China military tells officers to hold their tongues on reform concerns

BEIJING Higher-ranking officers in the Chinese army need to hold their tongues about concerns more than military reform and lead from the front to make sure the rank and file are on board, the People’s Liberation Army stated on Monday.

President Xi Jinping unveiled a broad-brush outline of the reforms last month, searching for further modernization of the command structure of the world’s largest armed forces, which includes job losses, to far better enable it to win a modern war.

Xi is determined to modernize at the same time as China becomes far more assertive in its territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. China’s navy is investing in submarines and aircraft carriers, although the air force is developing stealth fighters.

The reforms, kicked of in September with Xi’s announcement he would reduce service personnel by 300,000, have been controversial.

The military’s newspaper has published a series of commentaries warning of opposition to the reforms and worries about lost jobs.

In a front-page commentary in the People’s Liberation Army Day-to-day, the military’s political department, in charge of ideology and making certain loyalty to the ruling Communist Party, said the accomplishment or failure of reform depended on top officers “top from the front and setting a fine instance”.

“It is forbidden to speak nonsense, make irresponsible comments, have your personal points of view, act as you see fit or feign compliance,” it stated, in a piece also carried in the party’s official People’s Daily.

Special consideration should be paid to what ordinary soldiers consider and sensitive subjects “effectively resolved”, it added.

“(You) must organize and handle nicely public opinion, specially on the Net, and fight an active battle to create a great atmosphere for promoting reform,” the piece mentioned.

Xi’s reforms contain establishing a joint operational command structure by 2020 and rejigging existing military regions, as effectively as cutting troop numbers.

The military commentary said that the reforms had been unprecedented in their scope and for the interest groups they touch upon.

“Deepening military reform is a big test that cannot be avoided, and we have begun our assault and entered deep waters,” it added.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard Editing by Nick Macfie)

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