Footprints of the PLA: An Introduction
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was founded in 1927 in the wake of the Nationalist Party’s bloody suppression of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in major cities like Shanghai and Changsha. Since then, it survived Chiang Kai-shek’s relentless pursuit and the Long March, expanded during the Japanese occupation of much of China from 1937 through 1945 and overran the Nationalist forces and forced them to flee to Taiwan in 1949. It helped the CCP seize power and found the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Barely a year after PRC was established, the PLA moved across the Yalu River in a gallant effort to stop the UN forces from crushing North Korea and pushing toward the Chinese border. Its staggering losses during this three-year conflict convinced the top leadership that modernization in military thinking and equipment was crucial. The first transformation of the PLA took place.
In 1950s, the PLA launched raids and bombardment against offshore islands of Taiwan, leading the United States to sign mutual defense treaty with Taiwan and deploy forces and even nuclear weapons there. In 1962, the much more professional and better-trained PLA forces crossed into India in order to force the Nehru government to accept a reasonable border deal. Many believed the PLA could have routed the Indian forces and marched into New Delhi if it had wanted. However, the PLA quickly withdrew from India to show to the world that PRC was not a nation bent on aggression and expansion. But the PRC leadership was much afraid of a US-led aggression against itself and extremely concerned about nuclear blackmail. From the mid 1960s to the early 1970s, PRC acquired nuclear bombs and the launching capacity. It also sent Chinese anti-air and engineering forces into North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
This rapid and significant modernization of the PLA was blocked by the onslaught of the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao Zedong in 1966. In the next decade, the PLA abolished its ranking system, ceased training and began to assume a role of an internal police, restoring order and ensuring stability in much of China whose education and economic activities all but came to a stop when ideological purification and purging of counterrevolutionary elements from the Party and government were the tall order. In 1969 and 1970, the PLA briefly engaged the Soviet forces in Heilongjiang Province and Xinjiang Autonomous Region and found, to its great dismay, it no longer stood a chance of fighting a winning battle.
1979 was a turning point for the PLA. In order to rally the Chinese people behind reform and opening up measures and to enter into at least a semblance of an alliance with the United States to deter the Soviet Union (that had just begun its invasion of Afghanistan), the PRC decided to teach Vietnam a lesson via a month long invasion. Unlike the 1962 incursion into India, the PLA suffered tremendous losses due to incompetent leadership, lack of training of officers and foot soldiers, failed supply and poor communication among the troops on the battlefield. While the PRC leadership achieved the goal of domestic mobilization and registering its pro-America position, the military failure was colossal. Deng Xiaoping, the chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission from the late 1970s to early 1990s, initiated a multiple-pronged effort to transform the PLA; namely, the withdrawal of the military from civilian institutions, 2) the restoration of the ranking system, 3) massive downsizing of the active forces and 4) purchasing advanced weapons from overseas and exposing its officer corps to their foreign counterparts.
In the following decade, the PLA indeed got leaner and possibly meaner. With new weapon systems purchased from abroad, increased professional education, larger budget and better training, the Chinese military was on the rise. Then, two events had far-reaching impact on its modernization drives and strategy formulation. First, in the summer of 1989, it was unfortunately called in to crush a civil disobedience in China’s capital and its image was woefully tainted and its outreach to the West was abruptly cut off. Second, the Taiwan government introduced a political reform, leading to the popular rise of aspiration for independence on the island. While the Tiananmen massacre made the PLA unpopular among the Chinese people, it had also increased its leverage over the top leadership for more budget and the opportunity to generate more funds in engaging in businesses. Political changes in Taiwan turned the scenario of independence real and the PLA began to deliberate on how to deter Taiwan from engaging in such an endeavor. In preparing for a war in the Taiwan Strait, the United State began to figure large in the Chinese defense strategies because the United States was bound by the Taiwan Relations Act to defend Taiwan if Mainland China attempted to seize it by force.
The first Gulf War shocked the PLA, which intensified an urgency to catch up with the US and initiated a renewed study of the US military. On the other hand the suspicion of the United States was sharpened in 1995 when the PLA launched missiles in an attempt to scare Taiwan voters not to pick Lee Tenghui as the president of Taiwan and President Clinton sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the waters near China. The accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, the EP-3 incident in 2001 and the subsequent Bush’s statement that the United States would definitely defend Taiwan if there was an PRC invasion all further contributed to a worsened US-China military relationship that has yet to recover from the sanctions of 1989. In the late 1990s, Jiang Zemin, Chairman of the CMC after Deng Xiaoping, seemed to want to make reunification of Taiwan a political legacy of his and declared a definitive time schedule be set in terms of "liberating" Taiwan. Funding poured into modernizing the PLA and developing killer weapons that can deter the US from intervening in a cross-strait invasion.
