Changes to rules on awards and rewards in PLA

In the wake of a pay-for-promotion scandal that toppled two generals, China's military has set new rules on awards and monetary rewards, with the aim of weeding out graft among senior officers and improving morale among the rank-and-file soldiers.

Under the first-of-its-kind Regulations on Rewarding and Commendation of the Army, which kicked in on Aug 1, junior-ranked soldiers will now stand a higher chance than senior military brass of receiving monetary rewards and awards.

The new rules also spell out that awards should not be given with monetary rewards, while a cap on the total amount of monetary rewards is in place to prevent profiteering and to restore professional pride to those in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People's Armed Police.

Observers say the rules are also aimed at improving public trust in the military, which was rocked by a corruption scandal involving retired Central Military Commission (CMC) vice-chairman Xu Caihou and his protege, former lieutenant-general Gu Junshan.

The Communist Party sacked Xu in June and handed him to the military courts over allegations of taking bribes in return for promotions. Xu, 71, was implicated after Gu was sacked in early 2012 as PLA's logistics department deputy chief.

"People are thinking, if a CMC vice-chairman could be corrupt, graft within the military must be really rampant. So the regulations aim to send a message that one can hope for a clean military," Beijing-based military commentator Wu Ge told The Straits Times.

Observers say the regulations are needed to better manage the practice of giving out awards and cash rewards and plug loopholes exploited by corrupt officers.

Professor Li Daguang of the PLA's National Defence University wrote in a July 30 blog post that there are too many awards with unclear qualifying criteria and too many awards are reserved for senior military brass.

Also, awards that come with cash rewards are usually given only to high-ranking officials while new recruits or junior soldiers tend to end up with those that carry no or little financial incentives.

Professors Gu Yongxing and Cui Jianshu of the PLA International Relations University in Nanjing wrote in the state-run China Daily on Aug 1 that these malpractices have diminished the value of medals and rewards.

"The new regulation is expected to raise the worth of medals and rewards by controlling their numbers and introducing strict procedures of bestowing them."

Observers believe that the regulations, introduced to mark the PLA's 87th anniversary, are also aimed at fulfilling President Xi Jinping's vision of a more professional and combat-ready military.

They cite how combat capabilities will become the most important criteria in allocating awards and rewards under the new rules, so that combat troops will get a bigger share than those in administration, research units or performance troupes.

Prof Li said the regulations would have "great significance" in improving the combat-readiness of ground troops and also in motivating the entire military in fulfilling Mr Xi's qiang jun meng, or dream of a strong army.

To this end, Mr Xi, who is chairman of the powerful CMC, has rolled out other measures such as improving the quality of recruits, particularly through attracting university graduates.

Professors Gu and Cui believe the new rules are important in the light of China's maritime spats with its neighbours.

Observers, while hailing the latest move, however noted its limited effects in overcoming graft.

Mr Wu said awards play only a small role in clinching promotions, which will still largely be determined by those willing and able to offer bribes to their superiors.

"The new rules will help lower the opportunities for senior officials to earn money but will have only limited impact in tackling graft within the military. Promotion will remain beset by unwritten rules and arbitrary selection."

This article was first published on August 07, 2014.
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