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China calls for "absolute obedience" from military

BEIJING (Reuters) - China, wary of growing unrest and facing “multiple security threats”, called for unity in its armed forces on Sunday and absolute obedience to the Communist Party.

Paramilitary policemen practise during a daily training session at the Forbidden City in Beijing January 20, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

The call came at a Central Military Commission meeting presided over by President and commission chairman Hu Jintao just weeks after the Communist-ruled country warned of the risk of separatist groups at home.

It also comes in a year of sensitive anniversaries, including the 20th of the brutal June 4, 1989, crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing and the 50th of the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule of Tibet.

The biggest risks to China’s stability will come from a surge of graduating university students, facing a shrinking job market and diminished incomes, and from a tide of migrant labourers who have lost their jobs as export-driven factories have closed.

All military forces should ensure that they “uncompromisingly obey the Party and Central Military Commission’s command at any time and under any circumstances”, the commission said in a statement issued on Sunday and reported by Xinhua news agency.

“The statement said China’s national defence and military building had encountered complicated changes in the international and domestic environment” since 2004, when Hu succeeded Jiang Zemin in the top military post, Xinhua said.

Despite achievements that the forces had made, the commission warned of “slack management” in some ranks.

China’s planned allocation for the People’s Liberation Army in 2008 was 417.77 billion yuan ($61.09 billion), up 17.6 percent on 2007. But international experts estimate true defence spending could be as much as triple the stated figure.

China’s rising spending on arms and military modernisation has been criticised by countries including the United States and Japan for its opaqueness. Beijing says its defence budget is purely for defensive purposes and is quite open.

Describing China’s general security as “improving”, the white paper wasted little time denouncing those seeking independence for Taiwan, a self-ruled island China claims as its own, Tibet and the restive, energy-rich western region of Xinjiang, which “pose threats to China’s unity and security”.