Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) formally reorganized the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) under five “battle zones,” securing the last major piece expected in China’s biggest military overhaul in decades.
Xi, who also serves as commander-in-chief, presided over a ceremony at the Ministry of National Defense in Beijing on Monday to formally convey banners to generals in charge of the new zones, Xinhua news agency said.
The areas — northern, southern, eastern, western and central — replace seven military regions and unify the branches under a single command structure for the first time. The new commanders and political commissars for the five zones were also announced, Xinhua said.
The regional rezoning was the last major component of a shakeup first floated by Xi more than two years ago and intended to make the world’s largest army better equipped to project force beyond the country’s borders. The overhaul comes at a time when China has become more assertive about its territorial claims over the East China Sea and South China Sea, raising tension with its neighbors and the US.
“It is designed to streamline command-and-control functions and organizationally restructure the PLA into a military better able to wage war in the information age and make it more accountable to the party,” said Andrew Scobell, a senior political scientist at RAND Corp. “It remains to be seen how successful the reforms will be and how long the reorganization will take.”
The creation of the battle zones “marks a strategic decision made by the party central leadership and the Central Military Commission with the aim of realizing the Chinese dream and the strong-army dream,” Xi said, according to Xinhua.
“All battle zones must unwaveringly listen to the party’s direction, insist upon the party’s absolute leadership,” Xi said.
Defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun (楊宇軍) said in a separate statement posted online that China would maintain its “defensive national defence policy” and that the country’s development and foreign policy would be unchanged
Bloomberg first reported details of the plan in September last year, days before Xi announced the reorganization during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.
The plan calls for reducing the 2.3 million-member PLA by 300,000 and redefining missions and responsibilities among the military branches, with the goal of building a fighting force that “can win modern wars.”
“The reforms will also increase CCP [Chinese Communist Party] control over the military, and Xi Jinping’s personal control as chairman of the Central Military Commission,” said Phillip Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the National Defense University in Washington. “The reform is bigger than I expected, and will be disruptive to the PLA until it is fully implemented, probably by 2020.”
The overhaul has been rolled out in recent months, including Xi’s announcement on Sept. 3 last year of the overhaul and troop reduction and the establishment on Nov. 26 of a joint military command that brought all branches of the armed forces under one roof.
Additional reporting by Reuters
HOUSES FLOODED: The ground shook in Tonga as explosions were heard, followed by gushing water and pelting rocks, sending people running to higher ground A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific caused “significant damage” to the island nation’s capital and smothered it in dust, but the full extent was not apparent with communications still cut off yesterday. The eruption on Saturday was so powerful that it was recorded around the world, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the US. Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, suffered “significant” damage, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that there had been no reports of injury or death, but a full assessment was not possible with communication lines down. “The tsunami has
Two years ago, Qi Jiayao visited his mother’s hometown of Shaoxing in eastern China. When he tried to speak to his cousin’s children in the local dialect, Qi was surprised. “None of them was able to,” said the 38-year-old linguist, who teaches Mandarin in Mexico. The decline in local dialects among the younger generation has become more apparent in recent years as Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has sought to bolster a uniform Chinese identity. Mandarin is now spoken by more than 80 percent of China’s population, up from 70 percent a decade ago. Last month, China’s State Council promised to
DEMOGRAPHIC CRISIS: Beijing is attempting to address its population decline, including considering raising the retirement age and allowing more than two children China’s birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths last year despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis. Across China, 10.62 million babies were born last year, a rate of 7.52 per thousand people, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday. In the same period 10.14 million deaths were recorded, a mortality rate of 7.18 per thousand, producing a population growth rate of just 0.34 per 1,000 people. The growth rate is the lowest since 1960, and adds to the findings of May last year’s once-per-decade census, which found
‘PRECAUTIONARY MEASURE’: Authorities asked anyone who bought a hamster after Dec. 22 to hand it over after hamsters at a shop tested positive for the Delta variant Hong Kong’s government yesterday faced outrage over its decision to cull hundreds of small animals after hamsters in a store tested positive for COVID-19. Like China, Hong Kong maintains a staunch “zero COVID” policy, stamping out the merest trace of the virus with contact tracing, mass testing, strict quarantines and prolonged social distancing rules. Its latest measures target hamsters and other small mammals — including chinchillas, rabbits and guinea pigs, which authorities on Tuesday said would be culled as a “precautionary measure.” The drastic move came after hamsters sold at the Little Boss pet shop tested positive for the Delta variant of