Chinese President Xi Jinping's reforms hit next phase
Chinese president restructures military
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced a restructuring of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to transform it into a leaner fighting force with improved joint operations capability, state media said.
Centred around a new, condensed structure of 84 military units, the reshuffle builds on Mr Xi's years-long efforts to modernise the PLA with greater emphasis on new capabilities including cyberspace, electronic and information warfare.
As chairman of the Central Military Commission, Mr Xi is also commander-in-chief of China's armed forces.
"This has profound and significant meaning in building a world-class military," Mr Xi told commanders of the new units at PLA headquarters in Beijing, according to a Xinhua report late on Tuesday.
All 84 new units are at the combined-corps level, which means commanders will hold the rank of major-general or rear-admiral, the official China Daily reported yesterday.
It added that unit members would likely be regrouped from existing forces given the Chinese military was still engaged in cutting its troops by 300,000, one of the wide-ranging reforms introduced by Mr Xi in late 2015.
Those reforms include establishing a joint operational command structure by 2020 and rejigging existing military regions, as well as streamlining troop numbers, particularly in non-combat facing roles.
The previous seven military area commands were regrouped into five, and the four military departments - staff, politics, logistics and armaments - were reorganised into 15 agencies last year. The 84 units will come under the 15 agencies.
Retired PLA Major-General Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher at the Beijing-based China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said the restructure represented the second major phase of Mr Xi's reforms.
"Since military reforms started, it has been one step at a time," Maj-Gen Xu told Reuters. "The high-level framework is now in place. Now, this is the second phase targeting the entire mid-ranking levels of the military."
Beijing has been moving rapidly to upgrade its military hardware as it grows increasingly assertive about its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea and as it seeks to expand its military prowess overseas.
Chinese media reports have speculated that the country's second aircraft carrier - and its first built at home - will be launched on Sunday, the navy's founding anniversary.