President Xi Jinping has signed China's first-ever decree on training of the country's two million-strong military, the world's largest, to improve the combat readiness of armed forces, official media reported on Tuesday. Xi, 65, regarded as the most powerful Chinese leader after Mao Zedong heading the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), the military and Presidency, has signed an order to release a trial regulation on the supervision of military training, the first of its kind in the country. The regulation, which will take effect on March 1, focuses on improving the combat readiness of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
It formulates measures to rectify practices that are inconsistent with the requirements of actual combats. It also details the criteria for identifying malpractices and discipline violations during military training. The regulation also states the responsibilities, power and priorities of military training supervision and regularises the methods and procedures for carrying out such work. Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has been carrying out aggressive reforms of the military, which included real time combative training, reorganisation of the command structures as well as downsizing the army, ramping up Navy and Airforce to enhance China's strategic global outreach. The Chinese military which has an annual budget of over USD 175 billion is investing heavily in modernisation of the navy.
While the navy is being expanded with aircraft carriers, observers say battle ships and submarines are being added on almost monthly basis. China has one aircraft carrier, another undergoing sea trial and the third one is being constructed at a feverish pace. Official media reports say China plans to have four to five aircraft carriers in the near future. A recent report said Beijing plans to have four nuclear aircraft carriers. In terms of aircraft, China is building new jets for the aircraft carriers, besides stealth planes. President Xi has also been pushing the military into real time military exercises emulating battle conditions. The new decree on training came amid reports of criticism on lack of rigorous training of the PLA troops with new hardware which could prove costly in real battle conditions.
Training, not hardware, is key to military preparations and size is not everything in modern warfare and it is the people who use these weapons that count, Wang Yunfei, a retired Chinese naval officer said in a rare public appraisal of the levels of training of PLA Navy and Air force which he said were inadequate compared with Japanese troops. Comparing the skill training put in by Japanese pilots flying new generation aircraft, Wang said he saw them training even in murky and overcast conditions. "In China, [our military planes] would not have taken off [for training] if the cloud was lower than 400 metres above ground," he told Hong Kong- based South China Morning Post on Tuesday. Wang, now a naval armament expert, pointed out that size was only one determining factor in modern warfare, and hardware could only answer part of the question as China raced to catch up with leading powers like the US and its top allies, including Japan.