Soldiers from the People's Liberation Army in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region attend a training mobilization meeting. Photo: courtesy of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) undertook intensive combat training in the first two months of 2019 after Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered the military to enhance combat readiness in January.
A PLA naval formation conducted a live-fire exercise during which they fired main guns and rapid-fire cannons in mid February in the East China Sea. Another frigate formation and a submarine sailed to the South China Sea and conducted multiple drills including anti-submarine, anti-aircraft and supplement exercises, according to reports from the PLA's official websites 81.cn and js7tv.cn.
The 76th Group Army marched with tanks and howitzers in freezing weather in the remote Gobi Desert in Northwest China for a live-fire shooting exercise on February 20. Infantrymen of the 73th Group Army were recently sent to unfamiliar terrain and conducted shooting practice with a wide collection of weapons including machine guns and anti-material sniper rifles, 81.cn reported on Tuesday.
An aviation brigade under the Air Force conducted day and night mock battle exercises with J-16 multi-role fighter jets late January. Two DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles were launched during a Rocket Force exercise somewhere in Northwest China in January, China Central Television reported.
Many other exercises have also taken place since the beginning of the year, according to media reports.
"Break bad practices accumulated during peace time, enhance battle readiness and combat capability," read a slogan hanging in a military facility in Beijing in February, the Global Times has found.
During peace, training is the only way to keep troops engaged and to ensure their ability to fight a potential battle, a former PLA officer told the Global Times under the condition of anonymity.
As China develops as a whole, its military, which has not fought a war in decades, must keep sharp and develop accordingly to safeguard the fruits of China's peaceful development, the veteran officer said.
Most of the exercises were reportedly set in dangerous, hostile situations and did not follow a pre-determined script, making them as realistic as possible.
Many exercises in the past were often scripted and did not involve enough live munitions or realistic targets, which did not reflect the dynamic of a real battle, the former officer said, noting the PLA now is moving in the right direction.
Xi signed a mobilization order on January 4 for the training of the armed forces, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said the entire armed forces should have a correct understanding of China's security and development trends, enhance their awareness of danger, crisis and war, and make solid efforts in combat preparations in order to accomplish the tasks assigned by the Party and the people, Xinhua reported.