It is in this context that we want to look at the recent development of China’s military strategic thinking as we all understand strategizing without considering current needs and future concerns is always a vain and useless exercise.
Trajectory of the PLA Military Thinking: from People’s War to Ensuring Peace
Mao Zedong was one of the founders of the PLA and his thinking dominated the strategies of the PLA for many decades. It was he that designed effective tactics for evading the much stronger Nationalist forces in the early years of the Red Army. It was also he that introduced the idea of a protracted war when China was resisting the Japanese occupation. He believed all reactionaries, including the seemingly powerful Americans, were "paper tigers". His ideas were later crystallized into the concept of people’s war, a new variation of the total war with an emphasis on the justice of a revolutionary war and the role of a nation's general population in wars. Despite his pompous and self-righteous talk of looking down upon the enemy, Mao did believe that China had to be a nuclear power.
With the collapse of Mao’s messianic mission to export revolution and seek to overthrow the imperialistic order dictated by Washington and the United States, Deng Xiaoping managed to deep freeze the revolutionary fervor of the PLA and instructed the military to keep a low profile and focus on training and modernization.
Deng left the stage before the Taiwan issue became a domestic crisis and international issue. Given his thinking on the return of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China, Deng could and had the authority to declare that "let's not worry about the Taiwan issue" and focus on economic development. But his successor, Jiang Zemin, was less secure. He had no military experience but lots of vanity. He eventually used the promotion to tame the top brasses and they all rallied behind his claim that there should be a timetable to unify with Taiwan. But he did not deviate from the modernization efforts launched by Deng and kept trimming the size of the PLA.
Hu Jintao began to assume the control of the PLA with even less security, two years after he became general secretary of the CCP. Jiang maintained a tight control of the PLA even after he supposedly left the power center. However, soon after Jiang gave up his CMC chairmanship, Hu called on its troops to develop under a new ideology, which in General Wen Zongren's words, signifies a strategic move to include a role in keeping the world peace as well as providing a safe environment for the country to develop economically.
From Mao to Hu, in a span of some sixty years, the PLA does not seem have developed a comprehensive strategic concept. Of the four CMC chairmen, only Mao was a thinker and philosopher but he was consumed by an unrealistic ambition to remake the world according to his vision than to protect China’s own interest as the top priority. What is even more tragic is that other than Sun Zi whose ideas came more than two thousand years ago, China has never been able to produce a Carl von Clausewitz, an Alfred Mahan or a George Kennan despite its large apparatus of military and defense research and education. This is largely because the Chinese system (applicable to both the Nationalist and Communist eras) is such that it does not allow unconventional thinking to flourish and particularly ideas that are deemed to challenge the thought of the top leadership. In the context of no toleration of any attempts to revise the orthodoxy, any new ideas, new paradigms and new theories often run the risk of offending the power that be and lead to possible demotion, expulsion and even imprisonment for the owners of the new thinking. As a result, in addition to the fossilization of old ideas of Marx, Lenin and Mao that has prevented advance of China’s military thinking, it is also extremely hard to pierce the opacity of China’s military strategies and derive clues to its defense policies. This is very dangerous when we see China bent on taking Taiwan by force without giving any consideration of public opinion, human sufferings and damages to the stability and peace in the Pacific region and when China sees the US as a superpower out there to undercut its national aspiration to be a member of the superpower club.
However, in the past decade or so, we have the good luck of somehow seeing through the bamboo curtain some of the most extraordinary outbursts of new military thinking and strategic reorientation in China. Although there is no way of knowing how representative they are, what kind of impact these ideas may have on China’s current defense policy making and future war planning, and if the rising generation of PLA officers will accept these ideas, these notions and concepts are circulating and drawing heated debates both in the conference rooms and classrooms of China’s defense research and educational institutions and in the cyberspace. Out of this renaissance of military thinking, there are three very impressive PLA officers whose ideas that are easily identifiable and who have run into one or two huge bumps in their otherwise illustrious career because of their innovative thinking and their effort to fashion new schools of strategic thinking. They are Lieutenant General Li Jijun, Colonel Qiao Liang and Lieutenant General Liu Yazhou. While it is still early to say to what extent these ideas or theories might contribute to the formulation of a more rational defense strategy in China, they can certainly help us to better decipher the otherwise unclear and unspecified goals of the PLA and their means to achieve those goals.
