The president’s goal is to build a stronger, more integrated and flexible PLA
Editor’s note: To mark the 95th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, China Daily is publishing a series of articles expanding on Xi Jinping’s thoughts on building up the military, outlining his main ideas from different angles.
The People’s Liberation Army has been undergoing historic reform guided by President Xi Jinping since late 2012, when Xi became the supreme leader of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese military. Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the military has also made it clear that pursuing reforms and fostering innovation are key to the strength of the military.
The reform entailed the biggest and most significant overhaul of the PLA in decades. The top governing bodies of the world’s largest military have been revamped – right down to the Central Military Commission – to optimize the chain of command. Regional command systems have been reorganized to strengthen joint combat capabilities. Group armies and institutions were merged to improve efficiency, and new high-tech units were created to prepare for operations in non-traditional areas such as cyberspace.
Experts said the president’s goal is clear cut: the PLA must become stronger, more integrated and more flexible so that it is still able to win modern wars.
Shortly after Xi became general secretary of the CPC Central Committee in November 2012, he announced his determination to revolutionize the PLA and make it a powerful force capable of safeguarding China’s security and interests. Since then, the CPC Central Committee, with Xi as its central core, has made theoretical and practical efforts to identify what kind of army to build to meet the new realities of the new era and help realize the great dream. National Renewal Chinese. become a reality, and what steps should be taken to build such an army. The result of these discussions is known as Xi Jinping Thought on Strengthening the Military.
“China is at a crucial stage in its journey to global power” and “the country is facing new situations and new challenges in security and development”, so the Chinese military must be aware of its responsibilities and its problems and make comprehensive changes, the president said.
As part of the reform, changes have taken place in the lives of almost all PLA personnel. Many officers, including hundreds of generals, were transferred to new posts, while some returned to civilian life. Soldiers now devote more time to combat training and live-fire drills, and corrupt commanders have been expelled and punished.
“Without a strong army and a strong national defense, we could not achieve our goal of building a strong country,” said Major General Luo Yuan, a retired researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences. “To safeguard national security and development interests, we must have a compatible military force.”
In November 2013, a plenary session of the CPC Central Committee declared a formal decision to undertake massive military reform.
Four months later, the Central Military Commission set up a group under Xi’s leadership to draw up a roadmap for reform and guide its implementation. It was the first time that the Party General Secretary personally headed an authority in charge of reforming the national defense system and the army.
To prepare for the reform, Xi chaired two plenary meetings of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee to listen to experts’ thoughts, research results and suggestions.
Xi also convened three meetings of the Central Military Commission’s reform leadership group to seek and discuss ideas and guidance from senior PLA authorities, service headquarters, regional commands and military bodies. research. Additionally, the Commander-in-Chief personally organized the research and development of major reform policies.
Under his instructions, the Army held more than 800 workshops and asked more than 2,900 high-ranking officers, government officials and researchers to share their ideas, considerations and suggestions. The armed forces also encouraged service members to submit their opinions and eventually received over 3,400 suggestions.
After more than 150 rounds of revisions, in July 2015, a comprehensive reform plan was approved by senior Party and military officials. Four months later, the plan was unveiled.
The decade-long overhaul quickly took effect. The last day of 2015 saw the establishment of the PLA Ground Force Headquarters, the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force, an unprecedented step that officially launched historic military reform.
In January 2016, the four main departments of the PLA – General Staff, Politics, Logistics and Armaments – were dissolved and their functions and duties assigned to 15 new agencies under the direct control of the Central Military Commission.
Shortly thereafter, the regional command systems, which administered frontline forces for more than 60 years, were redistributed into theater commands east, south, west, north and north. center. These replaced seven regional commands named after their headquarters cities: Beijing, Shenyang, Jinan, Lanzhou, Nanjing, Chengdu and Guangzhou. The commission also established the Joint Operations Command Center and the Joint Logistics Support Force.
During the reform, the PLA reduced its troops by 300,000 and its ground force reduced the number of its group armies from 18 to 13. In addition, the number of universities and colleges in the PLA was reduced from 74 to 43.
However, the Navy and Rocket Force have been expanded, while the number of non-combatants has been reduced.
“Military reform has drastically reduced the size of the Ground Force…and the General Staff of the Ground Force has fallen below 50 percent of the entire PLA,” said General Li Zuocheng, chief of the PLA. staff of the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission, which was commander of the PLA Ground Force during the troop reduction.
He said the reform would transform China’s traditional massive ground force into a strong and modern army.
Xi has repeatedly stressed the role of science, technology and innovation in the Chinese military.
At his request, the CPC Central Committee set up a Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development to foster this work.
The army has also revamped its main research institutions – the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, the PLA National Defense University and the PLA National University of Defense Technology.
Shao Dan, a researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, said the reform should make China’s armed forces better suited to modern warfare and give them greater deterrent capabilities to safeguard sovereignty and the interests of China. the nation.
“The old military system that relied heavily on land forces has been abolished, while new capabilities for strategic early warning, long-range maritime defense, long-range strike, strategic power deployment and support to information have been significantly enhanced,” she said.
Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, said the reform aims to shape the future of the PLA and has become the most far-reaching and comprehensive overhaul in the military.
The reform established a new command system, with the Central Military Commission at its head. Regional commands are responsible for interservice exercises and combat operations, while the Land Force, Navy, and other service headquarters support unit training and development.
“The reform has restructured the armed forces, giving them new momentum and boosting their morale,” Wu said.