Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeated his call for the country’s military to be combat-ready and adapt to new challenges, according to state media.
Xi told a Central Military Committee (CMC) meeting on the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) grass-roots organisation that the armed forces needed to adapt to a fast-changing environment, the military mouthpiece PLA Daily reported on Monday.
“The grass-roots level of the military is experiencing new conditions and changes in its mission, construction, daily operation, unit structure, personnel composition and social environment,” Xi, the CMC’s chairman, was quoted as saying.
He said that, because these lower-ranked units formed the basis of the military, they needed to be under the Communist Party’s tight “grips” to ensure their strength and discipline.
“Our commanders and soldiers should be courageous and our troops should be powerful as tigers,” he added.
Xi said his anti-corruption campaign must reach grass-roots level and that the PLA must be free from “micro-corruptions and improper practices”.
Since 2015, Xi has led massive military reform in which the PLA was modernised, the command chain was restructured, combat-readiness was emphasised and the party’s control over the armed forces was strengthened.
In previous comments, Xi had said China was “confronted with unpredictable international developments and a complicated and sensitive external environment”, and said Chinese service personnel had to be well prepared to answer the call to fight at any time.
With China’s defence budget constantly rising – it has the world’s second-largest military spend, at 1.19 trillion yuan (US$170 billion) in 2019 – the PLA has significantly increased the number, scale and intensity of its drills. In 2018 alone, 2 million personnel took part in more than 18,000 exercises.
As Beijing builds up its military muscle, there are potential flashpoints in the region over China’s historical and territorial disputes with its neighbours, including overlapping claims on parts of the South China Sea, the contested Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands, and border stand-offs with India.
Beijing has also stepped up its military pressure on Taiwan – which it regards as a breakaway province to be reunited by force if necessary – by staging drills and sending warships and plane patrols to circle the self-ruled island.
The United States has identified China as a strategic rival in the Indo-Pacific and is trying to enhance its security cooperation with regional partners. The Chinese and US navies have confronted each other on several occasions in the South China Sea.
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