The Rise and Fall of General Li Jijun
Born in 1934 in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, Li is 72 this year. Li went to the Korean front soon after he joined the army. He has served as a staff officer in division and corps headquarters, director of the research office, the Military Science Academy, army division commander, corps commander, and commander of mechanized group army of the Beijing Military Command, director of the General office of the CPC Central Military Commission, Vice President of the Academy of Military Science, ranked Lieutenant General. Currently he is a senior advisor of the China International Strategy Society. His major writings include: On Strategy, Military Theory and War Practice, China’s Traditional Military Thinking and Defensive Strategy, Military Strategic Thinking, just to name a few.
In the early 1980s, in the wake of the border clash with Vietnam, Li Jijun, a junior researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, wrote a seminal paper which rendered a detailed analysis of the transition and development of the Chinese military thinking since its establishment in 1927, and reinterpreted the US military strategy. Li’s recipe for an overhaul of the PLA was very much in line with that of the top leadership: dropping the doctrine of people’s war, downsizing, mechanizing or modernizing the troops and learning from the US.
Li became a rising star in the PLA establishment as a result. He was first promoted directly to division commander, an unprecedented move by the PLA to appoint an academic to a field position. In 1985, the CMC decided to set up the first mechanized group army, and Li Jijun became the top candidate, was subsequently named to command the newly organized group army, assuming the responsibility of reorganizing a field army into a group army. Soon Li designed and created the army’s first group army of 3-D operational capabilities. For quite some time he was widely deemed as a rising star in the military. In 1987, Li was promoted as Director General of the CMC General Office. In 1997, as head of the Chinese military delegation, General Li visited the United States and delivered an important speech entitled Traditional Military Thinking and the Defensive Strategy of China at the US Army War College.
In terms of military restructuring, Li urged his bosses to avoid at any cost falling into a vicious cycle of arms race, and seize the opportunity to develop China’s own hi-tech weaponry and equipment. He also came up with an asymmetric warfare theory, which had equivalent deterrence means as backup. Li’s military strategic views are hailed by many as a shot in the arm of China’s traditional military theory, and was reputed as the academic vanguard of the Chinese strategy studies.
For reasons unknown to the outside, the decline of Li's fortune was as shocking as his meteoric rise. When he assumed the position of director general of the CMC General Office in 1987, there was a growing consensus among the PLA senior officers that he would soon be promoted to deputy chief of staff and eventually become chief of staff of the PLA. This promotion never took place and after quite a few years in the CMC General Office, in 1992, he was transferred to the PLA Academy of Military Science as its vice president with no promotion. Li retired from that position now. Although Li continued to express his ideas and became even more active after his retirement, he was never able to play the crucial role of reshaping China’s military strategy. Was he punished by his outspokenness and his challenge to the conventional wisdom? No one can tell.
The Colonel Who Helped Osama Bin Laden
In the late 1990s, Chinese researchers on military strategy began to incorporate Western information strategy into their studies, and the Gulf War, and the war in Kosovo provided a fertile ground for discussions of various schools or factions to mushroom. One of the most controversial representatives is Qiao Liang, an Air Force colonel. Currently Qiao is a professor at PLA’s Air Force Command Academy, and ranked senior colonel.
Born into a military family in Xinxian County, Shanxi province, China, Qiao joined the service in 1972, and worked as a writer and researcher in the military. In 1995, Qiao published his novel Door to the Doomsday, a work believed to be full of avant-garde thinking and strong military flavor. The novel was the earliest Chinese literature that touched upon Internet warfare, terrorist attacks, and financial warfare. It was an immediate hit throughout the country. In 1999, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, an air force researcher who recently retired and became director of a think tank of the China Aviation University, co-wrote Unrestricted Warfare, a monograph on warfare in the new age.
Translated into English almost immediately after its publication by CIA, the book raised serious concerns throughout the world. It is available for sale on Amazon.com and on the Internet accessible by all. In Unrestricted Warfare, the authors coolly pointed out that the “new terrorists” are capable of generating shock waves of strategic proportion directed at the only superpower, i.e. the US through tactical means or even virtually through means of technology. The emergence and subsequent exposure of Bin-Laden-style terrorism provided evidence for Qiao’s predication.
