China's Xi Jinping, the present chairman of the ruling Communist Party's Central Military Commission, or CMC, and the future president of the country, ordered the People's Liberation Army, or PLA, to increase its "real combat" awareness in an effort to maintain military preparedness, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Xi took over outgoing President Hu Jintao’s roles as the party's general secretary and its CMC chairman after the party's 18th National Congress last month. This made Xi commander in chief of the 2.3 million people currently enlisted in China’s military, the world’s largest. It is anticipated that Xi will assume the post as China’s next president following the formal power transition in March.
Xi wrapped up a five-day tour of Guangdong province -- his first as the new CMC chairman -- after making several high-profile appearances with various members of the military and taking part in several photo opportunities.
According to the South China Morning Post, Xi visited military bases and other facilities located in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Zhuhai. During the tour, he boarded the Haikou, a destroyer in the PLA Navy's South China Sea fleet. He also watched training, participated in facility inspections, and chatted and dined with officers and soldiers.
Military officials released a statement this week highlighting Xi's remarks about beefing up China's combat readiness after Xi's visit to the PLA's Guangzhou military-operations site.
Xi told high-ranking PLA authorities to intensify the training for combat among both commissioned and noncommissioned soldiers, Xinhua said.
He also told them: "Bear in mind that it is the soul of the military to obey the command of the [Chinese Communist] Party without compromise, it is the top priority for the military to be able to combat and win battles, and it is fundamental that the military consolidate itself through governing the troops lawfully and austerely, so as to reinforce its development featuring loyalty to the Party, modernization and standardization."
According to Zhang Lifan, a political-affairs analyst cited by the South China Morning Post, Xi’s recent visits to various military camps and speeches about dedication to the Communist Party are the leader’s way of solidifying his role as the nation’s political and military leader.
Zhang said, "His high-profile visits to various army camps are designed to cement his image as an undisputed leader, not only of the party, but also the army."