Pres­i­dent is prime mover be­hind his­toric re­vamp of na­tion’s mil­i­tary

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­

The Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army has been un­der­go­ing a his­toric re­form guided by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping since late 2012, when Xi be­came top leader of the Com­mu­nist Party of China and the Chi­nese mil­i­tary.

The re­form has re­sulted in the big­gest over­haul of the PLA in decades. The se­nior gov­ern­ing bod­ies of the world’s largest mil­i­tary have been reshuf­fled — up to the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion — to op­ti­mize the com­mand chain. The re­gional com­mand sys­tems have been re­or­ga­nized to boost joint com­bat abil­ity. Group armies and in­sti­tu­tions have been merged to im­prove ef­fi­ciency, and new high-tech­nol­ogy units set up to pre­pare for non­tra­di­tional fields such as cy­berspace.

Changes con­tinue in the life of al­most ev­ery PLA mem­ber. Many of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing hun­dreds of gen­er­als, have been moved to new po­si­tions while some re­turned to civil­ian life. Sol­diers are now spend­ing more time in com­bat training and live-fire ex­er­cises, and cor­rupt com­man­ders have been ex­pelled and pun­ished.

“This is a com­pre­hen­sive and rev­o­lu­tion­ary re­form, which dif­fers from all pre­vi­ous re­forms in PLA history and all re­forms of for­eign mil­i­taries. There is no model to re­fer to. You can imagine how dif­fi­cult it is,” said He Renxue, deputy di­rec­tor of the CMC’s Re­form and Or­ga­ni­za­tional Struc­ture Of­fice.

While the PLA is pre­par­ing to cel­e­brate its 90th birth­day on Tues­day, it is also ready to em­brace more changes in the years to come. The changes have one goal: to make the PLA stronger, more in­te­grated and more flex­i­ble so it will al­ways be able to win mod­ern wars.

New chap­ter

Be­hind the achievements, a sweep­ing anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign within the mil­i­tary has also contributed greatly to re­shap­ing the PLA. More than 100 se­nior of­fi­cers at the rank of ma­jor gen­eral or higher — in­clud­ing Xu Cai­hou and Guo Box­iong, two for­mer vicechair­men of the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion — have been crim­i­nally con­victed or given in­ter­nal pun­ish­ment since Xi took of­fice in 2012, mil­i­tary news­pa­per PLA Daily said.

Not long af­ter Xi was elected top leader in Novem­ber 2012, he an­nounced his de­ter­mi­na­tion to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the PLA and to build it into a mighty force ca­pa­ble of safe­guard­ing China’s se­cu­rity and in­ter­ests.

This was be­cause “China is at a cru­cial stage in its path to­ward be­com­ing a world power” and “the coun­try is fac­ing new sit­u­a­tions and new chal­lenges when it comes to its se­cu­rity and devel­op­ment”, so the Chi­nese mil­i­tary must be aware of its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and prob­lems and make com­pre­hen­sive changes, the pres­i­dent said.

“Without a strong mil­i­tary and a strong na­tional de­fense, we could not achieve our goal of build­ing a strong coun­try,” said Luo Yuan, a se­nior ex­pert at the PLA Academy of Mil­i­tary

Science. “To safe­guard na­tional se­cu­rity and devel­op­ment in­ter­est, we must have a com­pat­i­ble mil­i­tary force.”

In Novem­ber 2013, a ple­nary ses­sion of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee de­clared a for­mal de­ci­sion to un­der­take mas­sive mil­i­tary re­form. In March 2014, the CMC es­tab­lished a group un­der Xi’s lead­er­ship tasked with draw­ing up a road map for the re­form and guid­ing its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

In July 2015, an over­all re­form plan was ap­proved by top Party and mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties. Four months later, the plan was un­veiled, with goals to be achieved be­fore 2020. The last day of 2015 saw es­tab­lish­ment of the PLA Ground Force Head­quar­ters, PLA Rocket Force and PLA Strate­gic Sup­port Force, which for­mally started the his­toric shake-up.

In Jan­uary 2016, the four top PLA de­part­ments — staff, pol­i­tics, lo­gis­tics and ar­ma­ments — were dis­banded and their func­tions and du­ties handed to 15 new agen­cies un­der the di­rect con­trol of the CMC.

Soon af­ter, re­gional sys­tems also were reshuf­fled into the Eastern, South­ern, West­ern, North­ern and Cen­tral the­ater com­mands. They re­placed seven re­gional com­mands named af­ter their head­quar­ters cities: Bei­jing, Shenyang, Ji­nan, Lanzhou, Nan­jing, Chengdu and Guangzhou. The CMC also es­tab­lished the Joint Oper­a­tions Com­mand Cen­ter and Joint Lo­gis­tics Sup­port Force.

From De­cem­ber 2016 to April, the PLA Ground Force re­duced the num­ber of its group armies from 18 to 13. Also, the PLA’s schools were cut from 74 to 43.

“The mil­i­tary re­form greatly cut the size of the Ground Force ... and the staff of the Ground Force has dropped be­low 50 per­cent of the en­tire PLA,” said Gen­eral Li Zuocheng, com­man­der of the PLA Ground Force. Li added that the slim­ming is to turn China’s tra­di­tional mas­sive land force into a strong, mod­ern new army.

The Navy and Rocket Force, how­ever, were ex­panded. The num­ber of non­com­bat­ant per­son­nel shrank, with slots al­lot­ted to fight­ing units.

The PLA has a goal of cut­ting its troops by 300,000, but the num­ber of com­bat­ants has in­creased, said PLA Daily.

