Xi orders army to 'unswervingly' serve Communist Party

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Chinese president oversees troops on military's 90th birthday

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping told the military yesterday to transform itself into an elite force as he oversaw a parade with flybys of advanced jets and a mass rally of troops to mark 90 years since the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

China's armed forces, the world's largest, are in the midst of an ambitious modernisation programme, which includes investment in technology and new equipment such as stealth fighters and aircraft carriers.

Mr Xi presided over the military parade at the Zhurihe training base in China's Inner Mongolia region, where he inspected troops from the back of a jeep, an event aired live on state television.

Travelling down a long strip lined with tanks, missile launchers and other military vehicles, Mr Xi, wearing military fatigues and a field cap, greeted thousands of troops.

He repeatedly shouted "hello comrades" and "comrades, you are working hard" into the microphones.

The troops bellowed back phrases such as "serve the people", "follow the party" and "fight to win".

Tanks, vehicle-mounted nuclear-capable missiles and other equipment rolled by as military aircraft flew above, including H-6K bombers, which have been patrolling near Taiwan and Japan recently.

"Today, we are closer to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than any other time in history, and we need to build a strong people's military more than any other time in history," Mr Xi told the troops in a short speech.

He said the military must "unswervingly" back the ruling Communist Party and "always listen to and follow the party's orders, and march to wherever the party points".

Mr Xi also said the world was not peaceful, but did not mention specific hot spots, such as territorial disputes in the South China Sea and Taiwan.

It was the first time China has marked Army Day, which formally falls on Aug 1, with a military parade since the Communist revolution in 1949, state news agency Xinhua said. - REUTERS

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