Xi orders Army Generals to serve as ordinary soldiers
Beijing: Following the footsteps of the founding father of the People's Republic, Mao Zedong, China's new President Xi Jinping has ordered Generals and senior officers of the military to serve as ordinary soldiers for at least two weeks.
Xi, the commander-in-chief of the 2.3 million strong People's Liberation Army (PLA), issued the order over the weekend, which the Ministry of National Defence publicised, Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday.
The order dictates that officers with the rank of lieutenant-colonel or above, must serve as privates - the lowest-ranking soldier - for a minimum period of 15 days.
The measure reminds of a similar shake-up launched by Mao in 1958. Mao at the time famously said all military leaders should serve as foot soldiers for a month every year.
He used the chance to strengthen his control of the military and forced many powerful marshals and generals into retirement or exile, the report said.
The new order said Generals and officers will have to live, eat and serve with junior soldiers during the period.
"They need to provide for themselves and pay for their own food. They must not accept any banquet invitation, join any sight-seeing tours, accept gifts or interfere with local affairs," the directive, which covers both the PLA and the People's Armed Police said.
Moreover, Leaders of regiment and brigade-level units have to serve on the front line once every three years. Division and army-level commanders must serve once every four years. Top leaders from army headquarters and military districts will do so once every five years.
Antony Wong Dong, a Macau-based military expert, said although Xi's new measure bore some resemblance to Mao's directive, Xi seemed to be genuine in his wish to revamp the military.
"The lack of discipline, the rampant corruption and the gap between the officers and soldiers are so commonplace, it has compromised the battle-effectiveness of the PLA," Wong told the Post.
"Xi, like many other top leaders, is keenly aware of this and he is eager to address the problems," he said.
Wong said people should not compare Xi's order with Mao's as they were made under "very different circumstances".
"During Mao's time, most of the PLA generals came from the front line and the grass roots. The commanders and common soldiers were very close and the generals knew what life on the front line was like," he said.
"Many generals and senior officers today have never experienced hardship. They are promoted to their position because of their connections or other reasons. Xi understands he needs to change the mentality. Getting these people back to the front line can boost army morale and close the gap between commanders and soldier," Wong said.