China plans to audit senior military officials involved in financial work, stepping up efforts to stamp out corruption and abuse of power within the powerful People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese government said yesterday.
New rules issued this week will require such audits for any officers with a rank of lieutenant colonel or higher, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing new army regulations released Wednesday.
The move, part of a constant campaign to root out rampant graft and official abuses, would appear to boost the Chinese Communist Party's control over the 2.5 million-member PLA, the world's largest military.
Audits will be conducted after an officer has held a post for two years, is due to leave a post or is being evaluated, it said.
The brief Xinhua report cited the disclosures earlier this year of financial abuses at several government ministries and banks, though it did not mention corruption by military officials.
The army's traditional reputation for strict discipline was severely tainted in the 1990s by a series of scandals, the most prominent involving its involvement in a massive smuggling scandal centered in the southeastern port city of Xiamen.
The military's auditing department is to set up a special team to handle the audits, which will begin in January and will cover annual budgets, accounting, revenues, expenses, assets and debts "according to regulations," it said.
The audits could shed some light on the financial workings of the highly secretive military, whose publicly disclosed budget this year is 207 billion yuan (US$25 billion).
Apparently angered by the loss of state revenues to various smuggling operations, top leaders in 1998 ordered the military to divest from its extensive business holdings -- once a supplement to its budget but later blamed for encouraging corruption and distracting soldiers from their military duties.
But the divestiture mainly focused on commercial business operations, such as hotels, telecommunications and other service enterprises.
Many army-operated farms and factories remain under military control, as do top arms trading companies, according to a report by James Mulvenon, a China expert at the RAND Corp.