Needless to say, two years later, on September 11, 2001, what happened in New York City further confirmed Qiao’s theory with amazing accuracy. Because this book challenged traditional operational doctrines and strike approaches, it gave rise to a series of debates among the Chinese military academics, with the focus on whether a “non-military act of war” could become a new war model in the 21st century. As a result, the same string of thoughts follow, that new forms of warfare, such as financial warfare, hacker warfare, and terrorist warfare that are launched or participated in by non-professional servicemen can probably inflict stronger impact on intended enemy targets.
Unrestricted Warfare suggests that an "age of integrated technology" has given birth to a new set of rules of war, and only a new military strategic thinking can help a technologically inferior Chinese army navigate through the labyrinth of international complexities against a more powerful foe. Several retired generals in Taiwan shared the views with Colonel Qiao and believed that it would take twenty or thirty years for Unrestricted Warfare to transform the old mentality within China’s military and the geo-status-quo must be the basis for any solution concerning military affairs to the Taiwan Issue.
Qiao believes that there is no compatibility between the Mainland and Taiwan in terms of military affairs. No matter how much weaponry Taiwan is to acquire, it cannot change the fact that Taiwan lacks strategic depth. The Taiwan Strait is only 120 kilometers or 75 miles wide at the narrowest point, minimal distance needed for launching a final assault in amphibious operations. Moreover, Taiwan is very close to the forward position of the Mainland, with its entire defense exposed to the first firing line. Qiao once commented, “If the island of Taiwan could drift eastward 300 more kilometers or 187 more miles, the operational difficulties on the part of the Mainland would increase tremendously. Therefore, Taiwan is unable to escape from its destiny as the geo-prisoner of the Mainland. As can be seen, the Unrestricted Warfare doctrine has created a new paradigm for solutions to the Taiwan issue, not necessarily reassuring to citizens on either side of the Strait, and definitely gave rise to endless imaginations, some may even be wild, for China’s military hawks.
Many young PLA officers have regarded Qiao as a creative godfather of new millennium war strategies and a glorious inventor of a new killer approach to make the relatively weaker China stand up to a superpower like the United States. After the 9.11 terrorist attacks, many a Chinese citizens commended Qiao for inspiring Osama Bin Laden to shatter the complacency and arrogance of the United States and shake its economic and financial epicenter. The US government officially lodged protest against Qiao Liang and his book and demanded censure. Interestingly it appeared that many PLA researchers joined the American anti-Qiao chorus and condemned Qiao Liang as a shameless deviator of the traditional PLA defense strategy and vain traitor to Deng Xiaoping’s idea of keeping a low profile and saying as little as possible. Qiao Liang was reprimanded by the PLA and lost his chance of promotion to the rank of general.
No one knows if Bin Laden has actually borrowed ideas from Colonel Qiao, but the fact remains that Qiao is a brilliant thinker and a genius strategist. He is able to use both fictional stories and strategy papers to outline a doomsday scenario that can easily be converted into a blueprint for any anti-social fanatic, any terrorist organization or any nation state. The reprimand of Qiao Liang has erected a huge road bump on his shining career and may be the reason that caused his transfer to the Air Force Command College. Like the earlier failure to use General Li Jijun fully and the recent demotion of General Zhu Chenghu who vowed to go toe to toe with the United States in a possible nuclear shootout, the fall from grace of Colonel Qiao has further contributed to the stifling of independent thinking and suppression of creative reasoning on the part of PLA generals and researchers.
Will the Sun Rise for Liu Yazhou?
Any discussion of who is who in the new generation of Chinese military leadership can never be complete without a closer look at the next name on the list – Lieutenant General Liu Yazhou. Born in 1952, Liu is currently an Air Force Lieutenant General, with family origin in Su County, Anhui province, China. He joined the army in 1968, and went to study in the Foreign Languages Department of Wuhan University in 1972. After graduation, he worked as a researcher on the Air Force of Taiwan. Liu has been the Political Commissar of the Armored Force Research Institute under the General Staff Headquarters, the director of the Political Department of the Air Force, Beijing Military Command, and the Political Commissar of the Air Force, the Chengdu Military Command. He has been Deputy Political Commissar of the PLA Air Force since 2004.
Like Qiao Liang, Liu began his career as a writer in the 1980s. His series of quasi fictional writings on the Taiwan military, the war in the Middle East and the British effort to retain Malvinas catapulted him to the national stage with a large following. Due to his background as an author, Liu was able to visit the United States, European countries, South Korea and Taiwan in 1980s. But he dropped his literary license altogether since the early 1990s when he left the creative writing division of the PLA air force and began a steep climb of the military ranks. During the twenty some years when rising from the battalion commander rank all the way to the rung of a two-star general, he has produced a large quantity of policy papers and strategy memoranda. These long and short writings are general enough that they cannot be classified but are also original and deviational enough that no Chinese press can publish them either.
