Party and the Gun – The Statesman


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China intends to strenghthen its defences to a hitherto exceptional level. As much is the fineprint of the message advanced to the world on the nation’s Army Day last Saturday by President Xi Jinping. He has blurred the distinction between the ruling Communist Party of China and the omnipotent People’s Liberation Army by asserting that it is the party that “controls the gun”, thus according precedence to the party over the military.

He has couched the message with the appeal to the PLA to make what he calls “resolute efforts to become the world’s best army by 2027 ~ on par with that of the United States of America”. It is pretty obvious that while his timeframe of six years is short, he has been explicit with his statement of intent.

The CPC’s conclave has finalised plans to put in place a “fully modern military”, similar to that of the United States by 2027 which marks the centennial of the founding of the PLA. Clearly, President Xi is gearing up both the party and the PLA to bring his desire to fruition. The thrust of his presentation on Saturday is that “the party commands the gun”, and this must be the matrix that will guide matters of state.

To that can be contextualised the 14th Five-Year Plan, verily the centennial goal of military development. Ever since he took over as the CPC leader in 2012, Xi has been emphatic that the PLA must function under the party leadership. This year’s defence budget totals $200 billion.

This, the President hopes, will take care of rapid modernisation and military exercises in “real battle conditions to win wars”. President Xi’s signal of intent has raised eyebrows even within China. Going by constitutional certitudes, the PLA functions under the party leadership and not under the government in Beijing.

In the years that he has been in power, President Xi has shaken the military to its foundations by punishing 50 top generals and a host of middle-level officers in a massive anti-corruption drive. He underlined on Saturday that it was imperative to achieve the military’s goal set by the CPC and the Central Military Command. “Greater importance” ought, therefore, to be given to strenghten national defence generally and the armed forces.

He has called for transformation of the development philosophy to ensure what he calls “quality development”. He has called for efforts to lend an impetus to reform the armed forces and national defence generally. China’s neighbours, many of them locked in territorial disputes with the Communist giant, and adversaries will no doubt take note of Mr Xi’s military plans for the future. Equally significant is that In comparison to the People’s Liberation Army, the Communist Party of China will reign supreme.

This is the essence of the ideological underpinning ~ “the CPC controls the gun”.

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