Thursday, November 26, 2015

China unveils military revamp

China unveils military revamp

2015-11-27 08:23Global Times Editor: Li Yan

Party to restructure area commands, centralize authority

China has unveiled an outline of the highly-anticipated military reform plan, including a redrawing of the regional military command system and streamlining the leadership of the Communist Party of China, to develop a modern military system "capable of winning information-age warfare."

Analysts said the latest military reform marks a landmark adaption to the increasingly complicated global situation faced by the world's largest rising power.

Addressing a two-day meeting on reforming the armed forces that ended Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that a structure should be created to give the Central Military Commission (CMC) authority over both the administration and command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Xinhua News Agency reported.

It will restructure its military regions, Xinhua quoted Xi as saying, without giving further details. China has seven military area commands in Beijing, Nanjing, Chengdu, Jinan, Shenyang, Lanzhou and Guangzhou.

Under the CMC's leadership, the area commands will focus on engagement, while the PLA army, navy and air force will focus on developing their respective force. The structural reform aims to better integrate the command over the PLA, Xinhua added.

The reform will establish a three-tier "CMC - battle zone commands - troops" command system and an administration system that runs from CMC through various services to the troops.

According to Beijing-based military expert Zhao Xiaozhuo, armed forces construction would include research into military weapons and equipment and recruiting and training of army personnel to properly operate the equipment.

A specialized command for land forces will also be established, which Zhao said would help complete military service and facilitate future joint operations.

Zhao said that the future reform of the military command would be based on the nation's existing strategy as the missions of the armed forces have expanded from safeguarding national security to more global tasks, such as overseas peacekeeping and escort missions.

The reform would significantly improve China's military capacity, he added.

Xi also reiterated his earlier announcement to trim PLA personnel by 300,000 troops. The cut was first announced on September 3, which is about 13 percent of the 2.3 million-strong military force. The cut is expected to be carried out by the end of 2017.

This is the fourth major PLA reduction. In 1985, China downsized its army by more than 1 million, the biggest reduction ever.

"Previous reforms mainly focused on reducing the number of service personnel without affecting the composition of army units, which had limited impact. The latest reform is aimed at revamping the system, while reducing the number of service personnel is merely a side effect of the reform," said Gong Fangbin, a professor at the PLA's National Defense University on Thursday.

An expert close to the PLA navy told the Global Times that the reform comes amid the changing global situation and increasing security threats to China, especially maritime threats. It also comes at a time of stricter supervision and strengthening the rule of law in the military.

"The reform is geared towards modernization, which follows the trend set by the US and Russia," Gong told the Global Times. "Aside from that, we've also learned from countries such as Israel involving military logistics support and civil-military integration."

Anti-corruption drive

At the same time, a PLA disciplinary body, an auditing department and political and law committee will be established as part of the central authorities' anti-corruption initiative in the military.

Analysts said the announcement comes at a perfect time.

Two former vice CMC chairmen, Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, have been brought down for corruption in the past two years.

"By building a sound social and Party culture, people will place the military's and nation's interest on top, and will avoid personal and clique interests," Gong noted.

A PLA economic expert told the Beijing Times that paid public services provide the military with resources after serving the troops, including military-run hospitals that can theoretically help provide funds for medical research and help improve military doctors' skills.

However, paid services in the PLA can also attract some illegal activities. They could also lead to a welfare gap between troops with paid services and those without, according to the expert, the Beijing Times reported.

Kou Jie and Li Ruohan contributed to this story

PLA reform outline

Purpose of reform:

Get rid of systemic hurdles, develop combat capability, build a powerful national defense

Strengthen the absolute leadership of the Party over the military

Areas of reform:

Adjust Central Military Commission (CMC) headquarters system, adopt multiple departments under the CMC

Establish general command center for land forces

Regroup military area commands, establish joint combat command system

Set up new disciplinary committee and new auditing department

Cut PLA troops by 300,000


Breakthroughs are expected in administrative system and joint combat system by 2020.

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