Chinese President Xi Jinping has begun his second five-year term ordering the country’s 2.3 million-strong military, the world’s largest, to be absolutely loyal to the ruling Communist Party and “intensify its combat readiness” by focusing on how to win wars.
The once-in-a-five-year Congress of the Communist Party endorsed Xi’s leadership of the party, the military and the presidency this week and approved his ideology to be written into its Constitution, elevating him on par with modern China’s founder Chairman Mao Zedong and his successor Deng Xiaoping.
Xi, 64, began his second tenure on Thursday by holding a meeting of top military officials, regarded as a main source of power base.
Xi, who heads the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC) the overall high command of Chinese military, is the only civilian leader in the body which is otherwise packed with top-most officials of the armed forces.
The new CMC line-up, which was unveiled on Wednesday, will be led by a group of seven, down from the 11 members who headed its operations before.
Earlier reports said Xi, who consolidated his power in the last five years with a massive anti-corruption campaign in which over a million officials were punished, wanted to shrink the Standing Committee of the party to five from seven.
But apparently, he did not succeed as other groups in the party headed by former leaders pressed for status quo to include their nominees in the highest-ranking body bringing it a semblance of balance in power equations.
In the Thursday night’s meeting of top military officials, some high-ranking officials were conspicuously absent, Hong- Kong based South China Morning Post reported.
It appeared from the state-run CCTV report that two top generals, the former chief of general staff General Fang Fenghui and director of the political work department, General Zhang Yang were absent.
Both Fang and Zhang were CMC members in Xi’s first term, but they were left off the list of PLA delegates to this month’s party Congress.
Earlier, the two Generals were taken away on the same day last month as part of a corruption investigation, the Post report said.
Meeting top military officials, he ordered them to be absolutely loyal to the party, to focus on how to win in wars, to pioneer reforms and innovation, to scientifically manage commanding a unit, to lead troops in accordance with the strictest standards and to take the forefront in complying with laws and regulations.
He also told the officers to strengthen party-building within the military and to continue to intensify combat-ready training and exercises, to keep carrying out reforms in the national defence system and the military, and to carefully consider strategic issues concerning the PLA’s future development, the official media here reported.
Defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said on Thursday that Xi’s plan to strengthen the military would be fully implemented and his authority would be upheld.
Xi asked the PLA officers to learn and implement the spirit of the just-concluded 19th CPC National Congress by following the road of building a strong army with Chinese characteristics and promoting the modernisation of national defence and the army.
“We should strive to fully transform the people’s armed forces into a world-class military by the mid-21st century,” Xi said.
He said that during the past five years, the CMC has endeavoured to build an army that follows the command of the CPC, capable of winning battles and has a fine style of work, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
During his previous tenure, Xi carried out widespread reforms of the military including reconfiguring the command structure, slashed three lakh troops from 2.3 million military, cut the size of the army to a million and made navy more powerful to push China’s influence abroad.
Over 13,000 military personnel including top generals were punished in the anti-graft campaign. With over 141 billion dollar annual budget, Chinese military is next only to the US in terms of defence spending.
Xi also said the military should obey CPC’s absolute leadership over the armed forces, innovate military strategy, govern the army by law and promoting civil-military integration.
Senior officers, as the backbone of the campaign to build a strong army, should be loyal and obedient to the party, be good and smart at combat and endeavour to reform, Xi said.
Unlike other countries, the military in China functions under the party and not under the government.