Chinese President Xi Jinping asks army to prepare for combat

20 Apr 2017 | By Ramya Patelkhana
Chinese President Xi Jinping orders military restructuring

Chinese President Xi Jinping asked 84 newly-formed units of People's Liberation Army to be prepared for combat and prioritize building "new-type" fighting capabilities in electronic, information, and space warfare.

Xi, who also chairs the Central Military Commission, spoke to the new commanders and asked them to improve their joint operation capabilities and technology level.

PLA is the world's largest army with about 2,333,000 personnel.

In context: Chinese President Xi Jinping orders military restructuring

People's Liberation Army

The armed forces of Communist Party of China (CPC) and People's Republic of China are known as the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). PLA comprises five professional service branches: the Ground Force, Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, and the Strategic Support Force.

20 Apr 2017Chinese President Xi Jinping asks army to prepare for combat

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New units must prepare for combat and study wars: Jinping

President Xi Jinping told the new forces to conduct more combat exercises and give more priority to building "new-type" fighting capabilities. According to PLA terminology, "new-type" fighting capabilities refer to engaging in electronic, information and space operations.

Military MightFlexing military might over territorial disputes

Jinping's call to build "new-type" fighting capabilities came as China prepares to counter the US deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor missiles in South Korea.

THAAD radars are so powerful they could see through most China, including its missile development program.

Expanding strategic influence, China is also flexing its "military might" in the neighborhood over territorial disputes with countries like India.

New UnitsChinese military still engaged in cutting its troops

The 84 new PLA units are at combined corps level - their commanders have been or will be promoted to a rank of either Major General in Ground Force, Air Force, and Rocket Force or Rear Admiral in the Navy.

These units were likely created through regrouping of existing personnel rather than recruiting new ones as Chinese military is engaged in cutting its troops.

Structural Shake-upPLA's structural shake-up has taken effect

The emergence of the new units is the latest move that indicates a major structural shake-up the PLA is undergoing.

In Dec'16, at a CMC conference, President Xi ordered the structure of military be adjusted and optimized; he called for smaller yet capable and flexible military.

The unprecedented restructuring reform reportedly began in Nov'15, when the CMC unveiled a blueprint for PLA's development.

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Mightier ForceA leaner, efficient military capable of winning modern wars

Central Military Commission pledged to establish a leaner yet efficient military to reduce non-combatant personnel/departments and transform PLA into "a mightier force capable of winning modern wars."

Since then, PLA set up Ground Force headquarters, founded Strategic Support Force for electronic, information and space operations, and replaced Second Artillery Corps with Rocket Force.

It dismantled four top departments - staff, logistics, politics, and armaments.