China's Xi Jinping announces landmark military reforms

The changes Xi announced on Thursday are likely to support Beijing’s maritime interests.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  Nov. 26, 2015 at 12:34 PM
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BEIJING, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Xi Jinping said he is planning new command systems to integrate and increase the efficiency of China's military, navy and air force, according to state media.

The Chinese president's announcement comes more than two months after he vowed to downsize the nation's 2.3 million-member armed forces on Victory Day Sept. 3.

Xi's plans were announced to more than 200 senior military officers. During the meeting, the president said the changes would take years but are necessary for the People's Liberation Army as it faces more complex duties, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

"National defense and military development are at a new and historic starting point," Xi said, adding that he intends to "encourage the composition of forces to become broader, more integrated, multifunctional and flexible."

Bloomberg reported the reorganization would group all branches of the armed forces under a joint military command, and that Xi had said the new policy would "build an elite combat force."

Since Xi fully assumed power in 2013, China has exercised increased assertiveness in disputed areas. Beijing has brushed aside increasing international criticism of its land reclamation activities in the South China Sea, where satellite images showed the construction of airstrips for either military or civilian use.

The changes Xi announced on Thursday are likely to support Beijing's maritime interests. One of the reforms includes downsizing its land armies in favor of increasing expenditures in other branches of the armed forces.

In a separate announcement, China said that it plans to build a logistics facility in Djibouti, located on the strategic Horn of Africa facing the Red Sea.

In September, Xi had said Beijing plans to reduce personnel by 300,000 over the years. There are about 1.4 million members in the land forces.

In May, the Pentagon said in a report to Congress that creating joint-command entities in China "would be the most significant changes to the PLA's command organization since 1949."

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