China dismantles powerful military HQs

Chinese President Xi Jinping at a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in Beijing, on Sept 3, 2015.
Chinese President Xi Jinping at a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in Beijing, on Sept 3, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

Division of the 4 facilities' work into 15 new agencies is part of Xi's military reforms

In a historic move, China has dismantled its four powerful military headquarters and spread their work across 15 new agencies, as part of reforms by President Xi Jinping to forge a more combat-ready and politically pliant fighting force.

The agencies were revealed after a meeting yesterday between the newly appointed chiefs and Mr Xi, who urged them to submit to the leadership of the Communist Party.

"Military leaders need to sharpen their political alertness and become better at discerning right and wrong in political matters," Mr Xi, who chairs the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), was quoted as saying in a report by the official Xinhua news agency that did not name the 15 chiefs.

Mr Xi also urged the military agencies, which come under the CMC's command, to "concentrate on the study of military affairs, wars and how to fight battles, and strengthen their awareness in preparing for war at any time".


The four headquarters had overseen staff, political work, logistics and armaments for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) for over five decades, with some set up in the 1940s. Observers say they were being dissolved to prevent any military agency from becoming too powerful.

It is believed that Mr Xi wanted to prevent a repeat of how disgraced CMC vice-chairmen Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong had ruled the PLA through the four headquarters, with little regard for then-CMC chair Hu Jintao from 2004 to 2012, and also for Mr Xi as their fellow CMC vice-chair from 2007 to 2012.

Both Xu and Guo were placed under investigation after their 2012 retirement for disciplinary violations.

Replacing the headquarters are six new departments in these areas: joint staff, political work, logistical support, equipment development, training and national defence.

There are also three commissions that will oversee discipline inspection; politics and law; and science and technology.

A General Office has been set up to act as the nerve centre of the CMC, in the same vein as the General Office of the Communist Party.

Five other offices will oversee administration, auditing, international cooperation, reform and organisational structure, and strategic planning.

In response to media queries, Ministry of Defence spokesman Wu Qian said last night that the restructuring would be useful in "ensuring the party's absolute leadership and also the CMC's centralised authority over the military".

"It will also help the agencies perform their roles in strategising, planning, managing, and also beefing up the system of checks and balances and supervision," said Colonel Wu, who also listed the specific role of each agency.

For instance, the new joint staff department will be focusing on devising battleplan strategies and raising the PLA's combat-readiness.

Besides dissolution of the old headquarters, China's military reforms- targeted to be completed by 2020 - also include rezoning of its seven military regions into possibly five strategic zones.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2016, with the headline 'China dismantles powerful military HQs'. Print Edition | Subscribe