The Chinese army appears to be intensively reorganizing its middle and lower officer corps to restore efficiency and combat readiness lost during the last few years of political turmoil.
Official radio broadcasts in the last few weeks indicate that many middle level officers in the nation's 11 military regional commands are being transferred or demoted, and analysts here say similar shifts not reported in the official press are probably occurring at lower levels.
An article in the official army newspaper, Liberation Army Daily, of Jan. 30 that has just reached here speaks of the need to eliminate "overstaffing, Lethargy, arrogance, extravegance and laziness and the signs of softness, laxness and neglectfulness in the leading groups of some units."
It and several other recent articles recall a 1975 decision by the party's military affairs commission to toughen and consolidate army units. That decision was frustrated by the policical power struggle in the months before the September 1976 death of communist party Chairman Mao Tse-Tung.
"It is imperative to unify our war concepts and be well-prepared to fight," said a recent editorial in the army newspaper.
"We must simplify oru organization and strengthen the companies. Organizational discipline must be emphasized and all stress must be put on obeying orders and commands," the paper said.
The official Chinese press in the last two weeks has reported military maneuvers under way or recently completed in several areas, a sign that the army appears to be returning to an emphasis on military training after years in which soldiers were supposed to concentrate on reading the works of Mao and other political writings.
Despite repeated official calls for modernization of the outdated equipment used by the 3.5 million-member armed forces, China's top military leaders appear to have decided to limit new military spending until the country can revive its faltering economy.
"It is imperative to adhere to the principle of practicing economy in army building . . . to do our utmost to save and reduce military expenditures and to step up our country's economic construction," the authoritative army editorial said.
The army has proclaimed a singleminded devotion to reviving the civilian economy and concentrating for now on improving the prowess of the infantry, but some apparent dissent has been heard in the military press. As the most powerful and cohesive branch of the government, and perhaps the least affected by the factional strife of the Moist era, the army seems to be self-confidently making room for criticism of official policy.
The Liberation Army Daily began a series of pungent attacks early last month on party members belonging to factions it described as "windblown," "slippery" and "earthquake-making." Some of the attacks seemed to be aimed at people still holding high party positions and the civilian press hesitated before reprinting the army articles.
The theoretical group of teh National Defense, Scientific and Technological Commission broadcast what appeared to be an attack on official support for Mao's concept of using guerrilla war against well-equipped armies, while gradually improving the quality of Chinese equipment.
"Anyone who still thinks that in any future war against aggression it will be possible to use broadswords against guided missiles and other nuclear weapons of imperialism and social imperialism is evidently not prepared to possess all the weapons and means of fighting which the enemy has or may have," the commission group said. "This is follish . . . "
In another article, a recent Liberation Army Daily used historical analogy to make what appeared to be a stratling attack on the official policy of war readiness and hostiligy toward the Soviet Union. The article praised Lenin for exposing "Sham leftists in Russia who in 1917 were "opposed to maintaining discipline, using experts to develop industry and implementing the system of economic accounting (and) opposed to sighing a peace treaty with Germany and trumpeted the continuation of war."
In China today, the disgraced Gang of Four, a clique of dogmatic Maoists, are regularly criticized for having opposed use of discipline and expertise.
To juxtapose belligerence in foreign policy toward a neighboring power with these domestic crimes would suggest to a Chinese reader that the author thinks Peking's policy toward the Soviets is similarly wrongheaded. The reference may be one more salvo in what appears to be muted Peking debate over whether to remain hostile toward the well-armed Soviets or ease tensions so money spent patrolling the border can be used elsewhere.