Strengthen the Armed Forces Through Reform

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

Strengthen the Armed Forces Through Reform*


November 24, 2015


Driving deeper reform in national defense and the military is a call of the times to realize the Chinese Dream, as well as a strong military dream, a sure path to a strong military, and a crucial step for the future of our armed forces. We need to carry out the Party's goal of building a strong military under the prevailing conditions, call on the armed forces and related sectors to carry out the strategy of strengthening the armed forces through reform with full confidence, united in will, thought, and action, and keep resolutely to the path of strengthening the armed forces with Chinese features.

The history of the people's army is one of reform and innovation. Under the leadership of the Party, the armed forces have gone from small to large, from weak to strong, and from victory to victory, without ever slowing the pace of reform and innovation. The reason why the armed forces have stayed vigorous is that they have kept pace with the times and maintained a commitment to reform. Now, as the country progresses from a large country to a large and powerful one, national defense and military development stands at a new and historic starting line. We must take into account the broader international picture, size up our own conditions, and properly deal with the profound and complicated changes in the world. We must uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics, advance the Four-pronged Strategy, implement the goal of building strong armed forces and the military strategies and policies, and fulfill our military missions and tasks. All these require us to have greater wisdom and courage for deeper reform in defense and the military. All officials and people pay close attention to defense and military reform and give it their active support, while army officers and soldiers firmly support such reform with warm expectations. In general, both subjective and objective conditions are favorable for deeper defense and military reform; it is a rare opportunity.

We need to understand the general requirements for reform. The guiding principles for reform includes the essence of the Party's 18th National Congress and the third, fourth and fifth plenary sessions of the 18th CPC Central Committee, Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development. Following the requirements of the Four-pronged Strategy, with building a strong military in the new era as the Party's goal, we will carry out our military strategies, work to break down institutional, structural and policy barriers, modernize the organization of the armed forces, and further unleash the combat capacity and vigor of the armed forces. By doing so, we will build strong national defense and armed forces that are commensurate with China's international status and in compliance with national security and development interests, which will provide a strong guarantee for realizing the Two Centenary Goals and the Chinese Dream.

To understand the above guiding principles, we should follow the Party's goal of building a strong military, and review, guide and promote defense and military reform with this goal. To realize this goal, the CMC has, since the 18th CPC National Congress, made overall plans for building revolutionary, modern and standardized armed forces, coordinated the building and use of military forces, planned for economic development and improvement in national defense, created military strategies and policies in the new era, put forward a series of major policies and principles, and made a series of major decisions and plans. Through reform, we will carry out these strategic plans and designs well, so as to provide a powerful driving force and an institutional guarantee for realizing our goal of building a strong military.

To meet the political requirements of building the military in the current era, we will integrate the leadership of the armed forces with efficient command. To this end, a new structure will be established in which the CMC takes charge of the overall administration of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese People's Armed Police, the militia, and reserve forces, where military theater commands focus on combats, and where different military services pursue their own development. We need to maintain the correct political direction, outline a series of institutional designs and arrangements to consolidate and improve the basic principle under which the Party has absolute leadership of the armed forces and the systems that support it, and strengthen the CMC's centralized and unified leadership to ensure that the CPC Central Committee exercises overall leadership over the military and the CMC exercises combat command. We will design measures to integrate the administrative system and the joint battle command system, and establish a three-tier "CMC-theater command-troops" command system and a "CMC-services-troops" administration system. Major measures include: modify the system of the CMC head-quarters and establish multiple departments; set up a general command center for the army and improve the administrative system of all branches and services of the armed forces; regroup current regional military commands into theater commands and establish a joint battle command organization under each military theater command; and improve the CMC's joint combat command organization.

To run the military by law and enforce strict discipline, we need to focus on regulating power within the military, which demands a strict system to confine and supervise the use of power. Decision-making, enforcement and supervisory powers should be separated and assigned in the principle of mutual checks and coordination. It is paramount to address the issue that discipline enforcement and inspection, auditing, and judicial supervision processes of the military are not sufficiently independent and authoritative, so as to eradicate the breeding grounds of corruption by means of stricter rules and systems. A new discipline inspection commission will be established within the CMC, and disciplinary inspectors will be sent to CMC departments and theater commands, in order to carry out the dual leadership system of the discipline inspection commission. The CMC will reorganize the audit office, and the system of resident audit will be fully carried out. A new political and legal affairs commission will be set up under the CMC, the military judicial system will be adjusted, and military courts and procuratorates will be set up based on geographical areas to ensure independent and fair exertion of judicial power.

We will optimize the size, structure and composition of our troops for higher quality and efficiency, with the aim of building an elite fighting force. Following the principle of streamlining the military and enhancing efficiency, we will cut troop numbers by 300,000 and downsize administrative and non-combat personnel in the military, to make the armed forces smaller but more efficient. The proportion and structure of forces among different services will be streamlined, and the composition will be reformed to suit new security needs and operations, so that the military will be complete in organization, well composed, more flexible in composition, and with a broader range of competencies. An efficiency-centered revolution of the military's management will be rolled out to establish modern ideas, improve the system, and optimize the process, so that the army is managed more professionally, meticulously and scientifically.

