Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, shakes hands with deputies to the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as he attends a plenary meeting of the PLA delegation to the NPC during the ongoing annual parliamentary session held in Beijing, capital of China, March 13, 2016.(Photo: Xinhua/Li Gang)
Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, on Sunday highlighted theoretical and technological innovation as the key to upgrade the country's military and national defense.
Speaking to national lawmakers from the military at the ongoing annual parliamentary session, Xi, also Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said the future of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) hinged on innovation and reform. [Special coverage]
He urged the armed forces to fully implement the innovation-driven development strategy, place combat capacity at the center of all their work, and step up theoretical and technological innovation.
Military administration and personnel competence were also identified as areas to be improved. The PLA should focus on priority areas in order to kickstart across-the-board innovation and make the military stronger, Xi said.
He told PLA lawmakers that the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020) is crucial to China's national defense and military development, and urged the armed forces to uphold political integrity, reform and rule of law, and strengthen their military buildup and combat readiness.
Xi's remarks came in the wake of a major military overhaul that saw the inauguration of a General Command for the Army, the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force in December, and the regrouping of seven military area commands into five PLA theater commands in February.
Earlier this month, China announced its lowest defense budget increase in six years in the wake of rising economic headwinds.
According to a budget report given to the national legislature annual session, the government plans to raise the 2016 defense budget by 7.6 percent to 954 billion yuan (about 146 billion U.S. dollars). The increase last year was 10.1 percent.
Xi noted that innovation was core to the competitiveness of the armed forces and would accelerate combat capacity.
He urged officers to support, promote and navigate innovation, to enhance the quality, efficiency and sustainability of national defense and military development.
In particular, Xi demanded a "military theory that is up-to-date, pioneering and unique" to support its strong and dynamic armed forces.
Greater efforts must be made to promote the evolution of Marxist military theory, he said.
"A sound military theory is a key part of combat effectiveness. A strong army must have a sound theory as its guide," Xi said.
He urged military academics to link theoretical research with military practice.
Meanwhile, the armed forces should work to turn cutting-edge military technology into real combat capacity, Xi said, adding that the armed forces must value the role of technology and push research in this regard.
A preemptive attitude toward military affairs is needed, and the military should establish "unique advantages in some key fields," he said.
Xi said military management with a systematic approach would help with combat capacity, and called for the review and improvement of management concepts, systems and procedures.
The military must strive to be more professional and methodical as this will elevate quality and efficiency across the board, Xi said.
He went on to call for more support of talented individuals, who would contribute to the upgrade of systems and policies that would advance military reform and innovation.
The president also urged all military officers and soldiers to jointly contribute to the building of a strong army.
Innovation in the military should be included in the state innovation framework while military-civilian coordination in innovation should also be supported, Xi said. A new system conducive to modern defense technology advances shall be set up, he said.
In addition, he urged both central and local authorities to support national defense and military construction, as well as the maintaining of the military's combat readiness.