Changes will have deeper influence than 1985 cut of 1m troops: experts
Several heavyweight State-run media outlets have recently run articles calling for solidarity in military reform, which experts say signifies that reform is about to be rolled out.
Since October 27, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily has published five articles exhorting military staff to follow the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) throughout the course of military reform. The People's Daily has also run articles espousing the necessity of military reform.
"The media outlets' reports show that the reform is about to occur. People may see the release of structural adjustments by the end of the year," Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday.
During a military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in September, President Xi Jinping announced that the country would cut the overall number of its military personnel by 300,000 by the end of 2017. It is the 11th reduction since 1949 and will decrease PLA membership to about 2 million, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
"China has shifted to a principle of active defense. The reform intends to build a strong army that can deal with complicated international situations," Song said, adding that reform will strengthen the coalition between different branches of the armed services.
Defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said at a news conference in September that the personnel reduction will target divisions with outdated weapons systems, administrative staff and non-combatant personnel.
"The Chinese armed forces will be slimmer but more capable, and their composition will be more scientific," Yang said.
In 2013, the communiqué of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee said that the goal of military reform is to build an army that "obeys the Party's command, is capable of winning battles and has a sound working style," Xinhua reported.
Gong Fangbin, a professor at the PLA's National Defense University, told the Global Times that the influence of this upcoming military reform will surpass the personnel cuts of 1985, which reduced the armed forces by about 1 million members. "The military reform does not aim to reduce the number of people, but aims to restructure and optimize the military's leadership, command and management system. The personnel reduction is just a byproduct of the reform."
Gong noted that the reform will be led by China's Central Military Commission (CMC) chaired by Xi, which has won the trust of the party, the people and all military personnel. "It will influence many people's personal interests, but the military is still very quiet, which shows that the CMC has a strong final say," said Gong, adding that previous personnel reductions have met with some opposition before their official announcement.
To avoid the manipulation of reform by parties with a vested interest in the process, authorities advanced the anti-corruption and anti-bureaucracy campaign before moving forward with the reform, Gong added.