Opinion: PLA has to win anti-graft war for its own stake

Opinion: PLA has to win anti-graft war for its own stake
President Xi Jinping reviews the crew of the Liaoning, the country’s first aircraft carrier, in Dalian, Liaoning province.

One after another, many corrupt military officers have been exposed. From Xu Caihou, former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, to lower-ranking officers, the list if corrupt officers is long.

But some people say the campaign to hunt down corrupt officers may hurt the image of the People's Liberation Army, without realizing that the move is aimed at protecting the integrity of the military.

Just imagine what would happen if the corrupt generals remain in their posts. Wouldn't their corrupt ways endanger the PLA?

Media reports say the amounts of money which the corrupt officers have embezzled are unprecedented, making them the big "tigers". And the corrupt methods they have adopted range from auctioning off key posts to embezzlement in construction projects and the open trade of power for money.

The country's top leadership has vowed to root out corruption from all walks of life, but it is necessary to remove the black sheep from the military first.

Corruption in the PLA is particularly harmful because it can destroy military personnel's sense of unity and ruin their faith in their career. If generals fill their pockets with embezzled money while ordinary soldiers sleep in ill-constructed camps, who will fight for the country when needed? And if officers paying bribes get promoted and the hard-working ones are sidelined, how many soldiers will remain devoted and loyal to the PLA?

Many times in history militaries have been defeated, not by the enemy, but because of internal corruption. In the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq was defeated in a short time not only because of superior US firepower and strategy, but also because senior Iraqi military officers abandoned their posts after being bribed.

China's leadership certainly cannot allow the PLA to suffer that fate.

Chinese media and scholars often say the PLA is a "great wall made of iron and steel". With the ongoing anti-corruption drive removing the rust from the surface of this "great wall", the leadership is likely to take measures to ensure that it remains rust-free forever.

Predictably, the PLA will strengthen supervision over power, establish mechanisms to prevent officers occupying key posts from engaging in corruption, and educate officers to adhere to honesty.

The measures to be taken and the new anti-corruption regulations for the military are expected to focus on areas that most easily breed corruption.

For example, the majority of corrupt officers embezzled money from camp construction and daily supply funds, and many took bribes to clear the way for their juniors' promotion.

Supervision in these two - and some other - areas has to be tightened to trap the "tigers" and swat the "flies", and deter others from following in the footsteps of their corrupt seniors or fellow officers. This will win back public trust for the military, whose reputation has suffered a blow because of rampant cases of corruption.

These are prerequisites for the success of the ongoing military modernization, as advocated by the country's top leader Xi Jinping. Only a clean military can get overwhelming public support, which is necessary for propelling its modernization, and ensure the money paid by taxpayers is properly used for the defence of the country.

The efforts needed to combat corruption are comparable to those required to fight an actual war. And the anti-corruption campaign is a war that the PLA has to win.

Despite the corruption, however, we should not be pessimistic about the PLA, because militaries of all countries are plagued by corruption to different degrees.

The fact that tigers and flies are being hunted down shows the PLA is cleansing itself, and that corrupt officers cannot curb the healthy development of the military. The PLA will continue on the path of modernization and remain ready to protect the nation and the people.

The author is a senior advisor to China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

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