Xi Jinping’s paranoia is hitting new heights as he is now cracking down on PLA’s Western Theatre Command as he fears an armed mutiny. He has stopped promotions and is questioning the loyalty of the PLA’s Western Theatre Command (WTC) as anger and distrust grows between the two parties.
The PLA has long been a key pillar of the CCP’s power. In his first address of the year to the PLA, Xi Jinping urged his forces to be “combat ready to act at any second”. China has become more assertive and is ready to use the PLA to protect its interests globally. But Jinping smells mutiny and he has made changes starting with the Western Theatre Command, the one which deals with India.
During the first week of 2021, Jinping signalled the adoption of aggressive rhetoric. He called on his troops to be combat-ready and made sweeping changes to the rules for the selection, training and promotion of military personnel.
These actions were borne out of the increasing number of players in the South China Sea, and more importantly the performance of PLA’s WTC in Ladakh during the Galwan clash where it suffered greater casualties and territories as the Indian army seized control of the mountainous heights at Rezang La and other passes.
The WTC faced active combat for the first time in 41 years during the Galwan clash. They were unprepared and performed very poorly. The officers have been low on morale as Xi Jinping doubts their loyalty to him.
Jinping has had Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, both Vice-Chairmen of the Central Military Commission, removed as Xi believed that the troops were more loyal to him. While Guo got a life sentence in 2016, Xu died in custody while under investigation.
Xi Jinping also replaced Gen. Zhao Zongqi, the retiring commander with Gen. Zhang Xudong, a Xi loyalist. Jinping assured the new commander that his men would receive the same benefits and promotions as those in the other theatres in addition to special perks for the troops stationed in “tough and remote bordering locations”
While the promotions in the past were based on political loyalty of the officers and their connections in the CCP, Jinping has changed the system. Now, the troops are required to display their loyalty to Mr Xi and not necessarily the CCP.
Jinping has unified the various commands and created a Joint Theatre Command concept, and to unify the power passed a law taking full control of all actions of the PLA.
Jinping fears a mutiny but it seems that these fears are not misplaced as reports started emerging over an armed action against the CCP during July last year after the Galwan clash.
It was believed that Retired army officers and those in active service were hurt by the treatment received from the government and they could form a formidable force to challenge Xi’s leadership.
Xi Jinping has had a torrid few months. From Jack Ma’s dissent of the CCP to losing out to the Quad in diplomacy. Cornered by foreign powers and being critiqued by China’s biggest businessman has taken its toll. Jinping began an onslaught chipping away at Alibaba and the
Ant Group and in foreign avenues, it was embroiled in trade wars with the US and Australia. While it could answer back to the United States, it’s aggressive posturing on Australia has really come to haunt him as China reels with no electricity.
A mutiny is all that is needed to push him over the edge and if he keeps undermining the PLA’s needs and starts imposing himself more aggressively, he might have a mutiny on his hands and this time he won’t be able to subvert it.