Strengthen and Improve the Political Work of the Military

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China II Updated: 2021-12-27

Strengthen and Improve the Political Work of the Military*


October 31, 2014


Currently, both China and the world are experiencing a period of dramatic and complex change. Aware of fundamental differences of opinion in the ideological sphere, we must be on the alert against any possibility of a "color revolution". There must on no account be any weakening of our efforts in the arduous task of preparing for combat readiness, in meeting the challenges of reforming national defense and the army, and in continuing the army's political work.

The direction of the Party is the direction of the military's political work. The military's political work is determined by the central task of the Party and the military in the current era.

The contemporary theme of our military's political work is to focus on realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation, and provide a solid political guarantee for achieving the Party's goal of building the military.

The military must follow the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development, and implement Party Central Committee's requirements of comprehensively promoting the rule of law and strict Party discipline within the military. Political work in the new era should be strengthened and improved so that it can play its part as the lifeline in building our military.

"Once the key link is grasped, everything else falls into place; once the horse is before the cart, the cart will follow."1 What is crucial at this point is to build on the following four fundamentals.

First, the military should foster our shared ideals and convictions. "The essence in leadership is to lead the hearts and minds."2 Lofty ideals and firm convictions are the soul of revolutionary forces, the decisive factor to win victories, and the means to ward off any corruption and moral decline. We must take the fostering of ideals and convictions as a strategic project, and take effective measures to consolidate the foundation of our values.

To foster ideals and convictions is part of the education of the people. We should adapt ourselves to the objectives and requirements of building our military and the characteristics and laws of political work, to foster a new generation of revolutionary forces dedicated to the Party's ideals and leadership, capable of winning wars, fearless, and equipped with moral integrity.

The military should equip itself with our Party's theories, uphold and apply the core socialist values, foster the values of contemporary revolutionary forces, and inspire the troops, so that our ideals and convictions and great traditions will go down from generation to generation.

I have always believed that the key to building up ideals and convictions is high-ranking officers. One of the major challenges is a lack of trust by the rank and file in some commanding officers, especially senior officers.

To a certain extent, a crisis of belief reflects a crisis of confidence, a lack of belief on the part of commanding officers. A key factor for the rank and file to have a belief is for the commanding officers to have one and act accordingly. All of us here at this meeting bear a heavy responsibility. All members of the military are looking to us.

As long as all of us present today sincerely believe in Marxism and truly love the Party, the country, the people, and the military, as long as we adopt an unequivocal approach towards major issues of principle, remain dauntless when facing political storms, firmly resist all kinds of temptation, remain pragmatic with firm and sincere aims, are bold in shouldering our responsibilities, and lead by example, we will be able to accomplish our goals in fostering our ideals and convictions in the military.

Second, the military should uphold Party spirit and principles. Belief in Party spirit and principles is the fundamental quality of Party members, as well as the fundamental requirement of our political work. In doing our work, we must put the principles and cause of our Party and the interests of our people first. As Party members, we must love the Party, protect the Party, work for the Party, and share weal and woe with the Party.

Criticism and self-criticism serve as an effective instrument for upholding Party spirit and principles and resolve intra-Party conflicts and problems. One of the significant outcomes of the campaign to implement the Party's mass line is the restoration of this worthy tradition. If no one dares to criticize others and no one is willing to criticize himself, problems and conflicts will pile up and be aggravated. Eventually, an ailment will become incurable.

We should consolidate wholesome conduct, engage in positive, healthy criticism and self-criticism, and build a confident ethos of unity with a clear distinction between right and wrong, between merit and fault. Intra-Party activities are political activities with strong principles. Their main purpose is to solve problems. We must be resolute in opposing the acquiescent mentality and inappropriate tendencies.

According to ancient Chinese sayings, "Proper execution of orders is the making of a majestic military"3 and "Setting up rules beforehand outweighs punishment afterwards."4 The key to upholding Party spirit and principles is to set up rules, apply them fairly, and abide by them. There should be clear rules on what can be done and how, and what cannot be done.

We should enhance our ability to implement rules and make sure that rules and discipline are a deterrent. The routine investigation and prosecution of violations of the law and discipline should be institutionalized, so that our Party members and military officers are prudent in mind, word, and deed.

