When Xi Jinping formally took over as China’s head of state on March 14, he also became chief of the country’s top military body, the Central Military Commission. Today Xinhua, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese government, published a 32-image slideshow lauding the progress of China’s Second Artillery Force (SAF) of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The SAF is in charge of most of the country’s conventional, nuclear, and cruise missiles.
The timing of the photos may be incidental, but it comes a few months after Xi publicly called on the PLA to build a powerful missile force. It also comes at a time when Xi wants to appeal to the PLA, believed by some analysts to be another informal faction in China. As soon as Xi can exert influence over the PLA and its heads, he will be one step closer to consolidating the power needed to effectively govern.
Moreover, the upgrading of the SAF is one of the most important aspects of the modernization of China’s military, writes Andrew Erickson, an associate professor at the US Naval War College. Since the 1990s, China has gone from having just limited nuclear ballistic missile capability to having one of the world’s most impressive missile programs that includes nuclear, conventional as well as land attack cruise missiles, according to Erickson. Here a few of the photos, some of which are wonderfully vintage, from Xinhua’s full series: