November 1, 2014 / 11:59 AM / 3 years ago

China's Xi calls on army to remember past in graft fight

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s military must not let down those who gave their lives for the Communist Party in the revolutionary struggle and must resolutely fight corruption, state media on Saturday quoted President Xi Jinping as saying after a high-level scandal.

China's President Xi Jinping arrives before the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing,March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Xi has made weeding out corruption in the armed forces a top goal. This week the government said one of China’s most senior former military officers, Xu Caihou, had confessed to taking “massive” bribes in exchange for help in promotions.

Xu retired as vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission - which Xi heads and which controls China’s 2.3 million strong armed forces - last year and from the party’s decision-making Politburo in 2012.

During a top-level two-day military meeting at an old revolutionary base in the southeastern province of Fujian that started on Thursday, Xi said the armed forces needed to “deeply reflect on the lessons and thoroughly banish the influence” of Xu’s case.

“We must face up to the outstanding issues which face us in building up the military, especially on our political thinking,” the official Xinhua news agency cited Xi as saying.

The military has problems with poor management of its officers, especially with making sure they behave properly, he added.

“SACRIFICE”

The armed services must “return to and make full use of their fine political traditions”, Xi said.

Those traditions include the fair and honest promotion of officers, rigorous discipline and “sacrifice to the revolutionary spirit”, he added.

“We must deeply recognize the importance of political work in the military and the important role it plays and pass on to the next generations the great traditions that were forged in blood by our ancestors,” Xi said.

“Never slacken in the determination to deepen the fight against corruption.”

Pressing home this point, Xinhua said that Xi ate a simple meal with serving officers, including pumpkin soup, a far cry from the ostentatious lifestyle of some officials which state media have reported on with glee following Xi’s declaration of war on deep-seated corruption.

The Communist Party likes to remind people of the heroism and simple lifestyle of the soldiers who brought it to power in 1949 after a bloody civil war, in contrast with the perceived greed and poor morals of many of today’s officials.

China stepped up a crackdown on corruption in the military in the late 1990s, banning the People’s Liberation Army from engaging in business. But the military has been involved in commercial dealings in recent years due to a lack of checks and balances, military analysts have said.

The buying and selling of senior jobs in the military, an open secret, has worried reformers who say it leads to those with talent being cast aside and damages morale.

Anti-graft advocates say corruption in the military is so pervasive that it could undermine China’s ability to wage war.

Xi has repeatedly reminded them to be loyal to the party, as he also steps up efforts to modernize forces that are projecting power across the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas, though it has not fought a war in decades.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Gareth Jones

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