Most of Liu's writings are circulated as informal pamphlets inside the military and among his friends. They did not catch public attention and popular fascination until the beginning of the new century. It all began in 2001 with a critique of one of the most humiliating defeats of the PLA in the face of the demoralized Nationalist forces in October 1949 during the Battle of Quemoy. With previously unpublicized details and a rare literary flair, Liu described how the Nationalist forces thwarted a PLA landing on the island that resulted in the loss of more than 9,000 troops. Liu attributes the devastating loss to complacency, poor planning and incompetent command.
This critique appeared at the time when the entire PLA apparatus was busy exploring the possibility of turning CMC chairman Jiang Zemin’s imaginative timetable of liberating Taiwan into an executable reality. According to Liu, history threatened to repeat itself in the late 1990s when hard-line officials argued that Taiwan must be fought and that the victory was certain. Disclosing a previously unseen Jiang Zemin quote—"A war in the Taiwan Strait is inevitable"—without providing the context, Liu argues that the lessons of Jinmen must be heeded, especially because the Taiwan issue is now internationalized and considerably more complicated.
Like General Li Jijun and many PLA think tank researchers, Liu also has a fixation with the US military, its goals, strategies and operations. In his essay, On Iraqi War of 2003, Liu Yazhou analyzed, from a geo-strategic perspective, the American troops’ characteristics and shortcomings in military doctrine and technology employment during the Iraqi War. Liu concludes that air force is and will be the determining factor in any war in the 21st century and an armed force without the ability and capacity to absorb and process information quickly through computer networks and the Internet for battlefield decisions will be easily defeated. When this essay appeared in some of the popular BBses in China, Liu was both lionized for his vision and prediction and attacked for being too pro-American and too cowardly.
Liu has crossed the thin line separating politics and military affairs in his book Great Power Strategy. Liu pointed out that "a great power should not develop solely for the sake of development. A nation’s strategic target should be specific and tangible. Only after all the conditions are met can historic developments proceed. We need strategic industries." Against the common mistakes made by the developing countries in forming their national strategies, Liu reexamined the shortcomings in Beijing’s past policies, and criticized the mentality of a handful of people in dealing with international relations. Instead of perceiving the US as an enemy, Liu tried to identify what has made the United States a great power and called for learning from and maintaining a good relationship with Washington. He also claimed that for China to sustain its economic development and join the club of superpowers, Beijing must not resort to force to unify with Taiwan, and instead should have a coherent policy to develop the Great West, and begin political reforms as soon as possible.
Liberal Chinese intellectuals see Liu as a visionary who can lead China out of the desert of Marxism and Leninism, establish a sensible policy with the West, achieve mutual understanding and reconciliation with Taiwan and build a new military that will support China’s effort to transform its government into one with accountability and choices. Conservatives perceive him as the ultimate gravedigger for the CCP and should be dismissed from the military and incarcerated if possible. Yet a third group believes that China has suffered horrendously when the military aggressively and arbitrarily intervenes in civilian affairs and as a general Liu is not supposed to delve into domestic politics and offer recommendations on developmental and political reform policies.
Since Liu's writings began to circulate widely on the Internet in April 2004, there has been a deluge of debates on both his admirable strength as a great Chinese thinker and his evil plan to undercut the CCP and turn it over to the conniving lords in Washington. It appears that Liu has suffered a setback in his career when he missed the chance of promotion to a three-star general (the highest military rank in the PLA) late last year when many believed he was a shoo-in for the position of Political Commissar of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences. Again one will never know if his olive branch to Taiwan or his broodings on transforming the military from a Party tool into a state institution has hurt his chances, but it is still too early to say the sun will never rise for General Liu as he is still six years away from the dreadful threshold of sixty when no promotion is possible.
Are We Going to See More Young Turks?
In an article published in China Brief 2005, Alfred Chan described Lieutenant Liu Yazhou as a "Young Turk" in China’s military establishment. Chan marveled at opinions and thinking expressed through writings and speeches by a group of Chinese military strategists under new military Khan, Hu Jintao, and called them "unprecedented" and wondered if such phenomenon is a harbinger of major changes in China’s military ideology and whether a new paradigm will emerge in China’s discourse on international configuration and power alignment.
