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‘Xi tightened control over the PLA’

Steps taken during his rule include “major operations on border defence”, says party document

The new resolution on history passed last week by China’s ruling Communist Party has said that President Xi Jinping had tightened control over the military to address the party’s “obviously lacking” leadership of the armed forces under his predecessors.

The full text of the resolution, released on Tuesday evening, listed some of the actions taken by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) under Mr. Xi, who is also the chairman of the Central Military Commission. These included what the document described as “major operations related to border defence”.

No specifics

It did not specify what those major operations were. China has unresolved land borders with India and Bhutan. In April 2020, the PLA mobilised two divisions and carried out multiple transgressions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh, sparking the worst crisis along the border in many years. Talks to resolve the tensions are still on-going.

“The armed forces have remained committed to carrying out military struggles in a flexible manner to counter military provocations by external forces, and they have created a strong deterrent against separatist activities seeking ‘Taiwan independence,’” the resolution said.

“They have conducted major operations related to border defence, protecting China’s maritime rights, countering terrorism and maintaining stability, disaster rescue and relief, fighting COVID-19, peacekeeping and escort services, humanitarian assistance, and international military cooperation.”

Last week’s resolution on history was only third such document putting forth the official view on party history, following resolutions passed by Mao Zedong in 1945 and Deng Xiaoping in 1981.

The new resolution dealt more with the future than the past. It essentially reaffirmed the official view on history, saying that the “basic points and conclusions” of past resolutions “remain valid to this day.”

It repeated the conclusion reached in 1989 on Mao’s errors noting that “mistakes were made” and that “Mao Zedong’s theoretical and practical errors concerning class struggle in a socialist society became increasingly serious” leading to the disasters of the Cultural Revolution.

Criticism of predecessors

Much of the new resolution focuses on emphasising Mr. Xi’s leadership and calling for the party to support his “core” status. It only briefly mentioned Mr. Xi’s predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, and implicitly critcised some aspects of their leadership including on military matters.

“For a period of time, the party’s leadership over the military was obviously lacking,” it noted. “If this problem had not been completely solved, it would not only have diminished the military’s combat capacity, but also undermined the key political principle that the party commands the gun.”

The document said Mr. Xi’s leadership had tightened supervision on the military including boosting “troop training and battle preparedness”, and it repeated China’s stated goals of completing the modernisation of its armed forces by 2035 and building a “world class” military by 2050, which observers see as meaning on par with the U.S.

‘Working vigorously’

“To build strong people’s armed forces, it is of paramount importance to uphold the fundamental principle and system of absolute party leadership over the military, to ensure that supreme leadership and command authority rest with the party Central Committee and the Central Military Commission (CMC), and to fully enforce the system of the CMC chairman assuming overall responsibility,” the resolution said, adding that “setting their sights on this problem, the Central Committee and the CMC have worked vigorously to govern the military with strict discipline in every respect.”

It noted how “grave violations of party discipline and state laws including those involving Guo Boxiong, Xu Caihou, Fang Fenghui, and Zhang Yang were thoroughly investigated and punished, and their negative influence was completely eliminated”, referring to top Generals who had been purged.

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