Xi’s pro­found changes to the PLA on dis­play

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

It was the first time a large-scale pa­rade had been staged as part of com­mem­o­ra­tions to mark the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, which cel­e­brates its 90th birth­day on Tues­day. It was the first time a pa­rade of such scale and im­por­tance has been held in the field. It was the first time Pres­i­dent and PLA com­man­der-in­chief Xi Jin­ping was seen in PLA fa­tigues on an oc­ca­sion like this. It was the first time some of the PLA’s new weapons made their me­dia de­but.

All th­ese firsts oc­curred on Sun­day at Zhurihe in the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion, which is the PLA’s largest and most so­phis­ti­cated com­bined tac­tics train­ing base.

That the show was staged at the once mys­te­ri­ous Zhurihe, a train­ing base de­voted specif­i­cally to drills in sim­u­lated com­bat en­vi­ron­ments, where the PLA’s lat­est weapons along with its lat­est tac­tics and meth­ods of op­er­a­tion are tested, was not only fur­ther proof that the PLA is em­brac­ing greater trans­parency but also a sign of its greater self-con­fi­dence.

China’s past ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing rav­aged by for­eign pow­ers has cul­ti­vated in Xi an acute aware­ness of the na­tion’s need for a strong, ca­pa­ble mil­i­tary.

Although to some scru­ti­niz­ing it from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive it may have sent a di­ver­gent mes­sage, as Xi told the PLA troops on pa­rade on Sun­day, the coun­try needs a strong mil­i­tary “more than ever” as the world is far from tran­quil, and the coun­try’s peace needs to be guarded.

And cer­tainly, above all, Sun­day’s pa­rade was a re­view of the mil­i­tary re­form Xi has mas­ter­minded and presided over.

Barely a year af­ter he as­sumed lead­er­ship of the Com­mu­nist Party of China in 2012, Xi in­cor­po­rated na­tional de­fense and mil­i­tary re­form into the coun­try’s com­pre­hen­sive re­form plans. For the first time in his­tory, na­tional de­fense and mil­i­tary re­form were writ­ten into the res­o­lu­tions of a CPC plenum as an in­de­pen­dent sec­tion.

Two years later, Xi of­fi­cially inau­gu­rated the on­go­ing re­forms amid a high-pro­file anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign within the PLA. An over­all plan was an­nounced in July, fol­lowed by a 300,000 cut in PLA troops in Septem­ber and an im­ple­men­ta­tion plan for com­mand sys­tem re­form in Oc­to­ber.

Since then, the PLA has re­al­ized a pro­found change in struc­ture and strate­gic think­ing.

The for­ma­tions at the Sun­day pa­rade were re­port­edly struc­tured in com­bat group­ings to re­flect the PLA’s new em­pha­sis on joint oper­a­tions, echo­ing Xi’s idea that com­bat ef­fec­tive­ness is the fun­da­men­tal gauge for the mil­i­tary, and demon­strat­ing that the PLA is get­ting closer to what Xi en­vi­sions as a leaner, more ca­pa­ble, world-class mod­ern mil­i­tary.

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