Sunday, August 19, 2012

Changes in the Chinese Military?

A series of interesting articles on the PLA recently appeared in the Chinese press.
I am posting two of them from The Epoch Times, a Falun Gong group publication.
One speaks of the attempted coup mentioned on this blog in March and the subsequent reshuffle in the PLA: "China’s military has moved around a large number of senior generals, including generals in the Navy, Air Force, Lanzhou Military Region, Guangzhou Military Region, Chengdu Military Region, Hong Kong Garrison, General Logistics Department, and Armed Police. The South China Sea and North Sea Fleets have also changed their chief commanders." 
The second article mentions the promotion of General Liu Yazhou also cited on this blog in June 2011: "In August 2010, a Chinese two-star general has warned his conservative Communist Party masters and firebrand People's Liberation Army colleagues that China must either embrace US-style democracy or accept Soviet-style collapse."
Liu Yazhou, a political commissar in the PLA National Defense Academy has now been promoted as a full General. According to The Epoch Times "he is known for promoting a Westward Strategy, or moving the nation’s development focus to Western China, partly because of his belief that U.S. influence in the Asian region is hampering China’s strategic expansion there."
It is difficult to predict how this will translate into a change of policy.
Finally, Peter Mattis, the Editor of the China Brief speaks of "Hu Jintao’s Doubtful Future on the Central Military Commission". He says: 
With the Beidaihe retreat coming to a close this week and Chinese leaders reemerging from behind closed doors, China’s leaders are in the home stretch for deciding the outcomes of the 18th Party Congress. Some of the issues at stake are the size of the Politburo, who will make it into the Politburo Standing Committee, and a miscellany of other important personnel appointments, like Shanghai’s party chief. One of the most consequential questions is whether President Hu Jintao will hold onto the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission (CMC), which oversees the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), after he resigns as general secretary this fall. Some speculation suggests Hu will follow his predecessor’s path and oversee military affairs in quasi-retirement (Ming Pao, July 22; Apple Daily, May 30). The idea of precedent looms large for a China-watching community starved of reliable, current information. President Hu, however, appears unlikely to retain the CMC chairmanship past the 18th Party Congress based on the factors that allowed Jiang Zemin to continue in that capacity after resigning as general secretary.
All this is of course speculation, because even the best informed China watcher knows very little about what is happening behind the thick walls of Zhongnanhai or Beidaihe's retreat. 
Mattis anyway tries his luck at suggesting:
The idea of President Hu staying on as chair of the Central Military Commission has precedent with both Deng Xiaoping and Jiang. There is little reason to suggest the PLA has changed its position on the perils of a divided command. Since at least March, the propaganda line has been a consistent statement about the clear relationship between the party and the army—not between a civilian leader and the PLA. The recognition of Hu Jintao’s role as leader of the party and the role of the party’s general secretary also suggests the PLA stands by Jiang’s reasoning for unity of command.
It means that the CCP's General Secretary, the PRC's President and the Chairman of the CMC should be the same person, in other words, Xi Jinping.
Interesting months ahead. 
The fate of the next ten years of China (and the world) may depend on which side the wind will blow in Beijing and Beidailhe in the weeks to come. 
Let us watch the smoke. 

With Promotion of General, Chinese Regime Tilts To West
Epoch Times
Sun Yun 
August 13, 2012
Before the real transfer of power takes place at the 18th Party Congress, supposedly this fall, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has already promoted a number of lieutenant generals to general—among them Liu Yazhou, who among other things supports an aggressive defense posture against the United States, some form of democracy in China, and closer ties with the Islamic world.
Liu is political commissar of the National Defense Academy of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and is known for promoting a Westward Strategy, or moving the nation’s development focus to Western China, partly because of his belief that U.S. influence in the Asian region is hampering China’s strategic expansion there.
He was promoted to general on July 30, in what outsiders see as a sign that his ideas are to some extent being accepted by Party leaders.
Along with the westward tilt is a plan to transform the western province of Ningxia into China’s Islamic Finance Center.
The newly promoted Gen. Liu’s idea of developing Western China would fit well with turning Ningxia into a Sino-Arab financial trade settlement center, according to Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily, in a commentary on Aug. 6.
Liu’s promotion to general shows his Westward Strategy is being accepted and supported, the Daily said.
In 2011, Sino-Arab trade totaled US$195.9 billion, making the Arab world China’s seventh largest trading partner, and making China the second largest trading partner of Arab countries.
Liu Yazhou is the son-in-law of Li Xiannian, former chairman of China (1909–1992). He is also a military commentator. It is believed that Liu is an important military ally to Xi Jinping, the presumptive next leader of the CCP. Both Liu and Xi are princelings.
Following the Wang Lijun scandal in February, Liu on April 16 wrote an article in Qiushi, a Communist Party ideological journal, saying the army must unconditionally obey the leader of the CCP, the Central Military Commission, and Party chief Hu Jintao. The article was understood as Liu showing his allegiance to Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, and Xi Jinping, in the wake of reports about of a failed political coup by Bo Xilai, former Chongqing Party secretary, and security chief Zhou Yongkang,
Since 2004 Liu has strongly advocated that China strategically move West. In his article “On Advance Toward The West,” he says Western China is not a frontier but a hinterland of China’s progress—developing Xinjiang and Tibet, befriending the Middle East, and becoming economically competitive in Central Asia.

