Strengthening the Military Through Talent Cultivation

By Mahika Ming | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 7 2021
FT Strengthening the Military Through Talent Cultivation

By Mahika Ming

The Armed Forces of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) held the Central Military Commission’s Conference on talent-related work in Beijing recently. President Xi Jinping was the Chief Guest at the event. He is also the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the PRC. The President’s comments as the leader of a super power and the world’s largest army can be considered as a guiding light to those who believe in ushering lasting peace within safe, strong and prosperous communities with long term goals. Throughout history armed forces of China have never fought battles outside mainland China either to colonise nations or to interfere in the internal matters of another nation. Instead the Chinese Navy under the command of the legendary Admiral Zhen He helped countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka to stabilise their respective societies, establish strong public administration and trading systems along the ancient Maritime Silk Road. During the Ming dynasty Admiral Zhen supported the Sri Lankan state to establish the final longest serving administration nearly a century prior to colonisation by the Portuguese. President Xi was clear on the short, mid and long term goals of China in culture, education, talent, sports and health as explained in the blueprint for economic and social development during the next five years and till 2035 in the long-range. Armed forces of any country are made of humans who are trained to reach goals for the protection of the country or state. Talent development of the armed forces therefore, is vital. The following views of the Chinese leader should be eye openers for those who believe in efficient, civilised development oriented armed forces.  

Trees with roots

President Xi identified human talent as the first resource and innovation as the first driving force. The top managers who managed the Sri Lankan armed forces which ended the thirty year bloody conflict have actually displayed these qualities. Although many point fingers in many directions, Sri Lankan managers had the capacity to identify human talent and appoint best suitable persons to the respective positions which gave space for innovation creating a driving force to lay the foundation for a stable nation. The Chinese leader identified the competition for comprehensive national strength as the competition for talent and stressed that excellent institutional mechanism should be provided for attracting and retaining talent to get the best for the country. Although there are different views on large defense budgets of which larger portions go as salaries and wages, few would understand that high quality defense leadership is vital to maintain civil liberties in the 21st century amidst complicated conflict provocative elements. The Chinese leader displayed his advanced human qualities when he insisted on respecting knowledge and talent from the bottom of the hearts of the managers as he foresaw the vitality of creating relaxed environments to provide board platforms for the armed forces personnel to perform. This is a quality which Sri Lankan armed forces and the public witnessed during the last stages of the three decade conflict. It will be encouraging if young armed forces personnel pick these lines and the Sri Lankan case study to bring in more efficiency to the systems in place. Developing talented teams focusing on different specialist fields and continuous training to make seasoned leading figures to manage the ever challenging State affairs was also seen as important by the Chinese leader.

It is very important for a strategically located small State such as Sri Lanka given the opportunities that will come with the expansion of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the threats and competition that will come from other powers and all those who are competing for the benefits of the BRI in the Indian Ocean rim.    

President Xi identified the optimisation of the education systems, academic disciplines and talent development systems such as vocational training to compete with future developments. In that aspect Sri Lanka has taken few progressive steps such as expanding the Defence University academic spectrum and also with the establishment of the National Defence College (NDC) at the ‘Mumtaz- Mahal’ mansion which was formally the official residence of the Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka. President Xi recognised the need for a talented top team to back independent innovations which if not, he compared to water without a source or a tree without roots. He recognised allocating more funding and resources for scientists who will in turn decide on more effective technological routes for development. Being one of the most powerful men on earth, President Xi wanted more programmes implemented to cultivate and identify scientists with in-depth knowledge, broad vision, foresight, interdisciplinary understanding and strong organisational and leadership skills. 

Lessons for Sri Lanka

The Chinese leader’s advice to his own armed forces are extremely good lessons for the average Sri Lankans if they wish to develop as individuals and as a nation. When approximately 22 million individuals act short sighted, the cumulative result is devastating for future generations. The population should study the contributions of respected US Army official Colonel Henry Steel Olcott who had the vision to establish the education network to identify and train new talent. His foundation created the talent which produced the best efficient military talent team seen in Sri Lanka after few centuries. Sri Lankan citizens should also study the services of US President David Eisenhower who had the vision to develop scientific development by establishing NASA which manage all advanced space technology operations. It was during his term the USA inter-state highway network was successfully implemented and completed taking it to new heights in socio-economic development in early 1960s. Sri Lankans came out of a conflict due to the hard work of talented teams. Twelve years later they seemed to be trying to get back to another. Additional post conflict management lessons can be learned by studying the work of the Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Britain. Being a former military officer he introduced welfare systems to military families, introduced carbon taxes to reduce the impact on environment and also introduced the minimum wage system which later was accepted by managers of many nations including Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans should learn more about how other countries develop using the armed forces and the humans in them as the best resource. 

By Mahika Ming | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 7 2021

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