The Chinese Army

Chinese army

The military in the People's Republic of China is not at all a politically neutral army like in liberal democracies. Army leadership and politics are tightly intertwined; this condition started back in the times of the Chinese Civil War, before the proclamation of the PRC, and when the CCP was in principal identical to the army.

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has twice saved the Party from crisis situations and restored its monopoly on federal power, once during the Cultural Revolution and the second time by suppressing the Tiananmen Protests of 1989. On one hand, army leadership is integrated into the Party and into political leadership; on the other hand, the Party controls the PLA by a system of party organs at all levels of command.

Highly-placed charismatic leaders attempt to assure themselves the army's support to maintain their positions of power in the Party. This is important, for many leaders such as Jiang Zemin, Li Peng, Zhu Rongji, and Hu Jintao no longer have any military background as once was the case with Den Xiaoping (who was political commissar for the Second Field Army during the Chinese Civil War). During the Cultural Revolution and his political resurgence after the capture of the Band of Four, Deng Xiaoping was solidly supported by the military.

Despite lacking military experience, former President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission Jiang Zemin was able to effectively network within the PLA, among other reasons for his sustained support of budget increases, contacts with generals via his work in the Military Commission, and personnel reorganization in the officer corps.

Although political leaders can be sure of the PLA's support, at lower levels the party control system has suffered. In the domain of ideological training, the party's lack of organization and taut supervision of political work at lower levels have been bemoaned.

The Chinese Army as an enterprise

The PLA's scope no longer remains limited to politics; it has developed into a significant economic enterprise and factor of production. It possesses both ordinary corporations active in weapons trading, which after drawing international criticism have extended their reach into other sectors, and illegal corporations, not approved by high-level officials, that often come to loggerheads with regional civil administrations. This results in distraction (by way of accusations of economic activity, corruption, and arbitrary action by regional military leaders who want to enforce personal agendas) from their military training, as well as an increasingly poor reputation for the PLA. Recently, the government has successfully reined in the Army's economic activities.

Example: the Soviet army

A further factor influencing the role that the Army plays in China is the fate of the Soviet army following the collapse of the former Soviet Union. The army had not forestalled the breakdown of the communist system; former structures were dissolved and the once proud Red Army is only a shadow of its former self. Undersupply and neglect of military armaments, corruption, delinquency in the Army-these served as clear warnings to the military in China, who are fully aware that the military's power is strongly linked to the conservation of power by the Communist Party.

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