China's top brass in show of support for president

AP News
Posted: Apr 03, 2014 7:06 AM

BEIJING (AP) — China's top generals on Thursday issued an unusually lavish declaration of support for President Xi Jinping as he moves to consolidate his power with a crackdown on corruption in the military.

The commanders of the military's 15 most powerful departments wrote articles published in a special edition of the People's Liberation Army Daily expressing their understanding of Xi's thoughts about defense and military reforms.

Such declarations typically contain little of substance, but are important in showing support for a leader's policies. State media and experts on China's military said the articles were the most extensive since the abandonment of dogmatic Marxism in the late 1970s.

"It's indeed a bit unusual. Xi Jinping needs the show of support as he strengthens his hold over the military," said Zhang Ming, a political analyst at Renmin University's School of International Studies in Beijing.

As related to the anti-corruption campaign targeting high-level officials, it's a "kind of demonstration that he has a strong support from the military," Zhang said.

Xi already heads both the ruling Communist Party and its commission that wields ultimate control over the 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army, the world's largest standing army. As the son of a leading general and a former PLA officer himself, Xi is believed to enjoy more authority over the armed forces than either of his presidential predecessors.

His campaign against military corruption is seen as a move to strengthen that control even further. In recent months, Xi has ordered audits of military units to check for abuses, and this week it was announced that a former top general would be court-martialed on corruption charges.

The general, Gu Junshan, had been deputy head of the People's Liberation Army's General Logistics Department, a position offering him wide-ranging powers over procurement, land use and construction contracts.

China has for years sought to clean up corruption that has been seen as weakening the military's fighting ability. The armed forces were ordered to give up most of their business interests more than a decade ago, but a culture of opacity, authoritarianism and bribery has continued to lead to abuses.

However, as with anti-corruption campaigns against civilian officials, the push against abuses in the military must be carried out cautiously to avoid alienating officers who enjoy generous privileges and who Xi sees as a key source of support for the ruling party.