Reuters reports that a new directive from president Xi Jinping, aimed at boosting morale within the People’s Liberation Army, will require top military officers to spend two weeks as junior soldiers every few years:
Under the directive, published by the defence ministry, the temporary and symbolic demotion applies to lieutenant colonels and above – although it is primarily aimed at senior officers aged under 55 or who have not come up through the lower ranks.
“It will help to purify the soul and be the prevention and cure for laziness, lax discipline, extravagance and other bureaucratic illnesses,” the official People’s Liberation Army Daily said of the measure in a commentary on Tuesday.
The move recalled a similar one made by former paramount leader Mao Zedong in 1958, the newspaper added.
Some political analysts said the gesture was likely part of Xi’s public campaign to be seen as tough on privilege and corruption, given that media reports of graft in the military are on the rise again after a 1990s crackdown.
The South China Morning Post has more details on the new measure:
It dictates that officers with the rank of lieutenant-colonel or above must serve as privates – the lowest-ranking soldier – for not less than 15 days. Generals and officers will have to live, eat and serve with junior soldiers during the period.
“They need to provide for themselves and pay for their own food. They must not accept any banquet invitation, join any sight-seeing tours, accept gifts or interfere with local affairs,” said the directive, which covers both the People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police.
Leaders of regiment- and brigade-level units have to serve on the front line once every three years. Division- and army-level commanders must serve once every four years. Top leaders from army headquarters and military districts will do so once every five years.
The move is seen as an extension of Xi’s push to curb excess and corruption within the Communist Party elite.