Chinese Army Begins 2022 Training Programme

Foreign Affairs

Beijing: With the signing of a mobilization order by Chairman Xi Jinping on January 4, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China began formal training activities for the New Year.

According to media reports, the mobilization order appeared above the centrefold of the PLA Daily, the military’s dedicated newspaper.

This was first order of the year by Xi, who is chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC). It was relatively short at 206 characters, far more condensed compared to last year’s edition that had 636 characters. A ceremonial event was held at a training area belonging to the 81st Aviation Brigade of the Central Theatre Command, though news reports from state-owned media do not make clear whether Xi attended in person.

According to media reports, the personnel were “fully armed with high morale”. More than 30 aircraft participated in the premier mobilization event – primarily helicopters performing precision firing and heliborne assaults, while unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) conducted reconnaissance.

Diverse capabilities such as special forces and electronic countermeasures also participated, a nod to the PLA’s efforts to create a joint force. Simultaneously, other PLA units were conducting their own training mobilization events, streamed on a digital screen at the Beijing headquarters. The aim of the first training iterations was for the PLA to “perform mobile operations and multi-dimensional offense and defence”.

State-owned reports claimed that special operations units, long-range firepower and army aviation have grown several-fold in recent years. More UAVs and helicopters are being utilized too.

In his order, Xi stressed that the PLA must “closely follow the evolution of technology, warfare and rivals, redouble its efforts to better combine training with combat operations, and strengthen systematic training and the use of technologies to develop an elite force that is capable of fighting and winning wars”.

He  demanded that all officers and soldiers “should uphold the spirit of fearing neither death nor hardship, and conduct training in a vigorous, well-designed and safe manner to boost their commanding and fighting capabilities and foster excellent conduct”.

The personal pronoun “I” was used in 2018, but not in subsequent ones.

It is not known why Xi should return to “I” in the 2022 order, but it perhaps relates to his blooming personality cult. Xi has installed himself at the top of the Chinese hierarchy as leader for life, and he requires personal fealty from the military, as well as unwavering loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Indeed, Xi urged the PLA to redouble efforts to better combine training with combat operations. The rank and file must resolutely implement the plans and instructions of the CCP leadership and the CMC.

The mobilization order stressed the changing environment faced by China – it must be said, much of it has been brought on by its bellicose display of force to intimidate Taiwan and South China Sea claimants, for example. Xi said the changing landscape of national security must be “accurately understood”.

An authoritative commentary accompanied the text of Xi’s order in the PLA Daily. It expressed pessimism about the international security situation, claiming, “In today’s world, power politics and the ‘law of the jungle’ are still prevalent, and various foreseeable and unforeseeable risks and challenges have increased significantly, and the danger of war is real.”

It continued, “Facing the encirclement and suppression of hostile forces and the strong containment and pressure that hinder us, we must base ourselves on the most difficult and complex situations and make the most solid and comprehensive training preparations.”

The order also made reference to the all-important 20th Party Congress that will be held later this year. The PLA training achievements will be linked to the “victory” of holding the CCP congress.

The Pentagon’s 2021 report on the PLA said: “In recent years, Chairman Xi Jinping and senior military leaders have continued to emphasize the need to build the PLA’s combat readiness so it can ‘fight and win’. This emphasis has not only entailed the PLA conducting more training, but making its training more rigorous and realistic, as well as addressing issues in the PLA’s training and education systems related to conducting complex joint operations and adapting to other aspects of modern warfare.