, war-zone scenarios, and lived a combat-ready routine”.

“The focus is on centralising teaching, encouraging reflection and review … and to discuss and exchange thoughts.”

Han Weiguo, the commander of the Ground Forces, and political commissar Liu Lei were among the attendees.

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The PLA has stepped up its training programme since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012 and began the drive to overhaul its capabilities.

The revamp aims to transform the Ground Force into a fully modernised army capable of conducting joint operations with sea and air-based forces by 2035 and the world’s top-ranked military force by 2050.

Song Zhongping, a former instructor with the PLA’s Second Artillery Corps, said this training was aimed at standardising training for land troops under new guidelines released in January.

“The focus on future training would include an emphasis on equipping the troops for live combat experiences,” he said. “This needs a unified management.”

He added that the presence of Han and Liu showed that the nature of this training was an “educational” one, and was intended to pass on directions and ideology from the top down.

“The mechanism of how to operate jointly with other forces is something the Ground Force will need to explore,” Song said.

“It is not just about operational changes, but will require a change in mindset from the commanders.”

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Under the military reforms, Ground Forces Command will be given responsibility for training land troops, but in the event of combat they would be under the supervision of five regional theatre commands.

Song did not see any significance in choosing a military base in Xinjiang for the training and said future exercises could be rotated between different areas.

However, the situation in the vast western region, which has a large Uygur population, is particularly tense with an extensive security and surveillance apparatus in place.

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The Chinese authorities are worried about the threat to stability from what it characterises as the East Turkestan independence movement and religious extremism, but human rights groups have warned than tens of thousands of civilians may have been detained in re-education camps.

The territory falls under the jurisdiction of China’s Western Theatre Command which is responsible for guarding half of China’s land territory.

The theatre covers challenging mountainous terrain and a long border, including territory disputed between China and India.