China military says some not taking graft fight seriously

BEIJING (Reuters) - There are some in China's armed forces, the largest in the world, who are not taking the fight against corruption seriously, brushing problems under the carpet and not daring to go after senior officers, its official paper said on Thursday. Weeding out graft in the military is a top goal of President Xi Jinping, chairman of the Central Military Commission, which controls China's 2.3 million-strong armed forces. Serving and retired Chinese military officers have said military graft is so pervasive it could undermine China's ability to wage war, and dozens of senior officers have been taken down. In a commentary, the People's Liberation Army Daily said cases of lawbreaking were being covered up, sat on or seriously downplayed. It cited an anonymous military prosecutor as saying that an officer from the logistics department - which has emerged as a hotbed of corruption - was involved in a large financial scandal, but was only demoted and then shuffled out the army. "Such cases as this in the forces are not the exception," the newspaper said. Soldiers are often afraid to report transgressions as they think it might affect their own promotion chances or the honor of their regiment, and that letting slip a few problems is harmless, it added "Some people are strict with the rank and file and not the officers; some are strict with the ordinary privates and not the Communist Party leaders," the paper said. Powerful connections deter others from reporting wrongdoing, it added. If the law is not enforced then it loses its deterrence effect, and will promote an attitude of "so what", the paper said. "How hard is it to write the character for strict?" The logistics department has been particularly problematic for the People's Liberation Army. Lieutenant General Gu Junshan, who had been deputy director of the department, is suspected of selling hundreds of positions. He was charged with corruption last year. The anti-graft drive in the military comes as Xi steps up efforts to modernize forces that are projecting power across the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas, though China has not fought a war in decades. China intensified its crackdown on corruption in the military in the late 1990s, banning the People's Liberation Army from engaging in business. But the military has been involved in commercial dealings in recent years due to a lack of checks and balances, military analysts have said. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)