Ground forces to have single leadership body
The establishment of a leadership body for the Chinese ground forces and joint operational command system will be highlighted in the upcoming military reform to boost the efficiency and modernization of the military, analysts said on Friday, a day after the country unveiled a major reform plan for its military.
The reform plan will focus on the improvement of the leadership and management system, restructuring of Central Military Commission's (CMC) departments and function reallocation, a joint operatioanl command organization and system to coordinate battle zone commands, Senior Colonel Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the National Defense Ministry, said on Friday at a press briefing.
A leadership body will be founded to lead the ground forces of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), which are currently supervised by four headquarters - the General Staff Headquarters, the General Political Department, the General Logistics Department and the General Armament Department. This is a major measure to improve the leadership and command system, Yang said.
Yang said the streamlining and downsizing of the military will start from the CMC. By focusing on major functions and merging similar functions, the multiple-department CMC will become more efficient in supervision and coordination.
He added that a large number of departments and staff will be cut and the units affiliated to CMC will be reduced substantially.
Beijing-based military expert Zhao Xiaozhuo told the Global Times on Friday that starting with cutbacks to the CMC's departments makes the reform markedly different from previous ones, indicating that the highlight of the reform is reshaping the command system.
"Previous reforms were more about downsizing the military, instead of restructuring," Zhao said, adding that the measures include adjusting the CMC headquarters system, establishing the army's leadership body and regrouping military area commands.
"The army can be more independent and professional in areas such as arms provision and battle plans, after establishing its own management body," said Major General Xu Guangyu, a senior consultant of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.
"Unlike navy and air force with their own management bodies, the army is mainly managed by the General Staff Headquarters since it has long taken a dominant role in the military. However, the headquarters, which also supervises the navy and air force, cannot pay full attention to the development of the army," Xu said.
The fact that the ground forces lack a unified command center is a sign that China's military still holds the "army prevails" perception, which does not fit the increasingly complicated demands of warfare, Lou Yaoliang, a military expert, said on Friday.
Xu stressed that specializing in management of the army, which draws on the experience of other major countries, will not change its status as the core part of the Chinese military.
Joint operational command
"Establishing a joint operational command system is another highlight of the reform," Xu noted.
He said the system, coupled with the founding of battle zone commands, will enable the military to conduct operations more efficiently.
The current military area commands apply to the headquarters of navy and air force, as well as to the CMC before dispatching troops, while the joint operational command system will empower battle zone commands, which focus on operations, to deploy troops of all services and arms, Xu explained.
Rear Admiral Yang Yi, an expert with PLA navy, told the Global Times on Friday that the system will train troops of all services in coordination from the very beginning, to ensure that they can work together closely in combat.
Experts admitted that the reform plan is not going to be easy, since it involves a large number of departmental and personnel changes.
Zhao noted that the reform should seek a balance among the interests of the Party, the military and the individuals.
The spokesman said the reform stressed veteran management and resettlement. Veterans are valuable to the Party and country, he noted, as they have completed strict training and important tasks, and will be granted special job placement policies upon transfer or retirement.
Major departments of the military, including the four headquarters, navy, air force, the second artillery force, and seven military area commands, vowed on Friday to uphold the decisions of the CMC and its chairman Xi Jinping.
The spokesman noted that the reform also stresses the importance of regulating power within the military, saying a strict system was needed to supervise the use of power.
A new discipline inspection commission will be established within the CMC, and disciplinary inspectors will be sent to CMC departments and battle zone commands.