China restructures military as Xi eyes ‘strong army’

Monday, 4 January 2016 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


AFP: China has unveiled changes to the structure of its military, adding three new units, described by President Xi Jinping as ‘a major policy decision to realise the Chinese dream of a strong army’, state media reported.

The formation of the new units, which follows Beijing’s announcement that it was building a second aircraft carrier, comes with China acting more aggressively in territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea, drawing the ire of its neighbours and the United States.

Beijing in November said it planned sweeping changes in a move intended to enhance the ruling Communist Party’s control over the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The latest reforms announced late Friday will see a new army unit set up to oversee China’s arsenal of strategic missiles.

Besides the ‘Rocket Force’, the PLA also unveiled an army general command to serve as the headquarters for land forces and a support unit to assist combat troops, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Xi, who is chief of the Communist Party and also serves as head of the military, has previously announced plans to slash China’s number of troops by 300,000 to roughly two million to craft a more efficient fighting force.

China’s Central Military Commission, which Xi chairs, on Friday also released guidelines to help build the country’s vision of a modern military before 2020 by cutting troops and improving the quality of combat personnel, Xinhua said.

The announcements come with China also expanding its naval capacity by building a second aircraft carrier. The nation’s first such vessel, the Liaoning, is a second-hand Soviet ship built more than 25 years ago that was commissioned by China in 2012 after extensive refits.