BEIJING – China’s army issued a new call for tighter discipline Monday amid a continuing campaign to reinforce Communist party control over the world’s largest military.
An article on the front page of the People’s Liberation Army Daily newspaper pledged stepped-up controls over senior and mid-ranking officers and unspecified punishment for malfeasance and mistakes.
Citing a circular issued by the Communist party’s Military Affairs Commission, the article said officers will also be assessed on their loyalty to the party, which ultimately commands the 2.3-million-member military, rather than the Defence Ministry or other civilian bodies.
Officers must take a clear-cut political stance in the face of a “increasingly complex ideological struggle.”
“Officers must improve the bearing of party members and at all times maintain a party member’s essential political nature,” the article said.
While there have been no serious challenges to communist control over the PLA, top officials have in recent months made a series of statements reasserting that authority and blasting calls for the military to be placed under government rather than party control.
In an article published last month in the party’s leading ideological journal, top PLA political commissar Gen. Li Jinai called on officers to “resolutely oppose the wrong thinking of ‘army-party separation, depoliticization, and army nationalization.”‘
Such calls mirror recent statements from civilian leaders ruling out reforms to China’s political system, despite vast changes to the economy and society.
Monday’s article also appeared to address corruption and lax discipline among ranking officers.
Beijing’s roads are clogged with expensive imported vehicles bearing special military licence plates that allow them to avoid paying tolls and defy many rules of the road. Many of China’s newly wealthy have military backgrounds and connections and the PLA is heavily overrepresented in party and government bodies.
Founded in 1927 amid guerrilla war against the governing Nationalist party, the PLA long functioned as a conduit for smuggling and shady business investments, although a campaign begun in the late 1990s sought to end those abuses.