China plans to revamp military into 5 'strategic zones'

HONG KONG • China is expected to soon declare plans to reorganise its military into five "strategic zones", as Chinese President Xi Jinping seeks to refine a leaner and more efficient army.

Mr Xi last month unveiled a broad-brush outline of the reforms aimed at further modernising the command structure of the world's largest armed forces to better enable it to win a modern war.

His reforms include establishing a joint operational command structure by 2020, rejigging existing military regions, cutting troop numbers by 300,000, as well as strengthening the Central Military Commission (CMC) command structure over the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported in September that the PLA will consolidate the current seven regional commands into five units and to reorganise the four army headquarters.

Recent clues indicate that the overhaul is linked to the departure of General Liu Yuan, political commissar of the PLA's General Logistics Department - one of the army¡'s four headquarters - from the department, SCMP reported, citing sources.

In his farewell letter to staff on Wednesday last week, Gen Liu said he would be "the last political commissar of Logistics" and that he would "absolutely obey the reforms" introduced by President Xi.

The letter indicated that the powerful CMC would scrap three of the four army headquarters - the General Political department, General Logistics and General Armaments - and retain the General Staff department, said SCMP.

The Hong Kong paper added that Gen Liu will likely be named secretary of the new military discipline inspection commission.

The five new military zones will include a vast West zone that covers more than half the country and a larger North zone that will concentrate on Mongolia, the Russian Far East and the Korean peninsula.

Changes to the old military command system are expected to be completed soon. The new five strategic areas, also referred to as combat zones, could be operational as early as Jan 1, SCMP said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2015, with the headline 'China plans to revamp military into 5 'strategic zones''. Print Edition | Subscribe