Xi Calls for Greater Loyalty and Discipline in China’s Military

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping called for “deep reflection” from the country’s armed forces at a specially convened meeting aimed at ensuring loyalty and rooting out corruption in the world’s largest military.

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“The barrel of a gun should always be in the hands of those who are loyal to the party,” state broadcaster CCTV quoted the Chinese leader as saying. He also said the “soil that breeds corruption” should be eradicated by improving the policing of graft and supervision of senior cadres, according to the report.

Xi was speaking at a so-called military political work conference in the city of Yan’an, a stronghold of the Communist Party in central China’s Shaanxi province during the civil war.

Xi used a similar meeting in 2014 to assert his authority over the People’s Liberation Army shortly after coming to power. That event was intended to echo a gathering in 1929 when Mao Zedong maneuvered to bring the armed forces under Communist Party control. In 2015, Xi kicked off a major modernization of the military aimed at improving its combat readiness.

Underscoring the importance of the gathering in 2014, the PLA Daily earlier this month credited Xi with saving the armed forces from problems including graft, a weakening of leadership and lack of discipline.

Xi has however struggled to eliminate corruption — at least a dozen senior military officials were removed from their posts in a crackdown last year.

Former Defense Minister Li Shangfu was also mysteriously ousted after just seven months on the job, the shortest tenure for someone in that position since the People’s Republic was founded in 1949. There hasn’t been any formal announcement of a probe into Li.

US intelligence officials believe Xi’s military purge came after it emerged that corruption undermined his efforts to modernize the armed forces and raised questions about China’s ability to fight a war. US assessments cited examples of the impact of graft, including missiles filled with water instead of fuel.

The latest Yan’an meeting, which ran Monday to Wednesday, comes ahead of a high-level conclave in July that will be watched for signs of reforms in China.

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