- - Thursday, October 24, 2013

The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) navy has begun a massive exercise in the western Pacific that is widely seen as a response to the recently completed U.S.-Japan-South Korean joint naval drills led by the aircraft carrier USS George Washington near the Korean Peninsula.

Code-named “Mobile Operation No. 5,” the Chinese flotilla set sail Oct. 18 to an area that is expected to stretch beyond the Ryukyu !slands between Japan and Taiwan. The maneuvers will continue through early November.

The maneuvers’ announced objective is a “deep ocean exercise of realistic live-fire confrontations,” which state-controlled media interpreted to mean a scenario of an engagement with the U.S. Navy.

“The PLA is now dispatching up to one hundred warships to conduct large-scale exercises to confront the U.S. carrier-based fleet face to face and get ready for a decisive naval battle in the near future,” reported the Hong Kong-based newspaper the Sun, which is reprinted in the Beijing-based Communist Party newspaper Global Times.


The Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, the PLA’s highest command authority, has approved the launch of a national campaign to hire civilians for a range of specialties.

This is the first time the PLA has tapped the civilian sector in a nationwide recruitment drive. A special order titled “Regulation on the PLA’s Civilian Personnel Management” was issued by the PLA’s four operational wings: the Political Affairs, General Staff, General Logistics and General Armaments departments.

According to the regulation, the PLA was scheduled to announce job ads to the public on Oct. 19. Applications will be accepted via a special website between until Nov. 5.

On Dec. 15, all applicants must take a test consisting of two parts — general knowledge and specialty knowledge.

Throughout much of its history, the PLA has been a self-sustaining, secretive entity whose specialists come from its training and school system.

With China’s rapid military buildup in recent years, demand for expertise in technical and specialized fields has skyrocketed. The demand now far exceeds the supply that can be provided by the PLA’s educational facilities.

Due to a lack of transparency and public scrutiny, the PLA has become a magnet for corruption that results from its secrecy and special privileges.

Corruption scandals among high-ranking PLA officers are reported frequently, especially since President Xi Jinping was anointed supreme leader last year. Mr. Xi has vowed to root out corruption and strengthen discipline in the PLA. He has purged a few PLA officials for corruption, including Lt. Gen. Gu Junshan, deputy chief of the PLA’s General Logistics Department.

Recruiting military specialists from outside the PLA and requiring all applicants to take standardized tests are seen as the first steps toward curing the ills afflicting the PLA.

“[This open recruitment] is helpful in increasing transparency and public trust in the PLA’s recruitment and employment of talented people,” said the official Xinhua News Agency. “It can minimize interference from undue human factors and bears great significance in perfecting the mechanisms of our personnel recruitment and management system and building up an army of our PLA’s high-quality civilian corps.”

Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected] and @Yu_miles.

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