The guide­lines, mea­sures and steps of the mil­i­tary re­form have all been planned un­der di­rect in­struc­tions from Xi, the news­pa­per said, not­ing that the pres­i­dent per­son­ally re­viewed key re­form doc­u­ments and met with se­nior of­fi­cers who were to lead im­por­tant units.

Ma­jor Gen­eral Zhang Yu, deputy di­rec­tor of the CMC’s Re­form and Or­ga­ni­za­tional Struc­ture Of­fice, said that Xi’s po­lit­i­cal wis­dom and de­ter­mi­na­tion are the most im­por­tant fac­tors ad­vanc­ing re­form.

Com­bat training pri­or­ity

Each time Xi in­spected a fight­ing unit, he would al­ways raise the sig­nif­i­cance of com­bat readi­ness and joint oper­a­tions ca­pa­bil­ity, urg­ing com­man­ders and sol­diers to treat them as their top pri­or­ity.

Each com­bat­ant branch of the PLA — the Ground Force, Navy, Air Force and Rocket Force — has seen re­al­is­tic training drills and ex­er­cises in­tensi- fied due to Xi’s at­ten­tion. In 2016 alone, 15 in­fantry, ar­tillery and air de­fense brigades from the Ground Force took part in over 100 live-fire ex­er­cises.

At the height of the ex­er­cises, there were over 400,000 troops si­mul­ta­ne­ously con­duct­ing drills on plateaus, is­lands, moun­tains and deserts.

Ev­ery year, each of the Navy’s com­bat ships and sub­marines spends nearly eight months at sea on pa­trols, training and ex­er­cises. Ev­ery day, dozens of air­craft, over 100 ships and sub­marines, and thou­sands of Navy per­son­nel are in oper­a­tion, of­fi­cial doc­u­ments say.

The Chi­nese and Rus­sian navies are hold­ing joint an­nual ex­er­cises in the Baltic Sea this week, the first time the Chi­nese Navy has par­tic­i­pated in drills in Europe.

In the Air Force, freestyle fight­ing, live-fire land strikes and long-range sea pa­trols have be­come reg­u­lar training sub­jects for all fighter jet and bomber units.

Each year, the Air Force Head­quar­ters or­ga­nizes four large ex­er­cises for dif­fer­ent units and th­ese ex­er­cises in­volve the use of so­phis­ti­cated ma­neu­vers, cut­ting-edge weapons and elec­tronic coun­ter­mea­sures.

The Rocket Force has launched hun­dreds of mis­siles in about 40 live-fire ex­er­cises and en­gaged in more than 30 joint drills on its own and with other mil­i­tary branches over the past sev­eral years.

Xi has re­peat­edly stressed the role of science, tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion in the Chi­nese mil­i­tary. He also at­taches great im­por­tance to the civil-mil­i­tary in­te­gra­tion.

In China, civil-mil­i­tary in­te­gra­tion gen­er­ally refers to the mil­i­tary and de­fense in­dus­try trans­fer­ring tech­nolo­gies to civil­ian sec­tors and com­mis­sion­ing pri­vate com­pa­nies to carry out re­search and devel­op­ment for the mil­i­tary.

In a meet­ing with na­tional leg­is­la­tors from the armed forces in March, Xi said the mil­i­tary should take ad­van­tage of China’s achievements in science and tech­nol­ogy to help mod­ern­ize its weapons and equip­ment.

The pres­i­dent told of­fi­cers to look for, sup­port and make full use of ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies that can serve the mil­i­tary’s mod­ern­iza­tion and to as­sist the trans­fer of de­fense tech­nolo­gies to the busi­ness sec­tor.

At a cer­e­mony last week mark­ing the re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of three top PLA in­sti­tu­tions, Xi said science and tech­nol­ogy de­ter­mine a mil­i­tary’s com­bat ca­pa­bil­ity, so the PLA must make more ef­fort in its re­search and devel­op­ment and con­tinue to boost in­no­va­tion.

Upon Xi’s request, the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee has es­tab­lished a Cen­tral Com­mis­sion for In­te­grated Mil­i­tary and Civil­ian Devel­op­ment to fos­ter the work.

The PLA, ben­e­fit­ing from strength­ened ef­forts in re­search and devel­op­ment, has added some of the world’s top weaponry, in­clud­ing the Type-99A main bat­tle tank, J-20 stealth fighter jet and DF-21D anti-ship bal­lis­tic mis­sile.

It is also devel­op­ing a longrange strate­gic bomber and build­ing a new air­craft car­rier as well as a guided-mis­sile de­stroyer called by ex­perts the world’s most ad­vanced of its kind.

pass through the cross­bound­ary re­stricted area; 3. Hong Kong Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment and the Cus­toms will be at the first gate for de­part­ing pas­sen­gers and last gate for ar­riv­ing pas­sen­gers, mak­ing sure the whole pro­ce­dure is safe and le­gal.

Three steps to adopt the ar­range­ment: 1. The main­land and Hong Kong SAR are to reach a co­op­er­a­tion ar­range­ment in re­la­tion to im­ple­men­ta­tion of the co-lo­ca­tion ar­range­ment; 2. The Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee ap­proves and en­dorses the co-oper­a­tion ar­range­ment by mak­ing a de­ci­sion; 3. Both sides im­ple­ment the ar­range­ment pur­suant to their re­spec­tive pro­ce­dures. Hong Kong will need to en­act lo­cal leg­is­la­tion. The mil­i­tary re­form greatly cut the size of the Ground Force ... (to) be­low 50 per­cent of the en­tire PLA.”

Gen­eral Li Zuocheng, com­man­der of the PLA Ground Force


Chi­nese and Rus­sian sailors un­dergo joint training at the Baltiysk naval base in Kalin­ingrad, Rus­sia, on Mon­day. This is the first time the Chi­nese Navy has par­tic­i­pated in drills in Europe.

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