Chinese President Xi Jinping has asked the country's armed forces – the world's largest – to strengthen itself as he addressed top military authorities shortly after his landmark re-election. The emboldened Chinese leader said the army should remain true to its principles and loyal to the communist party.
Xi was speaking to a military gathering on Thursday, 26 October, a day after he was elected again as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, allowing him another five-year term. He has now been elevated to the same level as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, the country's most powerful leaders.
"We should strive to fully transform the People's Armed Forces into a world-class military by the mid-21st century," said Xi, the only civilian in the influential Central Military Commission (CMC) which oversees the 2.3 million-strong military. However, a few high-ranking military leaders were conspicuously absent during the address, reports the South China Morning Post.
"It [the military] has been upholding the Party's absolute leadership over the armed forces, innovating military strategy, governing the army by law and promoting civil-military integration," Xi told the military gathering in Beijing, according to the Xinhua news agency.
The Chinese forces have been engaged in confrontations on quite a few fronts, both maritime and on land, in recent years as the western world suspect Beijing is aggressively expanding its sovereign territories. Beijing's territorial row in the South China Sea, East China Sea and border disputes with India have been a major cause for concern for political powers in the recent past.
Against this backdrop, Xi's call to bolster the armed forces gains additional significance as he explicitly called for the top military leadership to be faithful to the party's ideology and the administration.
"Senior officers, as the backbone of the campaign to build a strong army, should be loyal and obedient to the Party, be good and smart at combat and endeavour to reform," Xi added.
Following Xi's speech, defence ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang said that the president's vision would be fully implemented.