President Xi Jinping has ordered the military to boost its battlefield capabilities and address its weaknesses to cope with the more complicated security challenges caused by the nation’s growing stature in the world. In a lengthy article in the PLA Daily yesterday summarising his vision for the People’s Liberation Army, Xi said if nothing was done to improve the force’s capabilities it would not be able to deal with the growing national security risks associated with the country’s rising economic might. PLA steps up drills in southeast ‘targeted at Taiwan and US’ Analysts said the publication of the article, which comes amid an overhaul of the military’s command structure and rising tensions over territorial disputes with neighbours, indicated Xi wanted to boost the military’s all-round capabilities, rather than focus solely on areas such as hi-tech weapons or cyberwarfare. The article said the army had won wars in the past, but it had shortcomings and weaknesses that needed to be addressed. “There is still a big gap between the modernisation of our army and the demands of national security. The gap between our army and other advanced militaries in the world is still very large,” the article said. “There would be serious political implications if our army could not win a war in the battlefield.” The article said Xi, who chairs the Central Military Commission, paid high regard to national defence, and had ordered the army to better integrate its units to improve combat readiness and emphasise the leadership of the Communist Party. “Obedience to the party’s command is the first priority for building the army, and the lifeline of the army,” Xi said. “If we do not stick to this, the army would become a loser no matter how hard it worked on other things.” ‘More PLA drills mean more military jet crashes’ as China ramps up combat readiness The nation faced increasing efforts by others to contain its rise and a complicated international security environment that required a stronger army, he said. Xi’s far-reaching anti-graft campaign has led to the downfall of numerous top army officials while his military reform plans have regrouped the former seven military commands into five theatre commands. At the same time, the PLA is engaged in rising confrontations with the United States over the disputed South China Sea. Last week, two Chinese J-11 fighter jets intercepted a US EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft. ‘Underwater Great Wall’: Chinese firm proposes building network of submarine detectors to boost nation’s defence Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military affairs commentator, said the article indicated Xi wanted to boost the army’s capabilities across the board – rather than the approach favoured by his predecessors, which was to focus on technological advancement. The publication of the article was related to the tensions over the South China Sea, Ni said. Ni said that by stressing the need to boost defence building to match the growing requirements brought about by China’s economic development, the top leadership might find that China had not allocated sufficient money for national defence in past years. Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said the article was not a departure from Xi’s previously expressed views. “After purging quite a number of high and medium ranking military officers, Xi may be worrying about the degradation of the rank-and-file soldiers,” he said.