A frenzy of military propaganda that started more than six months ago calling for absolute loyalty to the Communist Party stands in stark contrast to the atmosphere before the party congress in 2002, analysts say, adding that it highlights concerns about the army's stability.
The People's Liberation Army Daily carried another article on its front page yesterday on the ideological education of the troops, this time written by General Li Jinai, a member of the Central Military Commission and a former chief of the PLA's General Political Department.
"[We] should strongly oppose the arguments for separation of the army from our party, a politically neutral army or the nationalisation of the PLA and other incorrect political ideas," Li wrote in the article, first published in the November issue of the party journal Qiushi.
Zhang Lifan , a Beijing-based political analyst, said such unease stemmed from too many "uncertainties" in the leadership reshuffle at this month's party congress.
"Today's political uncertainty in the top leadership has never happened since the party came to power in 1949," he said , referring to the next leadership line-up, which is apparently not finalised even though the congress opens in less than a week.
"And the sense of crisis today over the party's reign is comparable to the Tiananmen protests in 1989.
"In such a sensitive moment, the loyalty of the army becomes the most important pillar to support the central leadership's regime."
A web portal run by China Central Television yesterday picked up another PLA Daily commentary, originally issued in September, to play up the urgency and importance of the army's loyalty.
"Different kinds of noises [in the army] are definitely increasing as the 18th party congress gets close, with ideological battles and works becoming more critical and complicated," the commentary said, adding that the army's continued loyalty was the only way to ease the tension.
Zhang cited the example of the exclusion of General Liu Yuan and General Zhang Haiyang from recent military leadership promotions.
They have similar princeling backgrounds and were widely tipped for elevation to the Central Military Commission, the PLA's top decision-making body, before the fall of the former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai in March.
"Li and Zhang were squeezed out because they chose the wrong side," Zhang Lifan said, referring their close connection with Bo.
Bo was rumoured to have cultivated military connections to help his political career. Gu Su , a law professor at Nanjing University who is familiar with Chinese politics, said Bo's downfall had alerted the party to the need to keep a tight grip on the army's loyalty.
"The party should spare no efforts to stop any accidents similar to the Tiananmen incident in 1989 from happening, as well as to stop the army from listening to someone else," he said.
Another article in yesterday's PLA Daily highlighted a slogan - "I command the guns, but the party commands me" - that was shouted by a sniper who was selected as one of the army's representatives to the party's congress.