Chinese President Xi Jinping wants modernised army that is ‘built to fight’ | Hindustan Times
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Chinese President Xi Jinping wants modernised army that is ‘built to fight’

President Xi Jinping has pledged to transform China’s armed forces into a world-class force that should regard “combat capability as the criterion to meet in all its work”.

world Updated: Oct 18, 2017 19:44 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2017.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2017.(AFP)

President Xi Jinping on Wednesday said China will build a powerful and modernised military and transform it into a world-class force under the Communist Party’s leadership within the next two decades.

The target is to complete the mechanisation of the armed forces by 2020 and to complete the modernisation of the army, navy and air force in terms of organisational structure and weaponry by 2035, Xi told more than 2,200 delegates and senior Communist Party members who had gathered at the Great Hall of the People for the inauguration of the party’s 19th national congress.

On broader terms, he said China was at a key juncture in its history.

“This is a new historic juncture in China’s development,” said the 64-year-old Xi, who is set for a second term in office.

“The Chinese nation...has stood up, grown rich, and become strong - and it now embraces the brilliant prospects of rejuvenation...It will be an era that sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind.”

Xi’s comments on the military were specific.

“A military is built to fight,” Xi said to choreographed applause from the delegates.

“Our military must regard combat capability as the criterion to meet in all its work and focus on how to win when it is called on. We will take solid steps to ensure military preparedness for all strategic directions,” he added.

“We must raise public awareness about the importance of national defence and strengthen unity between the government and the military and between the people and the military.”

Founded in 1927, the People’s Liberation Army now has almost two million service personnel.

College students wave national flags as they watch the opening of the 19th Communist Party Congress in Huaibei in China's eastern Anhui province on October 18, 2017. (AFP)

Throughout his three-and-a-half hour-long speech, Xi called on the Communist Party to urge its members not only to safeguard China’s sovereignty but also to revitalise Chinese culture, oppose “erroneous” ideology and promote religion that is “Chinese in origin”.

“The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is no walk in the park or mere drum-beating and gong-clanging. The whole party must be prepared to make ever more difficult and harder effort,” he said. “To achieve great dreams there must be a great struggle.”

Xi pledged to build a “modern socialist country” for a “new era” and said that by 2050, China would become a “strong power” with leading influence on the world stage.

The official title and aim of the conclave was, for the Communist Party, characteristically long-winded: “Secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era”.

Among the likely outcomes of the meeting, which ends on October 24, is Xi consolidating his power by appointing loyalists and enshrining his political doctrines in the party charter.

New leaders, many close to Xi, will be inducted into the Communist Party’s top governing bodies such as the central committee, politburo, politburo standing committee and the central military commission, which controls the People’s Liberation Army.

Under normal circumstances, some of these inductees would take over in 2022, which will mark the end of Xi’s ten-year term and the beginning of a new dispensation for the top governing bodies of the Communist Party.

However, one of the most critical issues will not be decided till the end of this year’s meeting: whether Xi will announce a successor.

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