01/02/2016, 00.00
CHINA
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Xi Jinping to exert greater control over restructured military and "Politburo members should stay in line with the Central Committee"

by John Ai
Five strategic zones replace seven military commands. State-owned enterprises are set to hire 300,000 laid off soldiers, but the economic crisis will make that hard to achieve. Resistance to Xi’s reforms is developing within the PLA. Politburo must obey Xi Jinping.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) begun a major restructuring yesterday as ordered by President Xi Jinping.

Five “strategic zones” – North, South, East, West and Central – will replace the PLA’s existing seven military commands.

Four of the five new commanders have already been selected but their names have not yet been released, this according to the South China Morning Post.

Plans include scrapping three of the four army headquarters – the General Political department, General Logistics and General Armaments – and retain the General Staff department.

In his farewell letter to staff on Wednesday last week, Gen Liu said he would be "the last political commissar of Logistics" and that he would "absolutely obey the reforms" introduced by President Xi.

Indeed, obedience is especially key to the restructuring process following scandals last year involving two major generals, Xu Caihou, who died of cancer last March, and Guo Boxiong, both accused of corruption and nepotism.

Last Wednesday, China’s state news agency Xinhua reported strong resistance against reforms within the ranks. However, the PLA Daily said that restructuring should boost the control by the Central Military Commission, which Xi chairs, as well as improve the quality of combat personnel and weaponry.

On 3 September, President Xi Jinping announced troop levels cuts by 300,000 as China marked Victory Day and the end to World War Two. Reduced personnel should include non-combat staff.

Savings will go into buying upgraded military procurement and hardware.

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) will be required to reserve 5 per cent of their vacancies for the 300,000 soldiers leaving the PLA. However, not everyone is convinced that they will be able to absorb that many people.

In fact, with the economy slowing and their well- known inefficiency, many SOEs have suspended recruitment.

Cheng Xiaonong, a visiting professor at Princeton University, told the Voice of America that most laid off soldiers will not find appropriate jobs. Since the measure is temporary, SOEs will only provide auxiliary positions. This might cause further dissatisfaction and uncertainty across the country.

Besides the military reforms, Xi Jinping also talked about corruption among high-ranking party officials Zhou Yongkang, Bo Xilai, Xu Caihou, Guo Boxiong and Ling Jihua.

Xi ordered that Politburo members be “in accord with the party central” and “strictly educate and manage their children, relatives and close staff” to stay away from the corruption that entangled the aforementioned leaders.

It is the first time that Politburo members are ordered Politburo members to “stay in line with the Central Committee”.

Perhaps, “staying in line” means that all 85 million members of China’s Communist Party must toe the line set by the Politburo’s seven-member Standing Committee, or just Xi Jinping himself.

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