At the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, I emphasized the importance of obeying political discipline and rules. I listed seven major problems. For the military to obey discipline, the priority is political discipline; to obey rules, the priority is political rules – and we must do so to a higher standard and set of requirements.

Nobody is entitled to cross the red lines of political discipline and rules. Those who do will have to pay a price.

Upholding Party spirit and principles is the responsibility of each and every Party member and military officer. Commanding officers should hold firmly to truth, adhere to principles, and courageously fight against violators and violations of Party spirit and principles. All Party committees should support and protect Party members and officers who speak the truth and fight against misconduct. This way, clandestine rules will give way to a wholesome and favorable political environment.

Third, the military should uphold the standard of combat capability. The essential function of our military is fighting. The standard of combat capability is the sole fundamental standard in building a military. Political work is a tool to guarantee the standard of combat capability in every aspect of military affairs.

The focus should be on the capability to fight and win. The evaluation system of the performance of Party committees and commanding officers should be improved, in order to create a favorable environment for improving combat capability. We must introduce effective measures and relevant policies in public opinion, daily activities, and official promotion so as to establish a rigorous, high standard of combat capability.

For our military, political work itself plays a very important part in the creation and deployment of combat capability. Political work is part and parcel of combat capability; without it combat capability will be diminished. It is wrong to separate the two or regard them as conflicting opposites.

Political work in the military must help us accomplish the central task of economic development and serve the overall interests of the country. We must put an end to the abnormal practice of political departments setting the agenda, going through daily routines, and evaluating their own performance behind closed doors, devoid of any consideration for real military needs. According to the overall requirement of winning local wars in the information era, we should put political work at the service of combat capability building, and ensure it can play its part in the whole process of combat readiness.

We should keep pace with deeper reform and carry out targeted political work. We should educate members of the military to have firm ideals and convictions and a strong sense of responsibility and discipline. All should advocate, support and participate in reform, and contribute to its success.

Fourth, the military should uphold the authority of political work. To be frank, due to existing problems, the authority of our military's political work has been damaged, seriously in some cases. As an old saying goes, "An authority that is not strong enough destroys itself; a rule that is not clear enough damages itself."5

Now, the pressing task is to rebuild the authority of political work, and restore some fundamental principles, including matching one's words with deeds, playing an exemplary role, and setting good examples.

In the past, the military's political work featured good examples. During the Red Army period (1927-1937), political work was the responsibility of Party representatives, who enjoyed a high reputation.

Luo Ronghuan6 once recalled, during military marches, "our Party representatives marched at the end of the file, offering assistance to the soldiers in need. Party representatives had the support of the troops. Any written order had to bear their signature. Otherwise, the troops would doubt its authenticity."7

The exemplary role of political work officers is itself the best of political work.

Today, as times change, we have a variety of methods for political work. However, the exemplary role is not outdated. Our troops do not care about what you say. They care about what you do.

Rebuilding the authority of political work starts with the exemplary role, especially that of commanding officers. We should boost the morale of the military with role models, promote officers for their excellent performance and sanction those who have failed. We should encourage officers of all ranks, especially political work officers, to put the power of truth together with the power of their personalities, to be pragmatic, and to be fair and honest. In this regard, the Central Military Commission (CMC) should set a good example for the military.


* Part of the speech at a military conference on political work.


1  Yang Quan: Discourse on Truth and Matter (Wu Li Lun). Yang Quan was a philosopher during the Western Jin Dynasty (265-317). 

2  Su Xun: Collected Essays in the Jiayou Period (Jia You Ji). Su Xun (1009-1066) was a writer of the Northern Song Dynasty. 

3  Liu Xiang: Garden of Stories (Shuo Yuan). Liu Xiang (77-6 BC) was an economist and writer of the Western Han Dynasty. 

4 Wei Liao Zi, an ancient Chinese text on military strategy. 

5  Lu Jia: New Thoughts (Xin Yu). Lu Jia (c. 240-170 BC) was a thinker and statesman of the Western Han Dynasty. 

6  Luo Ronghuan (1902-1963) was a proletarian revolutionary, strategist, and marshal of the PRC. 

7  Luo Ronghuan: "The Gutian Meeting and the Political Work of Our Military", Selected Military Works of Luo Ronghuan, Chin. ed., Chinese People's Liberation Army Publishing House, Beijing, 1997, p. 551.

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