China’s top military newspaper warned officers on Tuesday to remain the ruling Communist Party’s “most loyal” defenders in the face of what it called Western plotting, describing recent cases of ill-discipline and corruption as a “profound warning”.
The commentary in the Liberation Army Daily did not specify what problems might have prompted the unusually blunt warning over laxity, waste and abuses in the Chinese military, but the Communist Party is wrestling with scandals ahead of a power succession later this year.
Its leaders appear determined to ensure that the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) remains the ultimate shield of their authority.
Anxieties about party control appear to have grown after the ousting of Bo Xilai, the ambitious party chief of Chongqing, a province-status municipality in southwest China, as well as corruption allegations around PLA Lieutenant General Gu Junshan.
“Hostile international forces have not slackened in their strategic plotting to Westernise and divide us,” said the commentary, which said some officers have “wavered” in their loyalty to the party and its credo.
“Faced with complex and capricious ideological currents and phenomenon, leading officials must be even clearer about serving as the most resolute supporters of the Party’s cause and its most loyal implementers,” said the paper.
“Ensure that the gun always heads the Party’s commands.”
The Communist Party has always treated its grip on the PLA as a pillar of its one-party power. President Hu Jintao also serves as chairman of the Central Military Commission, which oversees the PLA, and his term in that job could extend beyond early 2013, when he is due to step down as president.
The Chinese government is usually mute about rifts and scandals. That secretiveness applies especially to the military.
Last month, the Liberation Army Daily told troops to ignore online gossip after outlandish rumours of a foiled coup spread on the Internet. That followed the abrupt ousting of Bo, once a contender for a spot in the new central leadership to be unveiled at a party congress later this year.
A source with ties to the PLA told Reuters earlier this year that Gu was under investigation for alleged corruption. Gu formerly oversaw the building of barracks and other military projects as director of the Bureau of Capital Construction and Barracks under the Logistics Department.
Since then, there have been no public announcements about the case. Sources close to the PLA have told Reuters the probe into Gu has encountered resistance or foot-dragging from within the military.
“In recent years, there have been some cases of disciplinary violations in the military that have left painful lessons and a profound warning,” said the commentary in the PLA paper, which told officers to be “models of probity and self-discipline”.
PLA officers must undergo strengthened audits and inspections to prevent waste and abuses, it said.
“We must defend the bottom-line of incorruptibility and purity,” said the newspaper commentary.
“Regularly check the standards on honest administrative conduct to examine yourself and restrain spouses, children and staff working alongside you.”