Major Reshuffle of China’s Top Military Brass
The Epoch Times
Wang Jingwen
August 16, 2012
China’s military has quietly reassigned a large number of high-ranking officers and removed most of supporters of Bo Xilai—the now deposed official who was being groomed by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) most ruthless faction to become the next Party leader—in two key regions. Within just one month, there have been 14 transfers of generals ranking at the level of Military Region.
According to several published reports collected by Southern Metropolis Daily, since July, China’s military has moved around a large number of senior generals, including generals in the Navy, Air Force, Lanzhou Military Region, Guangzhou Military Region, Chengdu Military Region, Hong Kong Garrison, General Logistics Department, and Armed Police. The South China Sea and North Sea Fleets have also changed their chief commanders. This is the largest reshuffle of top Chinese military officers since the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square student massacre.
The most notable adjustments have taken place in the Lanzhou and Chengdu Military Regions. Most generals supportive of Bo Xilai and former CCP leader Jiang Zemin have been removed from their positions since they were linked to an alleged coup plotted by Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang, both members of the Jiang Zemin faction. The three were united in a plan to seize power at the top of the Communist Party in order to cover for their crimes in persecuting Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual practice, according to insiders and the analysis of experts.
But according to a high ranking Beijing official, Hu Jintao, in order to remain as the Party’s Central Military Commission (CMC) chairman, and maintain some hold on power after handing over his Party leader post, doesn’t want to make too many enemies. Hu is using “soft treatment” in dealing with Bo and Zhou to leave their supporters “a way out” and to try to minimize the impact of the political tsunami brought on by the pair, the official told New Epoch magazine on condition of anonymity.
According to reports, the two vice-chairmen and the eight members of the CMC all signed a petition asking Hu to remain as chairman of the CMC. Obviously, Hu’s compromise has brought benefits to himself. Those high-ranking officials involved in the Bo and Zhou incident have already changed their stance, and Bo and Zhou have no influence now even though Zhou still remains in his current Party position.

Breaking up the PLAC
Recently an official message further confirmed Hu’s and Wen’s “outside loose and inside tight” policy towards Zhou. According to state media Xinhua News, from the beginning of August, provincial and autonomous regions’ police chief positions will be taken over by transferred officials from other provinces. This is another major initiative—following the June 26-July 31 intensive rotational training of police chiefs from more than 1,400 cities and counties—to weaken the impact of the Gestapo-like Political and Legislative Affairs Committee (PLAC), and to break up and reshuffle the PLAC.
Additionally, local Party committees were due for reelection in early July. There were 23 new provincial PLAC secretaries who were not local police chiefs; instead the positions were filled by officials without any PLAC background. Previously the PLAC secretary position was always held by the local police chief, and its authority often surpassed that of other law-enforcement agencies. The PLAC thus formed a second power center in China controlled by Jiang Zemin and Zhou Yongkang.
The intention of Hu’s series of actions is to weaken the second power center and second armed forces, and to avoid the renewed possibility of a coup.

Outcome of Reshuffle
1. In order to stabilize power, anyone who publicly declared loyalty to Hu Jintao, even though he had some minor connection to Bo, would have his future secured—at least for now. As long as he has cut ties with Bo, Hu uses the policy of “ignoring the past.” Of course, the purpose of this adjustment is to eliminate members of the Jiang faction, who were removed or at least not promoted this time.
2. Although Hu is to remain as chairman of the CMC, Xi Jinping will take the top post soon, and Hu has to promote Xi’s proposed personnel. Therefore, in this top military brass reshuffle, there has been a number of positive outcomes for Xi. The most obvious being the rise of the “princelings,” which is the privileged group of descendants of past CCP leaders, including Xi himself.
3. On the surface, Hu has trivialized the Bo Xilai scandal, reducing it from a planned political coup to a criminal case in order to safeguard the Party’s rule. But in fact, Hu has been vigorously eradicating the core elements connected to Zhou Yongkang. Changes, rotational training, and promotions within the PLAC and Armed Police are all about weakening Zhou Yongkang who represents the old forces of Jiang Zemin and Zeng Qinghong.
4. On the surface, the CCP can still maintain power for some time, and the 18th Party Congress may still be held as scheduled. But a discerning eye can see that the more the CCP shouts, “The Party has absolute leadership over the Armed Forces,” the more unstable the military is.
5. The CCP is reshuffling generals on such a large scale. It’s for protecting its own power and preventing the military from taking part in a political coup. But at the same time, the frequent relocation of army generals will also weaken the military’s fighting power.
6. From this round of reassignments, one can see that the CCP is putting hardliners in the South China Sea, thus there could be localized military conflicts there. But, the CCP doesn’t want to fight a major battle. The CCP’s national defense policy has been defensive in nature, because it knows that its military power really cannot match that of other major powers. Unless it uses atomic weapons as a last resort, China cannot win conventional weapons wars. In the South China Sea, they only talk big, but act little.

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