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China creates new army units to modernise the military

Published 02/01/2016

President Xi Jinping, left, presents a military flag to Wei Fenghe, commander of the Rocket Force of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, and Wang Jiasheng, political commissar of the Rocket Force, in Beijing (Xinhua/AP)
President Xi Jinping, left, presents a military flag to Wei Fenghe, commander of the Rocket Force of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, and Wang Jiasheng, political commissar of the Rocket Force, in Beijing (Xinhua/AP)

China has created three new military bodies in a series of reforms to modernise its military - the world's largest standing force - and improve its fighting capacity.

State television showed President Xi Jinping giving military flags to the leaders of the three new units - a general command for the People's Liberation Army, a missile force and a strategic support force.

Mr Xi and PLA officers and soldiers sang the national anthem at the ceremony in Beijing.

The president said the three new units were created as part of a modernisation scheme and "to realise the Chinese dream of a strong military".

He has promulgated the idea of a "Chinese dream" involving "the great renewal of the Chinese nation" and sees a strong military as key to that aim.

The military reform comes as China has become more assertive in pressing its claims to territory in the East China Sea and South China Sea, increasing tensions with its neighbours.

In a bid to show China poses no expansionist threat, Mr Xi announced in September that he would reduce China's 2.3 million-strong army by 300,000 troops, but it will still remain the world's largest.

Described by Mr Xi as a "core force of strategic deterrence", the PLA Rocket Force will replace the Second Artillery Force in controlling China's nuclear arsenal and conventional missiles. The new Strategic Support Force is likely to focus on cyber warfare.

Other reform plans include phasing out old equipment and developing new weapons systems.

The reforms also tighten the party's leadership over the army. It used to be supervised by four headquarters, while now the army's general command is controlled directly by the Central Military Commission, whose chairman is Mr Xi.

The military has been the focus of an anticorruption campaign spearheaded by Xi. The two highest-ranking officers to be accused of taking bribes were vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission.

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