The People's Liberation Army overhauled its regional command system on Monday in an attempt to improve the military's joint operational capability.
President Xi Jinping, also chairman of the Central Military Commission, presented PLA flags to top officers from the five newly established areas of command at a ceremony at the commission's headquarters in Beijing.
The new areas are Eastern Theater Command, Southern Theater Command, Western Theater Command, Northern Theater Command and Central Theater Command.
They replace the seven regional commands named after the cities where their headquarters were located — Beijing, Shenyang, Ji'nan, Lanzhou, Nanjing, Chengdu and Guangzhou.
Xi said the five theater commands are responsible for dealing with security threats in their respective strategic fields, maintaining peace, containing wars and winning wars, noting their pivotal role in safeguarding the country's overall national security and military strategies.
Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said at a news conference on Monday evening that rearranging the regional military commands will not change the PLA's defensive nature. He added that the military will take good care of officers affected by the overhaul.
The move is the latest step taken by Xi in a massive overhaul of the defense system and the PLA. This began in September when the president announced that China would cut the number of troops by 300,000.
In late November, a plenary session of the Central Military Commission announced a plan to reorganize itself and the regional military commands.
At the end of December, the PLA Army Headquarters, PLA Rocket Force and PLA Strategic Support Force were set up.
Last month, the PLA's central departments — staff, politics, logistics and armaments — were dismantled and their functions and duties were reassigned to 15 new agencies under the Central Military Commission.
Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said the seven regional commands had been tied to the combat mode centered on ground forces, while the new system features joint operations and information capacity. The previous regional commands were formed in 1985 under a reform ordered by the then top leader Deng Xiaoping.
Lou Yaoliang, head of military strategy studies at the National Defense University, said the new regional commands will be responsible for performing military operations, while the headquarters of each service will take charge of managing and training troops.