Chinese President Xi Jinping returns to public stage with renewed call for military loyalty to the Communist Party

Leader sending a message of his tight grip on power, political analyst says

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 August, 2018, 10:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 3:08pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that Communist Party control of the military would endure and gain in strength, as he addressed top brass in his the first public appearance since the country’s top echelon wrapped up an annual informal retreat last week.

China Central Television broadcast footage on Sunday of Xi meeting senior People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers and underscoring political loyalty as their top priority.

In the meeting, attended by the members of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) and the party bosses of the military’s various districts, departments and academies, Xi said strengthening the party’s leadership of the military would ensure the PLA “achieved its missions in the new era”.

Chinese political scientist Chen Daoyin said the president, who also heads the CMC, was emphasising his political authority.

“The Communist Party’s power is built on its grip on the military and propaganda. The meeting sends a message that Xi has a firm hold on power,” Chen said. “He called for discipline as strong as iron. He is presenting a strong image.”

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The meeting was convened after Xi and other members of the party’s inner circle, the Politburo Standing Committee, were away from the limelight for more than two weeks at the northern seaside resort of Beidaihe.

The gathering is one of the most important political events of the year and used to build consensus among party top leaders. The meeting was not announced publicly, but its start and end are signalled by the Standing Committee members’ absence from and reappearance in the public eye.

During the retreat, Chinese social media was roiled by an article by Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun criticising Xi’s administration. There has also been growing criticism online of Hu Angang, another Tsinghua professor, for his triumphalist claims that China has already overtaken the United States as a world leader in terms of economic and technological power.

Returning to state media centre-stage, Xi said the anticorruption campaign within the armed forces would continue, the military must be firmly under the party’s control, and the PLA should adapt quickly to its massive restructure.

“We have to be persistent and make a big effort to solve problems and conflicts, as well as meet the shortfalls in the party’s leadership over the military. We have to have even tighter party control ... in the military,” he said.

State media did not say whether Xi specified the shortfalls but in recent months veterans have staged protests – some of them violent – in various cities to demand better welfare benefits.

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China’s 57 million ex-military personnel have been fighting for years for a better deal in retirement. After several large-scale protests last year, Xi promised to tackle the issue, and in April, the Ministry of Veterans Affairs opened for business in Beijing.

Xi also attended a Politburo Standing Committee meeting on Thursday but no footage or photos of the gathering were released.

The meeting focused on handling of the aftermath of Changchun Changsheng Bio-technology vaccine scandal, China’s worst public health crisis in years.

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Four officials were fired for their role in the case, in which one the biggest vaccine makers was found to have produced substandard vaccines. Another six senior officials were also fired on Saturday and dozens more were punished.

During his first term, Xi launched an anticorruption campaign that toppled a series of senior military leaders, including former CMC vice-chairmen Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong.