02/29/2024, 11.17
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Civilian militants in companies: Xi dusts off Mao's method to prevent protests

by John Ai

In large enterprises, units linked to the Chinese armed forces are again being formed. Private companies are also following the example of public ones. A way to manage potential unrest in the context of the economic slowdown and to strengthen the Communist Party's control over companies.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Civil militant units have been popping up in an ever-increasing number of Chinese companies in the last two years. This is an old concept from the Mao Zedong era that is spreading rapidly again, from state-owned to private enterprises.

Official media often report the creation of "people's armed forces departments" in different parts of the country. Civilian militant units, affiliated with the Chinese People's Liberation Army, existed widely in enterprises as a wing for military recruitment and training, as well as for wartime mobilization. These organizations, which seemed to have disappeared, are now making a comeback.

Large state-owned companies have started to create their own civilian militant units again, especially in key infrastructure-related sectors. Last September, the Shanghai Municipal Investment Group established an army-affiliated People's Armed Forces Department, attracting public attention.

Even in the central megalopolis of Wuhan, several state-owned enterprises, such as the Wuhan Metro Group, the Wuhan Municipal Investment Group, and the Wuhan Agricultural Group, have established their own civilian militant units.

Private companies are also following suit. China's largest dairy producer, Inner Mongolia's Yili Group, established a People's Armed Forces Department in December. And it is an interesting sign of how much a strategically important company values the role of the authorities in the private economy.

Apparently, the expansion of civilian militant units in companies is encouraged by the central government, just like the growth of Communist Party bodies in private enterprises in recent years.

The number of civilian militants in China had reached a peak of 30 million under Mao's rule. After the 1980s, this figure had fallen to 8 million, with the country focused on economic growth rather than ideological issues.

Analysts believe the resurgence of civilian militant units shows how China is remilitarizing itself and looking to these garrisons to manage potential unrest amid a slowing economy.

Comments on Chinese social networks say that civil militants can also be used to prevent social movements, since they are inserted into the local community and are able to immediately manage the emergency.

In addition to maintaining social order and increasing loyalty to authority, the development of civilian militants coincides with the strategy of asymmetric warfare. According to Willy Lam, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is reinstating Mao's slogans of "people's war" and "military-civil fusion" precisely to prepare for aggression against Taiwan in the long term.

All this Iis taking place while Xi's authorities are also relaunching the Fengqiao experience throughout the country, the form of social governance created by Mao during the Cultural Revolution. At the time, this practice mobilized the masses to participate in the fight against "class enemies".

Ordinary people were encouraged to monitor "enemies" and "solve problems locally." Now the expansion of civilian militant units appears consistent with the essence of Xi's philosophy. Furthermore, by entrusting them with some tasks, the People's Liberation Army can save some resources and improve its overall mobilization capacity.


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