China's 90-year-old armed forces reforming fast

By: XinhuaFrom:English Edition of Xinhua | Updated: 2017-Jul-31 12:33
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BEIJING, July 30 (Xinhua) -- The People's Liberation Army (PLA) will officially celebrate its 90th anniversary of founding on Tuesday in the midst of unprecedented reform.

Just several days ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at a workshop of provincial and ministerial officials that military reform is historic, and he lauded breakthroughs and achievements in major fields.

OVERALL PLANNING

Xi put forward the dream of building a strong army during an inspection of the armed forces in southern China in December 2012, less than a month after he assumed office as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission (CMC).

At a meeting with national lawmakers from the armed forces on March 11, 2013, Xi said that following the command of the Party, being capable of winning wars, and having a proper working style were fundamental to building a strong and modern force.

Following a series of inspections of military units and thorough studies, Xi further elaborated on the requirements of reforming the armed forces at a CMC meeting held from Nov. 24 to 26, 2015.

Taking into consideration the larger global picture as well as the profound and complicated changes occurring internationally, Xi called for greater wisdom and courage throughout national defense and military reform.

He also proposed a timetable, saying that key achievements in the reform must be made by 2020.

RESHAPING THE HEAD

A series of major structural reforms have been made public since Dec. 31, 2015, following the establishment of the PLA Army general command, the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force.

The following month, the four general departments -- staff, politics, logistics and armaments -- were reorganized into 15 agencies of the CMC, and five theater commands were initiated on Feb. 1, replacing the seven military area commands.

Theater commands focus on the study and command of wars and are essential parts of the joint operation command system, according to Yuan Yubai, commander of the the Southern Theater Command.

The reform is structured so that the CMC takes charge of the overall military administration, while theater commands focus on operations and different services on troop developments, said Cai Hongshuo, deputy head of the expert panel of the CMC's leading group on reform.

RESTRUCTURING THE FORCES

Last December, Xi said the military's structure had to be readjusted and optimized to adapt to rapid changes to the global military environment.

A key feature of the structural reform is downsized ground forces.

Army Commander Li Zuocheng said the reform has brought huge changes to the army service, including the installation of the army general command and major personnel cuts, with army troops currently accounting for less than 50 percent of the overall armed forces.

On April 18 this year, Xi had a group meeting with the leading officers of 84 reshuffled units at the corps level. Ten days later, Defense Ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun announced that the CMC had decided to regroup the country's army groups from the previous 18 to 13.

Yang said the regroup was a crucial step to building a strong and modernized new type of army and was important to shifting the focus of the PLA from quantity to quality and efficiency.

SYSTEM & POLICY INNOVATION

The reform also stresses the importance of regulating power within the military, demanding a strict system to supervise the use of power.

A new discipline inspection commission has been established within the CMC, and disciplinary inspectors have been sent to CMC departments and theater commands.

The CMC has built an audit office, and a political and legal affairs commission. Adjustments have also been made to improve the military judicial system.

Military education institutions were reshuffled. There are now 43 military education institutions, including two -- the National Defense University of the PLA and the National University of Defense Technology -- directly under the CMC, 35 specialized in specific armed services, and six armed police forces.

Integrated military and civilian development has also been upgraded to a national strategy to promote the coordinated development of national defense and the economy.