China’s 20th Party Congress
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According to one military insider, anti-graft efforts within the PLA have faced resistance among some mid-level officers. Photo: AP

Xi says China’s military must push political education, anti-corruption efforts

  • In speech to party congress, President Xi Jinping highlights achievements of anti-graft campaign, which has purged hundreds of generals
  • Military law expert says Xi believes PLA can play role of political ‘stabiliser’ as China faces problems at home and overseas
President Xi Jinping told the 20th party congress China must strengthen ideological education and continue its unprecedented anti-corruption campaign within the People’s Liberation Army, a move analysts say is necessary to keep senior military officers in line.
In his work report to the opening of the 20th party congress on Sunday, Xi reiterated his achievements in a sweeping anti-graft campaign targeting party and military officials. He called the campaign a “self-targeted revolution” to help the Communist Party escape the “historical cycle of the rise and fall of governance” and ensure its long-term rule.

Xi, also the chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), said the PLA will push political education and disciplinary training as part of its anti-corruption movement.

He said the military must establish a comprehensive political education system by upholding the party’s motto of “absolute leadership of the gun”, ensure the PLA is a loyal armed force under his leadership with an effective CMC chairmanship system and improve education about the Red Army, the PLA’s predecessor.

“[We should] accelerate the establishment of the party’s [ideological] organisation system in the military by promoting the normalisation and institutionalisation of political education and persistently push the anti-corruption campaign forward,” he told more than 2,000 party delegates on Sunday.

Xi introduced an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign in late 2012 when he took the helm of the PLA and the position of party general secretary. The movement has purged hundreds of PLA generals, including two former CMC vice-chairmen, as well as other top officers.

After a decade of anti-graft efforts, the campaign has become “a sword hanging over all the heads of all senior PLA officers”, said Chen Daoyin, a political commentator and former professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law now based in Chile.

‘Use of military power needs to be normalised’, Xi Jinping tells congress

Xi has promoted the study of the “Red Army Spirit” by revisiting revolutionary historical sites, Chen said, noting that this tactic was taken from Mao Zedong’s teachings to the PLA, which called on the military to become “Mao’s good soldiers”. “Now the PLA soldiers all need to be Chairman Xi’s good soldiers,” Chen said.

From May to September, the PLA staged a comprehensive political education campaign, according to a report published by the defence ministry on May 31.

A military insider said the political education campaign came as the anti-graft drive faced strong resistance among mid-ranking officers.

“Senior generals who are expected to be promoted might become very cleanhanded, but mid-level cadres who have lost hope for promotion might still try to make money before retirement,” said the insider, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.


Explainer: How did Xi Jinping rise to power in China?

Explainer: How did Xi Jinping rise to power in China?

The source said that promotions could be affected if an officer’s spouse, children or relatives were involved in anti-graft investigations, which some officers found unfair.

Retired PLA lieutenant colonel Zeng Zhiping, a military law expert at Suzhou City University, said Xi’s remarks on the importance of anti-graft efforts indicated his strong attention to the military’s role in the country’s stability.

“Xi believes the PLA could play the role of a political ‘stabiliser’ in China, especially when he needs to tackle so many problems at home and overseas,” Zeng said.