Editor’s Note: To mark the 95th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army on Monday, China Daily is publishing a series of stories elaborating on Xi Jinping Thought on Strengthening the Military, expounding its main ideas from different angles.
The principle of upholding the absolute leadership of the Communist Party of China over the military－a crucial experience that the People’s Liberation Army has drawn from revolutionary times and which has been strengthened in the past decade－must never change, particularly as the country faces an increasingly complicated situation, experts said.
Such a principle is expounded in Xi Jinping Thought on Strengthening the Military－the latest development of the Party’s military philosophy and an important part of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, they said, adding that Xi Jinping Thought on Strengthening the Military provides a guideline for a unique Chinese approach to strengthening national defense and building a strong, modern force.
Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in late 2012, the central leadership has been making great efforts to identify what kind of military should be developed to better respond to the realities of the new era, and what steps should be taken to build such a military. The outcome of these discussions came to be known as Xi Jinping Thought on Strengthening the Military.
At the 19th National Congress of the CPC in October 2017, the Party decided to add the Thought to its Constitution as the guiding principle for defense and military development.
“Both history and reality told us that it’s a must to unswervingly uphold the Party’s absolute leadership over the military to consolidate the Party’s ruling position and to ensure the red nation of socialism will never change its color,” President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said during a military inspection in 2013.
Shao Dan, a researcher at the PLA’s Academy of Military Sciences, said the key word in Xi’s quote about upholding the Party’s leadership is “absolute”, which stresses upholding the CPC’s authority uniquely, thoroughly and unconditionally.
“The Party’s absolute leadership over the military is a distinctive military leadership system that the CPC has explored and established as a result of its long-term efforts in revolution, construction and reform,” Shao said. “It’s the foundation of the people’s army and is at the core of efforts to develop a strong military.”
To ensure the Party’s absolute leadership over the military, Xi has made a series of institutional designs and arrangements, noting that the CPC and the CMC regard the principle as the military’s “lifeblood” and have asked the military to fully implement a series of systems since the Party’s 18th National Congress, including the CMC chairperson responsibility system.
At the Party’s 19th National Congress, both the principle of upholding the CPC’s absolute leadership over the military and the CMC chairperson responsibility system were included in the Party’s Constitution.
The CMC chairperson responsibility system gives the chairperson the final say and is key to the leadership principle, according to Shao.
Lessons from history
Hu Yang, a researcher on Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era at the PLA National Defence University, wrote in an article for PLA Daily that history has proved that the army’s steady development is due to the Party’s absolute leadership.
On Aug 1, 1927, the CPC led the Nanchang Uprising, its first military resistance against Kuomintang reactionaries, who purged CPC members. After the failure of the uprising, Chairman Mao Zedong led the farmers living in the Hunan-Jiangxi border area to launch the Autumn Harvest Uprising.
After that, Mao carried out an experiment to establish branches of the CPC at the company level in Sanwan, a village in Jiangxi province, on Sept 29, 1927, in a move known as the Sanwan Reorganization, which symbolized the beginning of a people’s army under the leadership of the CPC.
To ensure success, Mao and other leaders presided over a key military meeting in Gutian, Fujian province, in December 1929, known as the landmark Gutian Conference. At the meeting, Mao and other leaders agreed that the army must be led by the Party.
“The Gutian Conference was held at a critical juncture for the survival of the Red Army, as the leaders had different views on the army’s development at that time. Also, some nonproletarian concepts, including warlordism and the ‘ideology of roving rebel bands’, were developing in the army,” Shao said, adding that the army was ideologically confused and faced low morale after losing several battles near the Dongjiang River.
Such an arrangement helped to consolidate the Party’s control over the military and ensured the success of the Chinese revolution. And for nearly a century, the Party has demonstrated strong leadership over the armed forces.
In the PLA Ground Force’s 83rd Army Group, there is a company that is often referred to as the “Red First Company”. Aside from being known for the historic victories it has achieved over the past 95 years, it also set up the first company-level Party branch in the army when Mao established it and admitted six soldiers from the company into the CPC in 1927.
Hu Guanlei, the company’s commander, said the Party had led generations of the company’s soldiers to victory in hundreds of battles.
“It also helps all members of the company to keep in mind our sense of loyalty and the fighting spirit that is instilled in our blood,” he said.
Strict discipline ensured
After the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, the CPC Central Committee and the CMC have also made all-out efforts to improve the Party’s leadership and Party building in the PLA. Among those efforts, better management of responsibilities, strengthening discipline and fighting corruption have been among the priorities.
In February 2021, the CMC revised a regulation on political work in the military, which Shao said is a “major measure to reshape” the Party’s military development. The regulation defined the updated political work in accordance with the new composition, organizational structure and functions of the armed forces after the military reform was launched in 2015.
Two months later, another regulation concerning discipline inspection was also revised by the CMC. It extended the responsibilities of discipline inspection committees and improved their rules of procedure, assisting the battle against corruption in the military.
In the past decade, the CPC and the PLA have investigated cases of corruption involving high-ranking military officials, including former CMC vice-chairmen Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, who seriously violated discipline and laws.
Shao emphasized the significance of discipline that guarantees not only victories in wartime but also the building of the armed forces in the era of peace.
“We should enforce stricter governance over the Party and the military with iron discipline and the fact that no one is allowed to cross the red line of discipline,” she said.
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