On the eve of the National People’s Congress, the chief of China’s Communist Party, Xi Jinping, is emphasising his role as a champion of the military, using the armed forces to cement his political authority and present a tough stance in growing territorial disputes with US allies in the Pacific region.
Xi will be appointed president at the end of the Congress, the party-run parliament that opens Tuesday for an annual session of about 10 days.
The 2,987 carefully vetted delegates are also virtually certain to approve another rise in military spending, after an 11.2 percent increase to $106 billion in the 2012 defense budget.
On Monday, a spokeswoman for the parliament, Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying, broke with recent precedent and declined to announce Chinese military outlays for the year at a news conference about the Congress session.
The number will be disclosed in a budget released when the session opens.
“We in China have endured the grievous lessons of having a weak national defense and suffering bullying by others,” Fu told reporters. “The Chinese people have deep historical memories of this problem, and so we need solid national defense.”
Since Mao Zedong rode to victory in a revolutionary war, the country’s Communist leaders have regarded an utterly loyal military as the ultimate shield of their political power.
Nearly four months since his appointment as party chief in November, Xi has made that shield his own, with greater speed and sureness than his recent predecessors.
“Compared with the two previous leaders at a similar stage, Xi has already established closer, better relations with the military. They didn’t come to power with the same confidence,” said Chen Ziming, a commentator in Beijing who studies party affairs.
Beyond being the only member of the powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee to also sit on the Central Military Commission, Xi already leads the military body, which controls the People’s Liberation Army. New York Times