BEIJING China’s armed forces must be smaller but more capable, and if reforms are not properly carried out the military risks falling behind, affecting its ability to wage war, Chinese state media on Saturday cited President Xi Jinping as saying.
The cuts come at a time of heightened economic uncertainty in China as growth slows and the leadership grapples with painful economic reforms. In October, hundreds of previously demobilized soldiers protested in Beijing.
“Otherwise, armed forces that were strong will become outdated, or even collapse at a single blow,” Xi said in comments carried by the official Xinhua news agency.
“History and reality tells us that a military, if it falls behind the times on scale and strength, it will fall behind on war ideology and developments in waging war, maybe forfeiting strategy and right to initiate war,” he added.
“This is a major, inevitable change,” Xi told the meeting. “We must seize the opportunity and make breakthroughs.”
China’s military has not fought a war in decades and the government insists has no hostile intents, simply needing the ability to properly defend what is now the world’s second-largest economy.
But China has rattled nerves around the region with its increasingly assertive stance in the East and South China Seas and ambitious modernization program that includes aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Susan Thomas)