President Xi Jinping has assumed a new title of “Commander in Chief” of China’s new joint forces battle command centre, in his latest move to exert greater control over the world’s largest army and consolidate his status as China’s most powerful leader in decades.
62-year-old Xi is already General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, which manages the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Xi is now Commander in Chief of the military’s Joint Operations Command Centre, state media reported, showing him visiting the centre wearing camouflage fatigues.
The Xinhua news agency and the state broadcaster CCTV both carried reports referring to Xi by the description for the first time after he visited the command centre on Wednesday.
“The current situation requires battle command to be highly strategic, coordinated, timely, professional and accurate,” Xi said, urging staff at joint battle command centers at both CMC and theater command levels to bear in mind a sense of crisis and adapt to the strategic demands of national security.
Xi told the officers to closely follow the trends of global military revolution and strive to build a joint battle command system that meets the need of fighting and winning an informationised war.
“All must be done with the ultimate goal of improving battle command capacities and measured by the standards of being able to fight and win wars,” Xi said, urging a focus on solving conflicts and problems limiting joint battle command.
Xi also called for “extraordinary methods” to foster joint battle command talent, stressing that “a major breakthrough should be achieved as soon as possible.”
The command centre was set up as part of a major revamp of China’s military structure, which also included the creation of a strategic rocket force to operate its missiles.
China’s foreign policy has become increasingly assertive in recent years, especially on its claims to disputed territories in the resource-rich and strategic South China Sea.
However, analysts say his new title indicates he wants to be seen as a leader capable of commanding the military directly.
During his visit to the centre on Wednesday, which was widely publicised in state media, he said the armed forces should be “absolutely loyal” and “capable of winning wars”. Experts say his appearance in military fatigues may also be a display of strength aimed at China’s rivals.
China and several of its neighbours are locked in a territorial dispute over the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety. The PLA is the world’s largest military force, with a strength of approximately 2,285,000 personnel.