Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Chinese military-run commercial services to end in next three years
China's military will end so-called paid for services within the next three years, state media says, the latest move to modernise the armed forces.
The reform will mean non-core activities such as military-run hospitals and hotels open to the public will be ditched.
The military was banned from overt commercial activities in 1998, but allowed some exceptions.
According to a circular issued by the Central Military Commission, headed by President Xi Jinping, the armed forces cannot sign any new contracts for paid services and allow existing contracts to expire.
The notice appeared on the front page of the People's Liberation Army Daily.
Services that fulfil an important social security function will be allowed to be included under a new "civil-military integration" scheme, the notice said — a program the government has given few details about.
China's official Xinhua news agency said the change had been introduced "to reduce corruption in the army".
The military is reeling from an anti-corruption campaign the president launched three years ago, which has seen dozens of officers investigated, including two former vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission.
Xu Caihou died of cancer last year before he went on trial and Guo Boxiong has yet to face a court.
Gong Fangbin, a professor at the PLA's National Defence University, told the state-run Global Times newspaper the end of paid-for services would help the military modernise.
"Paid services can sometimes encourage corruption and the military should focus on national defence," he said.
The People's Liberation Army Daily said in an editorial the military's real focus should be on how to win wars, and seeking profits would only distract them.
"The military's basic function is to fight, and deviating from that core activity will bring endless disaster," it said.
Mr Xi's push to reform the military coincides with China becoming more assertive in its territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.
Its navy is investing in submarines and aircraft carriers and its air force is developing stealth fighters.
The armed forces are also losing 300,000 members, following a surprise announcement by Mr Xi in September.
The reforms have been controversial, and the military's newspaper has published commentaries warning of opposition to the changes and concern about jobs.