President Xi Jinping has taken on the task of turning China’s military into a fighting force for a new era of Chinese power. The WSJ has some details on specifics:
Under his new plan, Mr. Xi, who heads that commission, is trying to shift power to naval, air and missile forces, which are vital for his ambitions to enforce territorial claims in Asia and protect China’s swelling economic interests elsewhere. He is doing that by forming new service branches and downgrading the status of the Army.He is wresting power from senior generals by dismantling command structures including the PLA’s seven “Military Regions” and four “General Departments,” through which its officers have for years wielded authority, resisted central oversight and sometimes lined their pockets.He is taking direct command of combat operations: Official media named him for the first time as “commander-in-chief” of a new joint battle command center that he visited on Wednesday in a rare appearance in camouflage fatigues and combat boots.And he is trimming 300,000 of the PLA’s 2.3 million troops, a move he announced last year, the biggest cut in two decades. That means putting out of work large numbers of soldiers experienced with weapons, just as the state sector, which absorbed previous troops cuts, also plans to lay off millions.
We’ve been following the ins and outs of the grumbles bubbling up out of the PLA’s ranks since Xi first announced the cuts. But the WSJ article makes plain just how ambitious and far-reaching the reorganization will be. Reforming an institution as big and powerful as China’s military is a perilous task. (Indeed, look no further than this piece by Sulmaan Khan from last year to see just how contentious the reforms could ned up being.)A military modernizing for global dominance, a dictator consolidating his power, an unstable economy, and an America tired of being the world’s policeman. These are not the ingredients for a new era of world peace.