The People’s Liberation Army lacks an effective system of checks and balances to stamp out corruption, a failing that is holding it back from its ambition to become a modern fighting force, according to an influential Chinese defence adviser. In his latest book, The Victory of Heart , Professor Jin Yinan, former director of the strategic research institute at the PLA’s National Defence University, wrote that there was much that the Chinese armed forces could learn from their Western counterparts, especially in terms of professional management and budget controls. Chinese military institute puts focus on ‘urgent needs’ of frontline troops Jin said on Friday that he was impressed by the high management standards of Western militaries and that was one reason he wrote his book. The former director was sent to the United States and Britain for exchanges in the 1990s and was widely known for his criticism of the PLA over the years. Excerpts of the book were posted on a web forum this week, triggering discussions among Chinese military enthusiasts. The combat readiness of the PLA has been under growing scrutiny, especially since President Xi Jinping early this year ordered the military to improve training and step up preparation for war. In his book, Jin cited a survey by the National Defence University in 2008 in which many senior PLA officers said they spent much of their time and energy on “building relationships” instead of training and improving their battle skills. “[The commanders] said they could only afford to spend about 10 per cent of their time on combat training,” he wrote. “This is a long-standing sickness in our military.” Jin also said that PLA officers often earned their promotions not because of their achievements but because of nepotism and connections to senior commanders. China's military tackles combat readiness with new regulation But in the US, officers were promoted based on their combat experience and expertise, Jin said. “American officers told me that their careers were built upon ‘move and move’ ... rotation [among different postings] ... meaning that they don’t have to worry about cultivating relationships,” he wrote. By contrast, Chinese military officers spent long years serving within the same unit. He added that senior PLA officers had the discretion to approve major funding – often without oversight. He gave the example of disgraced former deputy logistics chief Gu Junshan, who granted 40 million yuan (US$5.9 million) of extra budget funding to the National Defence University in 1997 because he was pleased by the “hospitality” he received in a school visit. “Gu had the power to approve the 40 million yuan of special funds because he was in charge of finance. There was no check and balance at all,” Jin wrote. “He didn’t need to report it to his boss or to have discussions with any leaders.” Chinese navy veteran warns training, not hardware is key to military preparedness Gu was later charged with embezzlement, bribery, misuse of state funds and abuse of power, and was given a suspended death sentence with a two-year reprieve for corruption in 2015. A retired PLA senior colonel said the example was just the tip of the iceberg of the PLA’s problems. “When I was serving in an army unit in Chongqing in 1990, I witnessed a senior logistics officer from the then Chengdu Military Command order a logistics major from our group to drink liquor, saying he would approve funding for us based on how much liquor he could drink,” the retired officer said.