In Com­plete Con­trol!

Brig Gurmeet Kan­wal on China’s Xi Jin­ping who is

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Opinion -

As had been widely an­tic­i­pated, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping con­sol­i­dated his po­si­tion as the undis­puted “core” leader of China at the 19th Na­tional Congress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China held at Bei­jing in the third week of Oc­to­ber 2017. Xi was also re-elected to all three posts that he has been hold­ing for al­most five years since the 18th Na­tional Congress: Pres­i­dent of China, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary of the Com­mu­nist Party of China and the Chair­man of the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion (CMC).

In a move that placed him on the same pedestal as Mao Ze­dong and Deng Xiaop­ing, the Na­tional Congress unan­i­mously passed an amend­ment to the party’s con­sti­tu­tion to in­clude “Xi Jin­ping Thought on So­cial­ism with Chi­nese Char­ac­ter­is­tics for a New Era” in the party’s con­sti­tu­tion as one of its guid­ing prin­ci­ples.

Xi’s ‘ Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive’, an am­bi­tious in­fras­truc­ture de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme de­signed to link China with its re­gional neigh­bours and be­yond was also in­cluded in the party con­sti­tu­tion. Xi en­sured that only his pro­tégés and those per­son­ally loyal to him were elected to the seven-mem­ber Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Polit­buro, China’s most pow­er­ful gov­ern­ing coun­cil.

Re­port Card

Read­ing out his ‘re­port card’ at the marathon open­ing ses­sion of the Na­tional Congress, Xi pre­sented China as an in­dis­pens­able force in coun­ter­ing global eco­nomic slug­gish­ness. He said that China had con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to deal­ing with in­ter­na­tional peace­keep­ing, reg­u­lat­ing global eco­nomic gov­er­nance, reshaping mul­ti­lat­eral in­sti­tu­tions, spurring global ef­forts to fight cli­mate change, en­hanc­ing en­ergy se­cu­rity and im­prov­ing global health. Of course, he made no men­tion of the in­sta­bil­ity caused by Chi­nese mil­i­tary as­sertive­ness in the East and South China Seas and by the bla­tant dis­re­gard of a rules-based in­ter­na­tional or­der.

As a princeling son of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader, Xi is the first civil­ian chair­man of the CMC and pre­sides over a 2.3 mil­lion­strong PLA, the world’s largest armed forces. The 19th Na­tional Congress was utilised by Xi Jin­ping, who is also the Com­man­der- in- Chief, to demon­strate his com­plete con­trol over the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA). One of the key strat­a­gems that fa­cil­i­tated his rise to the po­si­tion of undis­puted nu­mero uno was his care­fully chore­ographed plan to gain con­trol over the PLA. Xi re­alised this goal through mil­i­tary re­forms, the pro­mo­tion of loy­al­ists and the re­moval of Gen­er­als who did not eas­ily toe the line. He launched a ruth­less drive against cor­rup­tion and had a large num­ber of of­fi­cers of the rank of Ma­jor Gen­eral ar­rested. It has been re­ported that by March 2017, ap­prox­i­mately 5,000 of­fi­cers had been pun­ished for graft; many other se­nior of­fi­cers were forcibly re­tired.

Mil­i­tary Re­forms and Strate­gic Out­reach

Large-scale mil­i­tary re­forms were ini­ti­ated by Xi Jin­ping to make the PLA a more mod­ern force “that can pre­serve China’s ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and project power in China’s area of strate­gic in­ter­est to ex­tend China’s strate­gic out­reach through in­creased mil­i­tary pres­ence over­seas, es­pe­cially in the Indo-Pa­cific re­gion.”

Sweep­ing re­forms of the mil­i­tary to en­hance com­bat readi­ness and op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency in­cluded the cut­ting of troop lev­els by 300,000 per­son­nel. Re­forms have led to the dis­band­ment of the four ‘tra­di­tional’ Gen­eral De­part­ments ( Gen­eral Staff, Po­lit­i­cal, Lo­gis­tics and Equip­ment) and the estab­lish­ment of 15 new de­part­ments all of which have been placed di­rectly un­der the CMC. Un­der these 15 de­part­ments will be 84 re­struc­tured corps-level ‘units’.

These units in­clude the provin­cial mil­i­tary com­mands, mil­i­tary acad­e­mies and univer­si­ties that come di­rectly un­der the Min­istry of De­fence. They also in­clude the head­quar­ters of the PLA Army, Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force (erst­while Sec­ond Ar­tillery) and the newly con­sti­tuted Strate­gic Sup­port Force. The seven ex­ist­ing Mil­i­tary Re­gions have been dis­man­tled and five ‘out­ward look­ing’ joint the­atre com­mands have been es­tab­lished. Five group armies (Corps-level for­ma­tions) have also been dis­banded, leav­ing 13 still stand­ing.

The PLA Navy is get­ting the max­i­mum at­ten­tion in the mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion drive en­er­gised by Xi Jin­ping. It launched the first air­craft car­rier in April 2017; in June it in­tro­duced Asia’s most ad­vanced guided mis­sile de­stroyer; is devel­op­ing cut­ting-edge propul­sion tech­nol­ogy; and is build­ing large am­phibi­ous as­sault ves­sels.

De­mand­ing the PLA’s Loy­alty

Of­fi­cially, the PLA is the armed wing of the Com­mu­nist Party and Xi Jin­ping has of­ten re­minded the PLA lead­er­ship of this fact. In April 2017, Xi Jin­ping de­manded that all mil­i­tary units should be ab­so­lutely loyal to the Com­mu­nist Party. In Au­gust 2017, Xi as­serted, “You shall be unswerv­ingly loyal to the ab­so­lute lead­er­ship that the party has over the army, heed the call of the party, fol­low the party.”

At the 19th Na­tional Congress, Xi again asked the PLA to be ab­so­lutely loyal to the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party. He set two goals for the PLA: to be­come a mod­ern fight­ing force by 2035 and to then grad­u­ate to the world’s best mil­i­tary force by 2050 and, in­ten­sify its com­bat readi­ness by fo­cus­ing on how to win wars. The mes­sage to In­dia is clear: ex­pect more trans­gres­sions of the Dok­lam va­ri­ety.

With sup­port of the Party and the PLA, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping plans to con­tinue his pur­suit of the “Chi­nese Dream” – an in­spi­ra­tional slogan coined by him to re­flect the peo­ple’s as­pi­ra­tion for a re­ju­ve­na­tion of the Chi­nese na­tion. How­ever, the un­fet­tered re­al­i­sa­tion of the Chi­nese Dream will be pos­si­ble only in a peace­ful and sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment. How­ever, in or­der to pro­mote a re­gional se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive to so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, China will have to tone down its mil­i­tary as­sertive­ness and con­fronta­tional at­ti­tude and grad­u­ate to co­op­er­a­tion and re­spect for a rules-based in­ter­na­tional or­der.

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