Xi: Crucial role for new PLA force

By ZHAO LEI | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-20 00:01
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President Xi Jinping unveils on Friday the newest branch in the Chinese military — the Information Support Force of the People's Liberation Army. Xi conferred the new force's flag to its commander Lieutenant General Bi Yi and political commissar of the unit General Li Wei in Beijing. [Photo by LI GANG / XINHUA]

President Xi Jinping on Friday unveiled the newest branch of the Chinese military, the Information Support Force of the People's Liberation Army, calling it a vital power in modern warfare.

Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, conferred the new force's flag to its commander Lieutenant General Bi Yi and political commissar of the unit General Li Wei at the force's establishment ceremony at the CMC headquarters building in Beijing.

The president gave his instructions to the Information Support Force, ordering it to strive to become a powerful and modernized unit.

He said that establishing the Information Support Force is a major decision by the CPC Central Committee and the CMC, aiming to build a strong PLA, and a strategic step in establishing a new structure of services and improving the military system with Chinese characteristics.

"This is of profound and far-reaching significance to the modernization of national defense and the armed forces and to the military's fulfillment of its missions and tasks in the new era," Xi said. "The Information Support Force is a brand-new strategic branch of the PLA and a key pillar of the integrated development and use of the network information system. It plays an important role and bears great responsibility in promoting the PLA's high-quality development and the ability to fight and win in modern warfare."

The president ordered that the new force must be absolutely loyal to the Party.

He stressed that the unit must focus on its core task of using information assets to support combat operations. It must maintain information flow, integrate information resources, protect information security and must integrate deeply into the military's joint operation system.

The commander-in-chief also urged the new force to boost innovation, strengthen coordination and integration among different systems, cooperate with other forces, and bolster the sharing of assets. It must form a network information system which can support modern combat operations and has Chinese characteristics, Xi noted.

According to a decision made by the CMC, the Information Support Force is directly led by the CMC, and the official designation of the Strategic Support Force, which was founded in December 2015 to take charge of space, cyberspace and electronic warfare operations, is canceled.

Meanwhile, the leadership and structures of the PLA Space Force and the PLA Cyberspace Force have been rearranged accordingly, said the CMC.

The announcement also marked the first time China has confirmed the existence of the Space Force and the Cyberspace Force, which were widely believed to be major parts of the Strategic Support Force.

Senior Colonel Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, told reporters at a news conference on Friday evening that with the latest overhaul, the PLA now has four services, namely the Ground Force, the Navy, the Air Force and the Rocket Force, and several sub-branches including the Space Force, the Cyberspace Force, the Information Support Force and the Joint Logistic Support Force.

In response to a question about the newly declassified Space Force, Wu said that building the force is of great significance in strengthening the capability to safely travel to outer space, openly and peacefully develop space resources, and enhance governance and crisis management in space.

"China's space policies are clear and plain. We are always committed to the peaceful utilization of space and stand ready to work with all countries with the same commitment to strengthen exchanges, deepen cooperation and contribute to lasting peace and common security in space," the spokesman said.

When asked whether the Cyberspace Force is used for "militarizing the internet", Wu said cybersecurity remains a global challenge and poses a severe threat to China.

"Developing the Cyberspace Force and tools for cybersecurity and defense is important for reinforcing national cyberspace defense, promptly detecting and countering network intrusions and maintaining our cybersovereignty and information security," he said.

Jiang Chenglong contributed to this story.

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