Last week, we (along with many other analysts) expressed doubt about President Xi Jinping’s allegedly peaceful rationale for cutting 300,000 military personnel. And now, the Nikkei Asian Review provides clearer evidence that skepticism was warranted:
China’s armed police force, chiefly responsible for keeping social order, will be reorganized and renamed. Units in charge of border protection and other duties will be transferred to the State Council. The resulting savings on personnel costs will be put toward the development of cutting-edge missiles, armed vehicles and other military technology.Beijing will also raise soldiers’ compensation as it shaves troop numbers, seeking to boost morale and tamp down spreading dissatisfaction with the Xi government’s anti-corruption efforts.
Far from a sign of peaceful intentions, troop reductions are part of China’s extensive efforts to improve its air and naval capabilities as it takes a more aggressive stance in the East and South China seas. Don’t be fooled by Xi’s rhetoric; Beijing remains as committed to its revisionist ambitions as ever.