China tells military to be on guard against "liberalism"

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's military ordered its forces on Thursday to be on guard against "liberalism" and ensure their loyalty to the ruling Communist Party, the latest battle in President Xi Jinping's war against corruption in the services.

The People's Liberation Army, the world's largest armed forces, "must put the orders of the party into action, must maintain and uphold the correct political beliefs, must guard against and rectify political liberalism", the military said in a statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency.

Financial rules must be followed and the promotion of officers must avoid any hint of corruption, as nobody was above the law, the statement added. "Eliminate any thought or reality of there being special rights" for those who can get away with breaking the rules, and give the corrupt no place to hide, it said.

Xi has made weeding out corruption in the armed forces a top goal, and several senior officers have been felled, including one of China's most senior former military officers, Xu Caihou. He died of cancer last month.

China stepped up a crackdown on corruption in the military in the late 1990s, banning the People's Liberation Army from engaging in business. But the military has been involved in commercial dealings in recent years due to a lack of checks and balances, military analysts have said.

The buying and selling of senior jobs in the military, an open secret, has worried reformers who say it leads to those with talent being cast aside and damages morale.

Anti-graft advocates say corruption in the military is so pervasive that it could undermine China's ability to wage war.

Xi has repeatedly reminded the military to be loyal to the party, as he also steps up efforts to modernise forces that are projecting power across the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas, though it has not fought a war in decades.