We need to occupy the strategic commanding heights in future military rivalries, give full play to innovation-driven development, and promote new ideas to drive the army's fighting capability. Developing defense science and technology is a basic but pioneering project. We need to identify the right breakthrough points, plan ahead, explore and pilot research in both major technologies and new concepts with foresight, actively seek a competitive edge in military technologies, and improve combat effectiveness with innovation.

We need to better develop, manage and use military personnel, and promote systematic reform and policy innovation for personnel development, so as to bring about a situation where capable people come forth in large numbers and everyone can display his or her talents. While upholding the Party's leadership over the management of officials and competent personnel, we should improve human resource classification, integrate management functions of human resources, and strengthen collective and unified management of military personnel, so that the military's human resources can help improve the army's capability in combat. We will carry out deeper reform in military academies, and improve the new system for cultivating military personnel, consisting of school education, field training and vocational education. We will further reform management systems for officers, soldiers, and non-combat personnel, as well as systems of medical care, insurance, housing, and payments for servicemen. We will improve policies and systems for the human resources and logistics of the military, and establish policies and systems that can showcase professional characteristics of military members and strengthen the sense of honor and pride in servicemen. By doing so, we can better enhance morale and stabilize the forces.

We should focus on civil-military integration, advance major reform tasks covering both military and civilian services, and promote integrated development of the economy and national defense. To break down institutional barriers for civil-military integration, we will work to establish an efficient organization and management system that is under unified leadership and enjoys coordination between the military and local authorities, a working system in which the state is the dominant force, demands are the driving force and the market is the operating force, and a framework of policies and institutions with supporting measures and effective incentives. With these, we will be able to bring about a structure in which the military and non-military sectors develop together efficiently across multiple fields. We will improve the institutional framework for the militia and reserve forces, and the mobilization for national defense. We need to strengthen national management and relevant policies so as to provide improved services to veterans. The military must not engage in providing commercial services to the public.

Deeper defense and military reform is an overhaul, a revolution. According to a timeline set in the overall plan, by 2020 we must complete overhauling the leadership and the joint command system, and achieve concrete results in optimizing the scale and structure of the military, improving policies and systems, and promoting civil-military integration. By that point, we should have in place modern military forces which are able to win the information war, effectively fulfill missions and tasks, and further improve the military system with Chinese features. With a strong sense of history and of mission, and in a spirit of "leaving a mark in the iron tools we clutch and footprints in the stones we tread", the whole armed forces should address this crucial battle of reform with determination, and achieve results that will satisfy the Party and the people.

We will unify our thinking, continue our ideological and political work throughout the entire process of reform, and strengthen political awareness, consciousness of the overall situation, and the need to obey command at all levels of our troops. Enlisted officers and men should be guided to actively support and embrace the reform program. High-ranking military officers must take the lead in stressing political awareness, bearing in mind the general situation, observing discipline, promoting reform, striving to fulfill their duties, and resolutely defending the authority of the CPC Central Committee and the CMC in making plans for reform. To strengthen organizational leadership, Party committees at all levels should consider it their political duty to implement reform initiatives. The principal leader of every Party committee should be the first person responsible, and the upper level should supervise each level below it. In Party development, the military should ensure its smooth progress by designing tasks and measures with reform. To this end, we need to ensure corresponding security work, connect legislation with reform, and accelerate enactment, revision, abolition and interpretation of rules and regulations, so that reform will progress along the path of rule of law and different levels operate in an orderly way in the new framework. For officers, we must make reasonable plans to decide their promotion, transfer or removal, and pay attention to and address their practical problems. Veteran officers are valuable assets to the Party and the armed forces; we shall work hard to ensure provision of services to them and secure their needs.

At present, the CMC should focus on reform, and leaders of all levels should plan, arrange and encourage work in all sectors with reform as the main priority. We should step up efforts to implement the guiding principles of the political work conference of the armed forces, improve working practices, continue the anti-corruption struggle, complete the follow-up of various inspections and clearing operations, and connect the advance of reform with the education on the Three Guidelines for Ethical Behavior and Three Basic Rules of Conduct. We will strengthen the management of the military, and maintain its security and stability while making it unified and centralized. In accordance with the new requirements that economic and social development has raised for national defense and the military, we will step up efforts to make the 13th Five-year Plan for army building and development.

All Party and state departments, Party committees and governments at all local levels should have a stronger sense of the overall situation, and regard supporting deeper reform of national defense and the military as their duty. For example, they can create special or preferential policies to arrange jobs for veterans and retiring military personnel. Through concerted efforts, the Party, government, the military, and civilians will be able to carry out various tasks of national defense and military reform, and make new progress in fully implementing the strategy of strengthening the armed forces through reform. Through all this, we will make a new and greater contribution to realizing the Chinese Dream as well as a strong military dream.


* Main points of the speech at a meeting of the Central Military Commission on reforming the armed forces.

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