Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Don't forget the PLA

In the old days, the PLA was the center of power. It stays in the background more today, but it's still a force to be reckoned with in Chinese politics.

Chinese succession highlights military's role
Maneuvering over China's leadership succession is providing an opportunity for the powerful military to exert greater influence over decision-making, potentially dragging the government into a more confrontational stance with its neighbors and the U.S.

The military has gained prominence in public life at a time when China's economic and diplomatic entanglement with the rest of the world is growing…

Whether this higher profile translates into increased influence in policy-making is being watched as the political leadership enters a fraught succession. The Central Committee, comprised of nearly 400 Communist Party elite drawn from government and the military, [recently closed] an annual policy meeting... ostensibly focused on cultural issues. Behind the scenes powerbrokers are networking over who will replace President Hu Jintao and many top members in his leadership when they begin stepping down a year from now.

The People's Liberation Army once dominated the leadership… Ever since the leadership needed the military to crush the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989, the party rewarded it with double-digit percentage budget increases nearly every year…

As a result, the 2.3 million-member military's professionalism and capabilities have grown, giving it a larger say in foreign and defense policies…

Military commanders make up about 18 percent of the Central Committee. The PLA also enjoys disproportionately large representation in bodies such as the National People's Congress…

Mostly the PLA has seemed intent on using its political clout to secure additional resources…

While the generals and admirals who sit on the commission generally keep their views on politics private, a far more vocal class of officers, many of them with strong family connections to past and present leaders, has emerged.

They include Liu Yuan, the son of a revolutionary founding father, Liu Shaoqi, who has delivered speeches and essays pushing a form of militant Chinese nationalism that rejects Western notions of political openness and civil liberties…

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