The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) should be combat ready for a regional war, President Xi Jinping has said, adding that the armed forces’ chain of command should strictly follow the central leadership’s instructions.
Addressing a closed door meeting with top PLA officers on Sunday, Xi said the armed forces should have complete faith and loyalty to the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) leadership.
Following the meeting, the Chinese defence ministry issued a statement on Monday, stating that the PLA must follow orders issued by President Xi.
Besides being the President and the head of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Xi also heads the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), which oversees China’s vast armed forces, the largest in the world.
“All PLA forces should follow the instructions of President Xi and update their operations to meet new goals and missions set by the CMC,” the defence ministry statement said.
It was not the first time that Xi has urged the PLA to be ready for a “regional war”, but the statement assumes significance as he said it again days after incursions by the Chinese army cast a long shadow over his three-day India visit.
In the order of things, the PLA is expected to always follow the lead from the civilian government. But Monday’s statement reiterating that fact could trigger speculation among strategists whether the chain of command leading up to Xi was, in fact, working smoothly or not.
“Headquarters of PLA forces must have absolute loyalty and firm faith in the CPC, guarantee a smooth chain of command and make sure all decisions from the central leadership are fully implemented,” Xi was quoted as telling the officers in the meeting.
Xi then urged them to be combat ready for a “regional war”.
“Headquarters of all PLA forces should improve their combat readiness and sharpen their ability to win a regional war in the age of information technology,” he said.
Official news agency, Xinhua, quoted him as saying that the PLA should “strictly discipline themselves and the armies as well as contribute to the reform of national defence”.
The PLA chiefs of staff met in Beijing on Sunday to discuss how to improve “the efficiency of military command under new circumstances”.
Military commanders should have a better understanding of international and domestic security situations as well as the latest military development, Xi said. Meanwhile, the foreign ministry on Monday continued to play down the PLA incursion into Ladakh.
“We can say that President Xi’s visit to India has removed some of the suspicions of the two countries and pushed bilateral relations to a new age,” spokesperson, Hua Chunying said.
“As for border issue, and whether it will influence President Xi’s visit, I want to say that this is totally unnecessary suspicion because two leaders have reached important consensus on politically resolving the border issue through a friendly mechanism. We have an effective mechanism for the border issue…and through effective communication can resolve and control disputes.”
She declined to comment on the decision by the Indian government to withdraw clearances for senior Chinese journalists who were heading to New Delhi to attend a media exchange programme.