Xi Jinping Demands 'Absolute Loyalty' From China's People's Liberation Army

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on his country's military to demonstrate "absolute loyalty" to the ruling Communist Party during a speech made to leaders of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) over the weekend.

On Sunday, China's state-owned CCTV broadcasted Xi's speech, which was delivered in Beijing and attended by members of the Central Military Commission Party, across the mainland. The president, who is in his second five-year term, wore a PLA uniform and shook hands firmly with the officers at the event. Following his speech, he received a standing ovation.

"Strengthening the party's leadership in the army is necessary for making China and its army powerful. The party's absolute leadership of the army should be insisted on," he said, according to CCTV. "We must…cast the ideological foundation of the army's absolute loyalty to the party."

Since he took power in 2012, Xi has repeatedly called for the PLA to function under the absolute leadership of the ruling Communist Party in China. The 65-year-old Chinese leader has emerged as the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, the former Chairman of the Communist Party of China who ruled until his death in 1976.

Xi's speech on Sunday marked his first public appearance since he attended the annual summer retreat of China's most influential leaders, held in the Beidaihe District.

Adam Ni, a China researcher and visiting fellow at Australian National University, told The Guardian that the insistence on loyalty could be due to Xi's desire to provide a safeguard from public criticism which could result in him losing power.

"The PLA is the final backstop to any political backlash that Xi may confront in presenting himself as absolute leader. In the end, those critical voices can only go so far, because he has control of the gun," he said.

"The fact that he has to keep having these campaigns means he is encountering certain resistance within the military, that he's feeling insecure, that he's paranoid about his position... so he has to keep super vigilant."

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on March 5. Xi called for "absolutely loyalty" from the People's Liberation Army during a speech to the military's leaders over the weekend. Reuters

In January, Xi rallied thousands of China's troops for a grand display of power and military address in Baoding, in the northern province of Hebei. In his speech, Xi told more than 7,000 heavily armed soldiers standing in formation that they should not fear "hardship or death" while they fight for and protect China's communist values.

"Commanders and personnel should firmly implement the decisions and instructions by the CPC Central Committee and the Central Military Commission [CMC] with a fighting spirit of fearing neither hardship nor death," Xi said.

"[The PLA] should also train hard in a scientific way, be brave to overcome difficulties and surpass opponents, and create an elite and powerful force that is always ready for the fight, capable of combat and sure to win in order to fulfil the tasks bestowed by the party and the people in the new era."