The People's Liberation Army of China (PLA) is expected to complete a radical overhaul of its structure by Jan. 1, 2016, replacing its traditional centralized system in favor of a Western-style setup that military commanders say will help the country better deal with defense challenges in the future. Instead of seven military commands, the country's military said it would establish five strategic zones to allow its army, navy and air force to be better represented around the country, according to a South China Morning Post report released late Monday.
The move would see the military cut around 300,000 troops from its pool of around 2 million active personnel.
“The new five-strategic-zone system is sufficient to help the PLA deal with challenges today and in the near future,” Hong Kong-based military analyst Liang Guoliang told the Chinese publication. He also pointed out that the current Jinan and Chengdu command regions would be merged into the new structure.
Both commands are expected to be scrapped by Dec. 20 in preparation.
The powerful Central Military Commission, which oversees the armed forces and is led by President Xi Jinping, had demanded the five-combat-zone system be up and running as early as Jan. 1. While the new strategic areas would offer greater autonomy for the commanders in the new regions, one of the aims of the new configuration is “to reduce the political influence of leaders of the existing four headquarters and seven military commands,” a source told SCMP. “For example, the General Political Department was seen as a hotbed of corruption because it controlled personnel, discipline and audits. But under the new structure, those jobs will be separated to create a better system of checks and balances.”
The original idea for the new format was designed to see the PLA split into four military regions -- north, south, east and west. But the latest blueprint follows a decision by the government to add a strategic zone in central China, according to SCMP. This central zone would allow Beijing to remain the overall military headquarters as well as the country’s administrative and military nerve center.