The PLA aims to beef up its troops' combat readiness and prepare for actual war situations through exercises this year, according to the latest annual training directive, amid escalating tensions between China and Japan over territorial disputes in the East China Sea.
"In 2013, the goal set for the entire army and the People's Armed Police force is to bolster their capabilities to fight and their ability to win a war … to be well-prepared for a war by subjecting the army to hard and rigorous training on an actual combat basis," according to yesterday's People's Liberation Army Daily, which referred to a training blueprint issued by the PLA's Department of the General Staff for the entire force.
The directive came in stark contrast to that of its predecessor. In last year's directive, more emphasis was placed on joint military trainings and co-ordination among different PLA services.
This year's statement stresses the urgency of real combat abilities in all military training by repeating the phrase "fighting wars", or dazhang, as many as 10 times in the article, which was no more than 1,000 words. The phrase did not appear in last year's directive.
The changes could be a result of the rising tensions in waters between China and Japan, while they might also indicate that there is a different focus for the PLA, since the Central Military Commission's chairman Hu Jintao was succeeded by Xi Jinping , the new PLA commander-in-chief since November.
Separately, state broadcast media reported in the past week that the PLA's naval air force kicked off the open-sea training portion of its annual exercise programme. No details were given on the specific dates or duration.
The General Staff department's training directive came a day after Japan's Self-Defence Forces conducted a massive military exercise on training grounds in Narashino, on the outskirts of Tokyo, on Sunday, in which 20 aircraft, 300 personnel and 33 vehicles participated.
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera issued a statement after the drill insisting that Chinese ships had trespassed in "Japanese waters" near the Senkaku Islands, which are known in China as the Diaoyus, and that the security surrounding Japan was therefore being tightened.
The disputed chain of islands in the East China Sea has been claimed by both China and Japan since the early 1970s.
Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canada-based Kanwa Defence Review, said, "The PLA is making its propaganda voice louder this year, aside from shifting their target to Japan instead of the Philippines last year," adding the statement was more or less the same as last year's.