Xi’s army is replacing the U.S. as Asia’s mightiest
By DAVID LAGUE in HONG KONG and BENJAMIN KANG LIM
Illustrations by CHRISTIAN INTON
April 23, 2019
In 1938, in the midst of a long campaign to bring China under Communist Party rule, revolutionary leader Mao Zedong wrote: “Whoever has an army has power.”
Xi Jinping, Mao’s latest successor, has taken that dictum to heart.
He has donned camouflage fatigues, installed himself as commander-in-chief and taken control of the two million-strong Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army. It is the biggest overhaul of the PLA since Mao led it to victory in the nation’s civil war and founded the People’s Republic in 1949.
Xi has accelerated the PLA’s shift to naval power from a traditionally land-based force. He has broken up its vast, Maoist-era military bureaucracy. A new chain of command leads directly to Xi as chairman of the Central Military Commission, China’s top military decision-making body. Operational leadership of naval, missile, air, ground and cyber forces has been separated from administration and training – a structure that Chinese and Western defense analysts say borrows from U.S. military organization.