New Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping ordered the People's Liberation Army to intensify its "real combat" awareness in order to sustain military readiness in his first reported visits to military bases during his just-concluded tour of Guangdong.
Xi made the remarks during inspections conducted from Saturday to Monday in the PLA's Guangzhou military theatre of operations, a term usually used during wartime to emphasise the co-ordination of air, land and sea forces, the state-run Xinhua news agency said yesterday.
Xi took over from Hu Jintao as party general secretary and chairman of the party's Central Military Commission after the party's national congress last month, becoming commander-in-chief of the world's largest armed forces, with 2.3 million enlisted personnel. Xi will succeed Hu as president in March.
Xi wrapped up his five-day tour of Guangdong and returned to Beijing on Tuesday after making a string of high-profile calls for further reform and more opening up in his first inspection trip since becoming party chief. Xi visited military bases, facilities and camps in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai, including the PLA Navy's South China Sea fleet, where he boarded the destroyer Haikou.
During his visits, Xi watched training, inspected facilities and chatted and dined with officers and soldiers.
Xi also held separate meetings with senior PLA officers in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai, Xinhua reported. Sources also said Xi visited the 124th division of the 42nd Group Army in Luofushan, Huizhou, on Monday.
Xi's late father, Xi Zhongxun, served as a political commissar of the Guangzhou military district in the late '70s.
Xi reiterated the importance of the army's absolute obedience to the party and ordered officers to step up ideological education in the army.
"Whatever time and whatever circumstances, [the army] must listen to the party and follow the party," Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.
Analysts said that Xi's military visits and the high-profile Xinhua report suggested the new leader's eagerness to consolidate his power in the military.
"His high-profile visits to various army camps are designed to cement his image as an undisputed leader, not only of the party, but also the army," said Zhang Lifan , a political affairs analyst.
Xinhua said Xi asked PLA officers and non-commissioned officers to adopt real combat criteria in military training and intensify such awareness among soldiers. Xi also reaffirmed the PLA's core task of improving its ability to wage regional wars in the information age and conduct diversified military operations.