By Zhang Han, Global Times
Chinese firefighters were reassigned from the Chinese military to the Ministry of Emergency Management on Tuesday, which is hailed by experts as a move to downsize the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and strengthen Communist Party of China’s leadership.
China has 170,000 active firefighters and another 200,000 full-time government firefighters, the PLA Daily reported.
Most of China’s firefighters belong to public security forces, supplemented by full-time fire and volunteer fire brigades.
The public security firefighting force was included in PLA’s armed police force, but managed by the public security department, Li Daguang, a professor at the National Defense University of the PLA in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
The reassignment is necessary for firefighters to be under a unified force, Li said.
“By getting rid of confusion in supervision and management, China’s emergency rescue forces will become more professional, integrated and centralized,” Li said, adding that the stability of the fire brigade that has long plagued local governments can be greatly improved.
Fires in China have claimed an average of 2,100 lives a year compared to 5,000 in the US, said PLA Daily.
The PLA Daily attributes the relatively low rate to the preparedness of China’s firefighters.
The withdrawal of civilian-oriented firefighting and frontier defense troops from the People’s Armed Police Force was first announced in March.
Armed police forces that previously answered to civilian-related duties, including forestry and hydropower activities, were transferred to State institutions in August and September.
By reducing the number of non-battle personnel, the PLA would become more capable and efficient, Li said.
The reform could significantly correct errors and highlight the Party’s leadership over its armed forces, including the armed police, Li noted.