Chinese President Xi Jinping has asked the PLA’s newly-formed 84 large military units to prepare themselves for combat and give priority to building “new-type” fighting capabilities in electronic, information and space warfare. Xi, also the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high command of the 2.3 million-strong military, spoke to the commanders of the new units here yesterday and asked them to improve their joint operation capabilities and technology level.
He said the new units of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) must prepare themselves for combat and study wars. The President told the new forces to conduct more combat exercises and give priority to building “new-type” fighting capabilities, state-run China Daily reported today.
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In PLA terminology, “new-type” fighting capabilities generally refers to capabilities of engaging in electronic, information and space operations. Xi’s call for building “new-type” fighting capabilities of the world’s largest military came as Beijing prepares to counter the US deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) interceptor missiles in South Korea, whose powerful radars could see through most of the part of China including its missile development programme.
As it expanded strategic influence, China is also flexing its military might especially in the neighbourhood over the territorial disputes with India, Japan and countries in the South China Sea.
All 84 of the new units are at combined corps level, which means their commanders have or soon will be promoted to a rank of either major general in the Ground Force, Air Force and Rocket Force or rear admiral in the Navy.
Though the PLA has not disclosed how these units were set up, it is likely that they were created through the regrouping of existing forces rather than recruiting new personnel, because the Chinese military is still engaged in cutting its troops by three lakhs, the daily said.
The units’ emergence also indicates that the PLA’s structural shake-up has taken effect.
At a CMC conference in December, Xi ordered the military’s structure to be adjusted and optimised, calling for a smaller but capable and flexible military, the report said.
The establishment of the units is the latest move in a massive reform the PLA is undergoing.
The unprecedented reform began in November 2015, when the Central Military Commission unveiled a blueprint for the PLA’s development.
The commission pledged to establish a leaner and more efficient command chain to reduce the number of non-combatant personnel and departments and to build the PLA into a mightier force capable of winning modern wars.
Since then, the PLA has set up a headquarters for its Ground Force, founded a Strategic Support Force dedicated to electronic, information and space operations, and established a Rocket Force to replace the former Second Artillery Corps.
The previous four top PLA departments-staff, politics, logistics and armaments-were dismantled, the report said.