Young Turks is a name given in the 20th century to the Ottomans who tried to rejuvenate the Turkish Empire, and bring it more into line with European ideas as opposed to Old Turks who were against such ideals. It can also refer to any group of young or relatively young men full of new ideas and impatient for change, especially radical or "progressive" element in a political party. In applying this term, Chan is making the assumption that there is a group of Young Turks within the Chinese military, which may represent this new ideology and therefore are worth following, if one wants to wade through the murky streams of Chinese political and military apparatus.
To be able to decipher the PLA, its Party-imposed mission and self-perceived tasks and its view of the United States is crucial because the tension across the Taiwan Strait can easily draw Washington into a very uneasy dilemma. Since the two sides of the Taiwan Strait entered into a stalemate in 1949, overseas military think tanks and Pentagon have closely followed the development in Beijing’s military thinking. During the Korean War, the US military considered Nanjing PLA Army Academy established by Liu Bocheng, a scholarly Marshall, as the CPC’s military brain trust and took pains to monitor its deliberations. Toward the end of the 1991 Gulf War, think tanks of Washington began to pay close attention to the military strategy writings by the new generation among the China’s military academics. They found that their China’s counterparts had abandoned their previous research methodologies dominated by the Marxist ideology and forsaken the old notion of the eventual demise of the imperialist empire of the United States. They were more realistic and pragmatic. They saw a showdown between Beijing and Washington as inevitable, studied the US defense strategy, and tried to identify where we had the weakest link.
However, in the past 20 years, PLA's restructuring and adjustments were dominated by personnel downsizing, but failed to address the core of its defects, the domination of political commanders and the lack of a transparent and competitive promotion system. In addition, China’s strategic thinking was too conservative. All these factors have so far prevented China’s military from improving its training and operational efficiencies. There is ground for concern, however, if strategic thoughts of Li Jijun, Qiao Liang and Liu Yazhou and other Young Turks, if accepted by China’s leadership and implemented within the military, that an improved Chinese military will likely exert more influence in the domestic and the world affairs to the detriment of regional power balance. In fact, one has every reason to believe that after Liu Yazhou advanced such strategic thinking as "Why Has the Center of Gravity of the US Strategy Has Not Moved Eastward", "The New Triangular Strategic Relationship Between China, the US and Japan", and "China’s Military Should Be Transformed Into An Offensive Force", a systematic military paradigm may come into being.
In the twentieth century, the United States fought two wars that were long and costly with very high casualty and no claim to victory: the Korean War and the Vietnam War. China was the main opponent in the first and a big player in the second. Since the collapse of the former Soviet bloc, China becomes the only, albeit still weaker, authoritarian power with nuclear capability. In recent years, all indications point to the East Asia as the next area of contention – the issues of North Korea’s nuclear weapon program and the tension between China and Taiwan are ready to flare up anytime. If the US wishes to stay engaged in that region, it has no choice but study its potential foe.
The Chinese military, unlike its counterpart in the US, is a weapon of the ruling Communist Party. It is supposed to do whatever the Party commands. However, the Chinese history is rife with military conspiracies over political powers. It was widely known that Mao Zedong chased after General Lin Piao, his Minister of Defense, for military backing to launch the Cultural Revolution, and a coup, backed by Wang Dongxing, the commander of the PLA security forces, brought down the radical regime represented by the Gang of Four. A more recent reminder can be traced to the military solution of the Tiananmen student movement in 1989. In other words, the role of the military in China’s stability can never be overestimated. It is in US’s vital strategic interests to study this military as in all likelihood it can be either an ally or an enemy in the next international conflict.
To study and follow a military as complex as China’s is no small task and cannot and should not be expected to be conclusive in a short period of time. Baby steps should be encouraged as the authors’ endeavor to start with the three officers. We could also breathe with a little ease at the present as all three brilliant officers in this study seem have invoked suspicion and anger because of their innovation and originality. One is marginalized by mandatory retirement and the future of the other two seems to be clouded by uneasiness and uncertainty. Too many young turks of Qiao Liang’s and Liu Yazhou’s kind may pose a mixed prospect for the United States: they are more progressive, democratic and open-minded, which may contribute to China’s eventual political reform, but they are also producing strategies that can create more difficulties for the US if there is an inevitable military confrontation.
Last edited by Frank Zhou; 04 May 06, at 00:09. Reason: Change the style of the title
Dr. Frank Zhou
"political power comes from the barrel of the gun!"
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