China‘s Western Border Command Stages Massive Drill


Beijing: A key People’s Liberation Army (PLA) military command that borders India and other countries has carried out a rare massive drill involving over 10,000 soldiers.

Chinese State media today reported that the Xinjiang Military Area Command, which is under the Western Theater Command, carried out the drill in a mountainous area over 4,000 meters above sea level conditions that simulate the terrain along the disputed Line of Actual Control.

The command borders several countries along China’s western border, and is also in charge of defending the disputed Aksai Chin region along the border with India. While not specifying the exact location in China’s vast frontier Xinjiang region where the drill was held, the only disputed border under the command is the one with India.

The operation spread across seven hills and included missions relating to camouflage, intelligence, reconnaissance and counterattack,” said a brief report on the website of the People’s Daily, which did not provide further details. It said over 10,000 soldiers were involved.

This appears to be one of the first major drills of the Xinjiang Military Area Command following this year’s huge reorganization of the PLA. In November 2015, President Xi Jinping, who is also Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), announced the reorganization of seven military commands into five expanded theater commands. Xi also announced reducing the size of the PLA by 3 lakh troops.

The reforms are aimed at making the bloated PLA a more nimble and integrated force with joint commands. This is also aimed at centralizing decision-making into a three tier “CMC- Theater Command-Troops” system.

The Western Theater Command is the largest of the five new commands. Speaking to India Today earlier, leading expert on the Chinese military Taylor Fravel, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), noted that the orientation of the five new theaters are “created to align China’s strategic directions with the command of troops”.

“So the northern theater will focus on North Korea, the central theater on the defense of Beijing, the eastern theater will focus on Taiwan and to a lesser extent the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands (contested with Japan), the southern theater will focus on the South China Sea, and the western theater on India and border control.”