Xi Orders China's Military to Get Out of Kindergarten Business

(Bloomberg) -- China’s military has been ordered by President Xi Jinping to stop running kindergartens and other businesses and focus on fighting, as he attempts to overhaul the world’s largest army.

Xi said during a meeting of the Communist Party’s 25-member Politburo on Tuesday that the armed forces should cease commercial activities by the end of the year, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. China’s military is involved in running businesses ranging from kindergartens to property rental services, it said.

“The progress of this work has prompted the army to focus on war preparation and fighting ability,” Xi said, according to Xinhua. The change would be of “great significance to the building of the People’s Liberation Army into a world-class military in all respects,” he said, adding it would facilitate “the consolidation of the party’s ruling status and the long-term stability of the country.”

The move is Xi’s latest attempt to curb corruption in the PLA as he attempts to follow through on a pledge to build a world-class military that can fight and win wars across all potential theaters by 2050. Purges generals and other top officers have helped Xi push through the biggest military overhaul in 60 years.

Xi, who heads the party’s Central Military Commission, said his order allowed for “no exception, discount or makeshift compromise.”

China’s cash-strapped military went into business for itself shortly after reform and opening kicked off in the late 1970s, a phenomenon that led to corruption and raised questions about the PLA’s effectiveness. The party has struggled to convince the military to end its hunt for profit, though. Calls for China’s armed forces to close their businesses go back to at least 1998 and leader Jiang Zemin.

Xi first pledged to end the military’s “paid services” three years ago. By the end of June, around 100,000 of the businesses had been shuttered, Xinhua said July 4, though another 6,000 “sensitive and complicated” remain operational.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Dandan Li in Beijing at dli395@bloomberg.net

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

With assistance from Editorial Board