Beijing: China has for the first time integrated PLA area commands overseeing India and Pakistan as part of sweeping reforms under which the world’s largest army is to junk its Soviet-era model for a US-style joint command system to fortify the ruling Communist Party’s control. Under the new reforms announced by President Xi Jinping, who has shaken up the 1.2 million strong People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with a massive anti-corruption drive, redrew the military command system by forming a joint operational command, junking the area military commands.
China has seven military area commands in Beijing, Nanjing, Chengdu, Jinan, Shenyang, Lanzhou and Guangzhou. Of these, Chengdu military command was in charge of security along India’s Eastern sector in the Tibet region including Arunachal Pradesh while the Lanzhou military command looked after the Western sector, including Kashmir region and Pakistan.
As per the new strategic zone plan unveiled by Xi, also general secretary of the CPC, both Chengdu and Lanzhou gets integrated into a strategic command region, making it perhaps the biggest areas for the PLA.
Lanzhou, which looks after the border with Pakistan- occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Afghanistan, has been active in recent years battling the two-way crossings of Uyghur Islamist militants from the volatile Xinjiang region.
Some analysts say that such a sprawling area may make it unwieldy during a conflict without a war zone commander. But at the same time the joint command system will end the army-dominated set-up with more role for the airforce and the navy which are on a massive modernisation drive under a USD 145 billion annual defence budget.
The overhaul is aimed at moving away from an army-centric system towards a Western-style joint command in which the army, the navy and the air force are equally represented. The general direction of the overhaul, included plans to reorganise the four headquarters -– General Staff, General Political, General Logistics and General Armaments -– and to consolidate the seven military command regions.
Elaborating on the sweeping reforms at a conference attended by 200 top military officials, Defence ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told reporters today that the current regional military commands will be regrouped into new battle zone commands under the Central Military Commission (CMC).
The reform will establish a three-tier “CMC – battle zone commands – troops” command system and an administration system that runs from CMC through various services to the troops.
Xi, who is consolidating his powers over the army through the purges, also made military strictly functioning under the ruling Communist Party China (CPC), not under the government.
Xi’s September announcement that the military would cut 3 lakh troops “again demonstrated China’s resolve to pursue a path of peaceful development,” Yang said when asked whether the overhaul means an adjustment to national defence policy.