Tuesday, May 7, 2013

China’s great dream smells of resentment

The moving LAC
My article China’s great dream smells of resentment appeared in NitiCentral.com. 

The Chinese have withdrawn; all’s well that ends well. Delhi can continue its routine ties with the Dragon.
Many things have, however, not been explained.
Why did the Chinese troops sneak in Ladakh in the first place, especially after the new Emperor had proclaimed the Great Dream of China: “The China Dream will bring blessings and goodness to not only the Chinese people but also people in other countries?”
Since he accessed the Middle Kingdom’s throne, President Xi Jinping kept speaking about China’s Dream.
What about the PLA’s Chinese Generals, did the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) episode made them dream during three weeks?
It is true that during the last months, they did not often have the occasion to dream: on the contrary, there has been a strong resentment of many senior local Commanders against recent decisions taken by Xi Jinping to ‘rejuvenate’ the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
On December 21, 2012, Xinhua reported: “The military [read Xi] declared that receptions for high-ranking officers will no longer feature liquor or luxury banquets. The receptions will also be free of welcome banners, red carpets, floral arrangements, performances and souvenirs. …The regulations also prohibit commission officials from staying in civilian hotels or military hotels specially equipped with a luxury accommodation during inspection tours.”
The Central Military Commission (CMC) issued ten regulations requiring PLA’s officials to cut the number and length of inspection tours, overseas visits, or unnecessary meetings. Military speakers should avoid empty talk, while PLA officials are requested not to attend “ribbon-cutting and cornerstone-laying ceremonies, celebrations or seminars unless they have the CMC’s approval.”
Further, the new rules say: “The use of vehicles equipped with sirens will be rigorously controlled during official visits in order to prevent public disturbances.”
It may sound familiar to our babus, but it is not for the poor (or rich) Chinese Generals, “Officials are also required to discipline their spouses, children and subordinates and make sure they do not take bribes.”
That is a tough one; ‘officials’ may not all be ‘Generals’ at home.
The South China Morning Post recently reported that Xi, China’s Commander-in-Chief, issued another order making the lives of the Chinese generals and senior officers, even more difficult. They will “have to serve as the lowest-ranking soldiers for at least two weeks per year”. Apparently, President Xi Jinping wants to ‘shake up the military and boost morale’.
Is the ‘camping’ party at DBO also organised to ‘boost the morale’ of the local commanders?
To cancel the banquets, the bribes and then force the senior officers to live with jawans is clearly difficult to swallow for certain generals.
The Hong Kong newspaper explains: “It dictates that officers with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel or above must serve as ‘privates’ — the lowest-ranking soldier — for not less than 15 days in a year. Generals and officers will have to live, eat and serve with junior soldiers during the period. They need to provide for themselves and pay for their own food.”
Even the periodicity of the ‘training’ for senior most officers is detailed: “Division and Army [Commander] level commanders must serve once every four years. Top leaders from army headquarters and military districts will do so once every five years.”
Further horror, all military vehicles must be given new car plates; blacklisted sedans include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lincoln, Cadillac, Bentley, Jaguar and Porsche and a few others. In other words, the Great Proletarian Revolution for the PLA!
One can imagine the resentment in the senior scale of the PLA; for some generals, it may look more like a Nightmare than a Dream.
Antony Wong Dong, a Macau-based veteran military expert told The South China Morning Post: “The lack of discipline, the rampant corruption and the gap between the officers and soldiers are so commonplace, it has compromised the battle-effectiveness of the PLA. Many Generals and senior officers today have never experienced hardship. They are promoted to their position because of their connections or other reasons.”
But Chairman Xi wants them to be ready for any situation.
Others are also resentful. Take General Chang Wanquan; in October 2012, a few weeks before the 18th Congress, The South China Morning Post affirmed that he “appears to have the cards stacked in his favour.”
Everyone thought that he would become one of the two powerful vice-chairmen of the CMC. Though a protégé of former President Hu Jintao, General Chang did not make it; he was superseded by General Fan Changlong, the Commander of the Jinan Military Region (MR).
A question has been asked: does Xi Jinping have the full control over the PLA?
Some Generals today propound the theory that “boosting national defence construction can only give a significant push to economic and social development.” It is a dangerous game which can lead to conflict with the neighbours.
Willy Lam in an article in the China Brief says: “Moreover, the PLA top brass seems keen on interpreting the China Dream in such a way as to justify its lobbying for more economic resources and a greater say in national affairs. In a recent editorial, The PLA Daily indicated that the defence forces would “struggle hard for the fulfillment of the dream of a strong China and a strong army.”
Why did the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh say that the Ladakh episode was just ‘an isolated mishap’? Did he mean that the intrusions are ‘isolated’ because they do not have the blessings of all in China?
This would explain why the official website of The PLA Daily (under the CMC, whose Chairman is Xi Jinping) while daily commenting on the conflict with Japan in the East China Sea, did not mention the DBO ‘camping’ for more than two weeks.
These are facts to ponder upon. In any case, the ‘peaceful rise of China’, dear to President Hu Jintao, seems to have been forgotten.

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