A more loyal PLA rebuffs the heresy of separating the Party and military

By Huang Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/19 19:13:39

Voices calling for the "nationalization" of the Chinese military have faded recently

Loyalty to the Party core and political soundness is the primary requirement for delegates to the upcoming Party congress

Party-building activities have been enhanced in the army, which are aimed at reinforcing the Party's absolute leadership of the army

Armed police officers swear allegiance to the Communist Party of China in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, on November 7, 2012. Photo: CFP


In the run-up to the 19th Session of the Communist Party of China (CPC) National Congress, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has repeatedly sworn allegiance to the CPC central committee despite previous whispers of military "nationalization" that aimed to weaken the Party's leadership of the PLA.

The PLA's flagship newspaper, the PLA Daily, has published several articles in the past few months reaffirming the military's strong will to follow the core of the Party's central committee.

In a recent report, senior PLA officers and Party delegates to the 18th CPC National Congress vowed again to "firmly follow the CPC central committee and President Xi Jinping," "firmly listen to their commands," and embrace the upcoming Party congress.

Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, Chinese President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, the country's top military authority, was endorsed as the "core" of the CPC central committee in October last year.

Calls for the "nationalization of the army," which mostly came from those who wish to see fundamental changes in China's political system, have tapered off recently. Many high-ranking military officials and PLA publications have openly refuted those voices, saying their proposition is simply an attempt to create distance between the military and the Party.

Whenever the CPC central committee and Xi announced orders such as cutting military personnel numbers and military reorganizations in recent years, senior officers of the various military branches have loudly sworn to endorse them firmly.

The determination to keep the Party and the military close is also displayed in the election of delegates from the PLA and the People's Armed Police Force (PAP) to the CPC national congress that will be held later this year.

Military and Party experts deem that following the enhanced Party building, the anti-corruption crackdown and major military reforms, the elections for delegates to this year's congress will be more stringent than ever. They told the Global Times that this process will make the army even more coherent and loyal to the Party.

Loyal to the core

Loyalty to the Party and honesty are the three primary conditions for delegates, according to the PLA Daily. The delegates must be outstanding CPC members and their political soundness shall be of uppermost priority when nominating, examining and electing them. They must firmly adhere to the core, be absolutely loyal, and enforce the CMC chairman responsibility system, said the military newspaper.

Several soldiers told the Global Times that Party-building activities have been significantly expanded in recent years.

"There are regular activities held within small Party groups and Party branches, such as meetings, lectures, thought reporting, self-criticisms and democratic discussions," Yang, a captain with China's Northern Theater Command, told the Global Times.

"The activities have become more regular, standardized and serious," he noted. "Before, blank space was allowed in the minute book. Now, a single line of space is not allowed."

Xu, a frontier guard in Ngari, the western-most prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region, echoed Yang's opinion. "Besides the mass line and the Party constitution, we [Party members] also need to learn Xi's remarks and are required to be able to tell two stories about Xi and recite basic Party knowledge," Xu told the Global Times.

There are also regular examinations and inspections to check their learning achievements, and CPC members need to resit the exams until they pass, he said.

Zhang Xixian, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, believed that the enhanced Party activities are essential to ensure the Party's absolute leadership of the army.

"The foundation of the Party organization in the army should be solid, otherwise problems will occur," Zhang noted.

Peng Guangqian, a major general and a strategist at the Academy of Military Sciences, agreed. He said that "Some individual servicemen might attempt to command the Party and push the Party out to make way for themselves, which is absolutely not allowed and they must be eliminated from the army."

"These people actually want to seize the control of 'the knife' from the Party and undermine its leadership," Peng argued.

"We should learn the lessons from the collapse of the Soviet Union, in which the Communist Party gave up its leadership over the army."

Zhao Yunxiao, a sergeant major in the Strategic Support Force and a delegate to the 18th CPC National Congress, said that the various Party organizations work as a "fortress" in the army.

"Matters like a company's development, holding major drills, admitting new CPC members and soldiers going to college or getting promotions are all decided at meetings of Party branches," Zhao told china.com.cn.

Zhang said Party's leadership of the army has been long established. In 1927, Mao Zedong carried out experiments to "establish branches of the CPC at the level of companies."

"A solid and coherent Party organization can help to nurture excellent cadres and model soldiers. It will ensure soldiers perform tasks assigned by the Party, not individuals," Zhang said.

More competitive

The CMC has recently approved the preliminary list of PLA and PAP delegates who have been elected to attend the congress, but their names are yet to be disclosed to the public.

There are more young and grass-roots level delegates this year. According to the Xinhua News Agency, among all the approved candidates, 37.84 percent are grass-roots troops or officers below the rank of second lieutenant. Over 72 percent of the PLA and PAP candidates are aged under 55.

The election of the military delegates was reportedly more competitive than ever this year.

Like in other electoral units, military delegates went through rounds of nomination, examinations and competitive intra-Party elections. This year there were 30 percent more candidates than available posts, according to Xinhua. This ratio is much higher than that laid out in the election rules which say the number of candidates should be at least 15 percent more than the number of deputies to be elected.

A total of 2,300 delegates will attend this year's Party congress, 30 more than last time. But it's unclear whether all 30 extra attendees will be from the military and PAP.

Official statistics show that 300 delegates attended the 18th CPC National Congress, 13 percent of all attendees. Among them 217 were major generals or above.

"It's not surprising that so many congress delegates come from the army. The number of Party members is very high in the army, and the cadres in the army are nearly all Party members," Peng told the Global Times.

China will have 2 million troops and 660,000 armed police officers by the end of this year. But there's no formal data about how many of them are among the country's 88 million CPC members.

"The army is the foothold and hand of the Party. We have been stressing the Party's absolute leadership of the army and the Party commanding the gun," Peng added.

Force's backbone

To get elected as a CPC National Congress delegate is not easy.

Besides general requirements, the electoral units have also detailed the standards to examine the candidates. For example, in the Southern Theater Command and the PAP, supporting military reform and voluntarily being subordinated to the general interest of the Party and army are key elements for nominees.

The Western Theater Command and Army Force have mainly evaluated their soldiers' performance in major drills, counter-terrorism and stability maintaining activities and disaster rescue and relief to weigh their purity and loyalty, according to the PLA Daily.

The PLA navy mainly recommended advanced soldiers from new combat forces, while the Strategic Support Force mainly nominated from astronauts.

However electoral fraud such as vote-buying has occasionally hit congress elections.

In 2014, a total of 447 Party members and officials in Nanchong, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, were investigated and punished after being found having involved in buying votes for a local Party congress in 2011.

Peng said being a delegate is not a way to seek promotion or benefits. "It is an honor and responsibility. The delegates are the backbone of the army. They need to propose suggestions and be pioneers during the tasks," he said, adding that being a delegate cannot protect them from any supervision or penalty.

Since 2012, at least 53 senior officials from the PLA and PAP above the rank of senior colonel have been taken down for corruption, including Wang Jianping, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department under the CMC, and former vice chairmen of the CMC Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong. All three were generals and delegates to the 18th CPC National Congress when being investigated.

Newspaper headline: Corporals and the core


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