China inaugurates PLA Rocket Force as military reform deepens

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BEIJING,– Chinese President Xi Jinping conferred military flags on the general command for the Army of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force at their inauguration ceremony held Thursday in Beijing.

Xi said the move to form the PLA Army general command, the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force is a major decision by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the Central Military Commission (CMC) to realize the Chinese dream of a strong military, and a strategic step to establish a modern military system with Chinese characteristics.

It will be a milestone in the modernization of the Chinese military and will be recorded in the history of the people’s armed forces, according to Xi, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the CMC.

When congratulating the three forces, Xi urged them to follow the path of building a strong army with Chinese characteristics, always be ready to act in response to the call of the people and the Party, and make bigger contributions to achieving the Chinese dream of a strong military.

CMC Vice Chairman Fan Changlong announced the decision on leadership appointment for the three forces, which was endorsed by CMC Chairman Xi.

Li Zuocheng is the Commander of the PLA Army, and Liu Lei its political commissar. Wei Fenghe is the Commander of the PLA Rocket Force, and Wang Jiasheng its political commissar. Gao Jin is the Commander of the PLA Strategic Support Force, and Liu Fulian its political commissar.

Liu Lei, Wang Jiasheng and Liu Fulian, in their speeches delivered on behalf of their respective forces, vowed to follow the command of the CPC Central Committee, the CMC and Chairman Xi in all circumstances at any time, and honor their duties.

The ceremony was presided over by CMC Vice Chairman Xu Qiliang.

ROLES OF PLA ROCKET FORCE

Xi said the PLA Rocket Force is a “core force of strategic deterrence, a strategic buttress to the country’s position as a major power, and an important building block in upholding national security.”

Xi urged officers and soldiers of the PLA Rocket Force to understand the roles and tasks of the force, and to follow the requirement of maintaining both conventional and nuclear weaponry and the ability to deter and strike across the entire defense area.

Xi also called on the Rocket Force to enhance nuclear deterrence and counter-strike capacity which is credible and reliable, medium- and long-range precision strike ability, as well as strategic check-and-balance capacity to build a strong and modern Rocket Force.

PLA ARMY GENERAL COMMAND, PLA STRATEGIC SUPPORT FORCE SET UP

Noting that the PLA Army is the oldest force led and founded by the CPC, Xi praised its long history, tremendous military exploits and immortal deeds. “The PLA Army has played an irreplaceable role in defending national sovereignty, security and development interests,” said Xi.

He called on army soldiers to embrace the honorable traditions, adapt to changing situations in the digital age and explore new patterns in land battles. The army needs to optimize its structure and composition, expedite its transformation from regional defense to universal fighting and build itself into a powerful modern land force.

A new force in safeguarding national security, the PLA Strategic Support Force represents “an important growth point” of the Chinese military in modern war, Xi said.

Xi urged the soldiers of the force to achieve leapfrogging development in key fields, set a high bar and strive to build a strong modern strategic support force.

GUIDELINE ON MILITARY REFORM RELEASED

The PLA Army general command, the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force were established against the backdrop of military structural reform in China.

The CMC has released a guideline on deepening national defense and military reform, about a month after CMC Chairman Xi Jinping called on a military administration and command system overhaul at a key meeting.

According to the guideline, a new structure will be established in which the CMC takes charge of the overall administration of the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese People’s Armed Police and the militia and reserve forces, battle zone commands focus on combat preparedness, and various military services pursue development.

The overall goal is to achieve progress and concrete results before 2020 in military administration and joint operational command, optimizing military structure, enhancing policy systems and civilian-military integration, and building a modern military with Chinese characteristics that can win information age wars.

While 2015 was mainly devoted to the implementation of leadership management and joint operational command reform, the guideline said 2016 will see military cuts, improved combatant personnel and reform of military academies and armed police forces.

The reform will include cutting troops from 2.3 million to 2 million, phasing out outdated armaments, developing new weapons systems and reducing the size of the militia.

The move to deepen defense and military reform is aimed at breaking down systematic, structural and policy barriers, modernizing the organization of the military, and unleashing the combat capacity of the military.

It is also aimed at building a firm defense and strong military commensurate with China’s international standing and interests in security and development.

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