China President Xi Jinping announced a major overhaul of China’s military to make the world’s largest army more combat ready and better equipped to project force beyond the country’s borders
“And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.” Revelation 16:12 (KJV)
Under the reorganization, all branches of the armed forces would come under a joint military command, Xi told a meeting of military officials in Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Bloomberg in September reported details of the plan, which may also seek to consolidate the country’s seven military regions to as few as four.
The Chinese president said the reform aimed to “build an elite combat force” and called on the officials to make “breakthroughs” on establishing the joint command by 2020, Xinhua said. Xi announced the changes at the end of a three-day meeting attended by about 200 top military officials, Xinhua said.
Xi, who also became chairman of the Central Military Commission upon taking power in 2012, is directly managing the overhaul. He made a public display of his commitment to the reforms when he announced that the People’s Liberation Army would shed 300,000 troops at a September military parade in Beijing to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II.
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“This is the biggest military overhaul since the 1950s,” said Yue Gang, a retired colonel in the PLA’s General Staff Department. “The reform shakes the very foundations of China’s Soviet Union-style military system and transferring to a U.S. style joint command structure will transform China’s PLA into a specialized armed force that could pack more of a punch in the world.”
Under Xi, China has been more assertive over territorial claims in the East China Sea and South China Sea, raising tensions with neighbors such as Japan and the Philippines, as well as the U.S. Xi’s policy marks a shift from China’s previous approach of keeping a low profile and not attracting attention on the world stage, a philosophy laid out by former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.
“The reform enhanced the power of the Central Military Commission and its chairman,” Yue said. “This is also a lesson learned from last generation of military leaders, as the former CMC chairman had little real power over the armed forces.”
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The plan also seeks to strengthen the Communist Party’s grip on the military. The army was urged to strictly follow the Party’s orders, and the plan called for enhancing the military leadership of the Party, Xinhua said. Xi also said the PLA would build a new disciplinary structure and a new legal and political committee to make sure the army is under the rule of law.
Xi has also made the military one of the targets of his anti-corruption campaign as he consolidates his power over the PLA. Two former CMC vice-chairman were both expelled from the party since Xi took power in 2012, as were dozens of generals accused of everything from embezzling public funds to selling ranks.
The PLA’s last major overhaul — carried out under Deng Xiaoping in 1985 — reduced the number of military regions to seven from 11 and resulted in the dismissal of some 1 million soldiers. In its annual report to the U.S. Congress in May, the Pentagon said creating joint-command entities “would be the most significant changes to the PLA’s command organization since 1949.” source