The South China Morning Post reported Wednesday that China’s official army newspaper has confirmed a massive dissolution and reorganization of its four headquarters and seven key military commands.
The Hong Kong-based publication quoted PLA Daily as saying in a Monday commentary that the army’s existing system was outdated and centralized and presented a challenge to the Chinese Communist Party’s absolute leadership over the military.
“The current command system … combines decision making, enforcement and oversight functions into one, exposing a series of shortcomings,” the commentary in the newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army was quoted as saying.
“The four general headquarters’ excessive concentration of power has allowed it to become an independent leadership hierarchy overshadowing many of the functions of the Central Military Commission, affecting the commission’s centralised and unified leadership over the army,” it added.
“The four general headquarters’ excessive concentration of power has allowed it to become an independent leadership hierarchy overshadowing many of the functions of the Central Military Commission, affecting the commission’s centralised and unified leadership over the army.”
The PLA commentary didn’t give details on how the four departments would be dissolved.
The South China Morning Post reported in a September story that the military shake-up included plans to consolidate the seven commands and reorganize four HQ components — the General Staff, General Political, General Logistics and General Armaments departments.
The SCMP article cited sources close to the army as saying that only the General Staff Department would remain intact after the shake-up, with it and the Ministry of National Defense absorbing the functions of the three other departments.
The changes are expected to reinforce President Xi Jinping’s political control over the PLA. Xi heads the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC).
The SCMP quoted Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong in today’s story as saying that without checks and balances, creating a highly centralised leadership under the CMC chairman raised the risk of abuse.
“As the one person with the great power of the party, military and government in his hands, Xi will need to be very self-disciplined to keep his mindset clear and clean. Otherwise, it will be a disaster for him and the whole country,” Ni said.
Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of Canada-based magazine Kanwa Asian Defence, told SCMP that Xi faced political risks on par with those confronted by former Soviet chiefs Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev, who were forced to step down after introducing sweeping military reforms in the 1960s and 1980s.
“Such a large-scale military overhaul, especially the massive lay-offs, cannot be pushed in such a hurry,” Chang said.
The military overhaul, which aims to shift the PLA from an army-centric system towards a Western-style joint command in which the army, navy and air force are equally represented, will be the biggest restructure since the PLA was founded in 1933.