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BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced a military restructure of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to transform it into a leaner fighting force with improved joint operations capability, state media said.
Centered around a new, condensed structure of 84 military units, the reshuffle builds on Xi’s years-long efforts to modernize the PLA with greater emphasis on new capabilities including cyberspace, electronic and information warfare.
As chair of the Central Military Commission, Xi is also commander-in-chief of China’s armed forces.
“This has profound and significant meaning in building a world-class military,” Xi told commanders of the new units at the PLA headquarters in Beijing, according to the official Xinhua news agency report late on Tuesday.
All 84 new units are at the combined-corps level, which means commanders will hold the rank of major-general or rear-admiral, the official China Daily reported Wednesday, adding that unit members would likely be regrouped from existing forces given the Chinese military was still engaged in cutting its troops by 300,000, one of the wide-ranging military reforms introduced by Xi in late 2015.
Those reforms include establishing a joint operational command structure by 2020 and rejigging existing military regions, as well as streamlining troop numbers particularly in non-combat facing roles.
The previous seven military area commands were regrouped into five, and the four military departments – staff, politics, logistics and armaments – were reorganized into 15 agencies last year. The 84 units will come under the 15 agencies.
Retired PLA Major-General Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher at the Beijing-based China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said the restructure represented the second major phase of Xi’s reforms.
“Since military reforms started it has been one step at a time,” Xu told Reuters. “The high-level framework is now in place, now this is the second phase targeting the entire mid-ranking levels of the military.”
Beijing has been moving rapidly to upgrade its military hardware as it grows increasingly assertive about its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea and as it seeks to expand its military prowess overseas.
Chinese media reports have speculated that the country’s second aircraft carrier – and its first built at home – will be launched on Sunday, the navy’s founding anniversary.
Xi has also made rooting out deeply entrenched corruption in the military a top priority. Dozens of senior officers have been investigated and jailed.
(Reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by Michael Perry)
By Steve Holland and Elizabeth Piper
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May, who share an unusual bond as the products of anti-establishment uprisings, will sit down on Friday for what could be a difficult search for unity on NATO, Russia and trade.
The meeting will mark Trump’s first with a foreign leader since taking power a week ago, and it could go a long way toward determining how crucial Trump considers the traditional “special relationship” between the two countries.
Trump rode an anti-Washington wave to win on Nov. 8, and May gained power in July after the “Brexit” vote that has put her country on a path to separate from the European Union. The meeting will conclude with a joint White House news conference.
Trump has declared NATO obsolete and expressed a desire for warmer ties with Russia. May considers the trans-Atlantic alliance crucial and is skeptical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
They both want to begin work on a bilateral trade agreement, which for May would provide proof of stability amid the Brexit breakup and for Trump would support his belief that he can negotiate one-on-one trade pacts.
“They both need this to be a success,” said Heather Conley, a European expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
Trump, she said, “needs to demonstrate that he has a command of issues” while May “needs to hear strong messages of support for her vision of a Britain that works for everyone, a global Britain.”
May, in a speech to Republican lawmakers gathered in Philadelphia on Thursday, suggested she saw the need for some reforms in NATO and for more countries to pay more to the alliance to help fund it, which has been Trump’s main complaint about NATO.
“America’s leadership role in NATO – supported by Britain – must be the central element around which the alliance is built,” May said.
But she said that EU nations “must step up” to ensure NATO remains the cornerstone of the West’s defense.
Trump and May also seem somewhat at odds over how to deal with Russia. In her speech, May said Western leaders should “engage but beware” of Putin and should not accept Putin’s claim that Eastern Europe is now in his sphere of influence.Trump, on the other hand, wants a strong U.S. relationship with Russia to fight Islamic State militants.
“I don’t know Putin, but if we can get along with Russia, that’s a great thing,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity” on Thursday. “It’s good for Russia, it’s good for us.”
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Leslie Adler)