Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Xi Beset by Problems Controlling People’s Liberation Army

 Who's the boss?

(Photo : PLAGF) PLAGF armor on parade.

Oft repeated and mind-numbing calls for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to uphold the leadership of Chinese president Xi Jinping and his leadership of the Central Military Commission (CMC), which controls the PLA, seems to suggest a potentially dangerous absence of wholehearted support for Xi coming from the PLA.

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Infighting seems to be rampant among factions headed by Xi and his greatest rival, premier Li Keqiang, ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to be held in Beijing this autumn. Xi is expected to strengthen his hold on power but indications are Li won't give up without a good fight.

CMC, which is headed by Xi as chairman, a few days ago issued a guideline on launching an education campaign aimed at upholding the "core" (a codeword for Xi) and following Xi's commands. This missive is the latest in a long line of statements urging the PLA to uphold Xi as its commander.

The guideline said it's a fundamental issue to establish and uphold Xi as the core of the CPC Central Committee. Deepening national defense and military reforms also requires the PLA to staunchly uphold the authority of the CPC Central Committee and Xi "under all circumstances."

The education campaign mandated by the guideline must showcase new achievements and development since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, and prepare the PLA for the upcoming 19th CPC National Congress.

Only last March 17, the leadership of the PLA, which is the armed forces of the CPC, vowed to boost the PLA's fighting power while "safeguarding Xi Jinping's core status."

The PLA's primary mission is to defend the CPC and its close to 90 million members. Protection of the Chinese homeland and Chinese citizens are the secondary roles of the PLA.

CMC pledged to unite closely around the CPC Central Committee with Xi as the core. Defense Minister Chang Wanquan said efforts will be made to enhance the education of national defense and encourage integrated military-civilian development.

Li has, however, called for the PLA to support the CPC and not Xi. In early March, Li announced the PLA will be subjected to even greater control and communist indoctrination by the CPC.

This tightening of conformity in an armed forces notorious for a glaring lack of professionalism and initiative in the ranks appears to be the CPC's answer to the strategic challenges posed by a resurgent United States military, and a dangerous slowdown in economic growth that will stoke civil instability.

Li's main message to the troops again is the Communist Party is god and not Xi.

"The government will uphold the Party's absolute leadership over the armed forces and uphold and implement the system whereby the Chairman of the Central Military Commission assumes overall responsibility over military affairs," said Li.

Some pundits noted Li's not mentioning Xi by name as the chairman of the CMC.

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