China stresses Communist party's control over military

Beijing (AFP) - Anyone calling for China's People's Liberation Army to be loyal to the state rather than the Communist party has a "very black heart", military media said Monday, after President Xi Jinping stressed: "The party commands the gun".

Xi vowed to maintain his anti-corruption drive, days after military prosecutors said Xu Caihou, formerly the second-highest ranking officer in 2.3-million strong PLA, had confessed to bribery.

Questions over whether the PLA should become an army of the country rather than an army of the party -- so-called "nationalisation" -- have mounted in recent years but Xi made clear the change was off the agenda.

"We must face up to the outstanding issues which face us in building up the military, especially on our political thinking," the official Xinhua news agency quoted him saying at a two-day meeting in a former revolutionary base in the southern province of Fujian.

Xi urged troops to prioritise the Communist party, saying there were problems with party principles, revolutionary spirits and ideology in the PLA.

"We must profoundly recognise the important role of political work in the army building and pass on to the following generations all the great traditions which were forged in blood by our ancestors," Xi said, according to the Xinhua report.

State-run media decried the concept of a state-controlled army on Monday, with an editorial in the official PLA Daily saying: "Those who spread the call for nationalisation of the military can be described as having a very black heart."

Other publications blamed the suggestion on foreigners intent on weakening the ruling party, with an editorial in the Global Times saying its backers had "obviously been influenced by the West".

The involvement of foreign forces in the argument "directly advocates depriving the Party's leadership of the military and shaking the foundation of the Party's power", added the paper, which is close to the ruling party.

Xi vowed to continue the fight against corruption in the military, part of his much-publicised wider campaign to root out the scourge that threatens to weaken the party's 65-year grip on power.

The PLA has come under intense scrutiny as part of the crackdown and Xu, formerly a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, is being prosecuted for taking bribes in exchange for granting promotions.

A lack of discipline and faith still plague the military, Xi said according to Xinhua, adding that oversight of officers was "too lax". The system that supervises senior military officials still had flaws, he said.