China’s CMC Cracks the Whip on Military Training Standards

◎ The CMC is looking to intimidate potential opposition elements in the military.

On Nov. 13, the Central Military Commission’s (CMC) Training and Administration Department, Discipline Inspection Commission, and other departments began supervising a joint military training session involving the Eastern Theater Command, an air base, and several army units. 

Three days later, the People’s Liberation Army Daily reported that the training supervision was carried out per a 2017 legislation on military training oversight. The newspaper also likened the CMC Training and Administration Department to a “spirit-breaking stick.”

The Training and Administration Department was established in January 2016 as part of Xi Jinping’s military reforms. It is primarily responsible for preventing and arresting military training fraud.

The backdrop: PLA units are known for widespread cheating during military exercises and evaluation, according to state and Hong Kong media reports. For instance, soldiers would embark on long marches carrying only a portion of their standard load, and more clearly mark targets for armored vehicles to boost shooting accuracy and scores.  

Our take:

  1. The CMC isn’t just supervising the training sessions to ensure competent fighting standards. The presence of the CMC’s anti-corruption body at these training events suggests that the various military units and commands are also being evaluated on whether they are genuinely implementing Xi’s reforms or are showing signs of mutiny. In other words, the CMC is looking to intimidate potential opposition elements in the military.
  2. Xi may have overcome much resistance and pushed through his military reforms, but opposing voices still linger. For instance, former CMC vice chairs Fang Fenghui and Zhang Yang were investigated before the 19th Party Congress, while three other generals were suddenly struck off the military delegation list. And a month before the 19th Congress, the CMC launched a massive anti-corruption sweep of the top military apparatus that ended just three days before the Congress opened. (See our report.)