Xi Jinping tells Chinese army to fear 'neither hardship nor death' as he consolidates power base

Premier create urges forces to created 'an elite and powerful force that is always ready for the fight, capable of combat and sure to win'

Caroline Mortimer
Thursday 04 January 2018 18:12 GMT
Xi Jinping (left) inspecting tanks ahead of the military parade in Heibei
Xi Jinping (left) inspecting tanks ahead of the military parade in Heibei (Xinhua News Agency/REX)

China's leader Xi Jinping said his country’s soldiers should fear “neither hardship nor death” as they “fulfil the tasks bestowed by the Party and the people in the new era”.

Addressing a military assembly in the northern province of Hebei, he called on the approximately 7,000 service men and women to “create an elite and powerful force that is always ready for the fight, capable of combat and sure to win”.

The comments from the Chinese Premier, who has consolidated his grip on power by ousting rivals in recent years, were met by a “prolonged and thunderous applause”, according to the state run People’s Daily tabloid, which added that they vowed to “resolutely obey Chairman Xi’s order”.

Troops had gathered in 4,000 separate locations across the country to listen to the speech, the newspaper reported.

“This is the first time since the founding of the country that instructions on military training have been directly issued by the chairman of the CMC [Central Military Commission], and it shows that improving combat readiness is now a strategic mission for the Chinese military”, retired Major General Xu Guangyu told The Global Times, another state run newspaper.

It is the latest in a series of high-profile military reviews on the mainland and Hong Kong.

The display comes just a month after Mr Xi became the most powerful Chinese leader since Chairman Mao Zedong.

At the Communist party’s five-yearly Congress in October, the president had his ideas officially incorporated in the constitution – the first Chinese leader to receive such an honour since Mao.

It prompted some commentators to suggest that Mr Xi is developing a cult of personality around his leadership and will not step down after the customary 10 years in power.

The seven-man leadership committee which was unveiled at the conference had no obvious heir to follow in Mr Xi’s footsteps.

Typically the chosen successor to the President serves as Vice-President for several years before taking over – as Mr Xi took over from Hu Jintao in 2012.

But the current office holder, Li Yuanchao, is 66 and the party norm is for officials to retire at 68.

It has prompted some to suggest that Mr Xi, who is 64, may try to defy the unofficial retirement age and stay on in power after his second five year term is up in 2022 by building up support within the party.

He has continued to purge his rivals through his “anti-corruption drive”.

One of his closest rivals, Bo Xilai, was jailed for corruption and expelled from the party in 2012 after his wife was convicted of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood at a hotel in Chongqing in the south west of the country.

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