Saturday, April 18, 2015

China’s missing Generals

My article China’s missing Generals appeared in NitiCentral.

Here is the link...

Where have all the generals gone, long time passing?
The CCDI have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?

No, in his grave, Pete Seeger, the American pacifist folk singer could not know that the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) has in the past months decimated the ranks of the Chinese generals of the People’s Liberation Army.
But the question is valid: will they ever learn?
In March, a few days before the opening of the Two Meetings (The National People’s Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference), a second group of 14 Chinese generals was placed under ‘investigation’ by the CCDI.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported: “The most prominent of the officers is Guo Zhenggang, former deputy political commissar of the Zhejiang Military Area Command (MAC), who was promoted to major general in January.”
Incidentally, Guo is the son of a former Central Military Commission (CMC) vice-chairman Guo Boxiong (the 2 vice-chairmen are the higest uniformed officials in China, senior to the defense minister).
Already in January, 16 senior PLA officials of the rank of major general and above had been similarly ‘investigated’. They were all charged with having ‘violated Party discipline and laws’; in other words, they were corrupt, very corrupt.
President Xi Jinping, who is also CMC’s Chairman, announced that Beijing was in the process of ‘cleansing the influence’ of Xu Caihou, another former CMC’s vice-chairman.
It is quite remarkable that for the first time in the history of the Communist Party, during the 2 Meetings, PLA delegates openly spoke to the media about the extent of corruption in the PLA’s ranks.
The SCMP commented: “In a departure from previous years, military corruption is being discussed at the parliamentary sessions in Beijing, with several PLA delegates conducting high-profile media interviews describing examples of misconduct in striking detail.”
The Hong Kong newspaper quoted three retired PLA major generals who told local TV channels about the ‘horrible’ corruption in the military: “All PLA ranks have a price, getting a Communist Party membership has a price, and important military positions are reserved for cronies, senior officers’ children and in-laws.”
Major General Yang Chunchang, a retired deputy head of China’s Academy of Military Sciences, openly affirmed: “Everybody in society knows that in the PLA …you need to pay to join the party. Promotions to become leaders at platoon, company, regiment and division levels all have their own price tags.”
Consequently, several military experts have started asking: is the PLA ready for a War?
Xinhua quoted Communist historian Cai Xiaoxin, who in an interview with Sichuan-based Honesty Outlook, gave striking examples: “Weak-willed cadres of the PLA are treating performance troupes like their own personal harems.” Cai said that the troupes have been prone corruption scandals: “We cannot avoid the fact that some military cadres lacking in self-discipline have indeed treated the performance troupes as their own person harems.”
Cai noted that military corruption dates back to the late 1970s at the beginning of China's reforms and opening up policies, the military was then allowed to engage in business activities.
In The Global Times, Peng Guangqian, also a former official at the Academy of Military Sciences blamed ‘Western Ideology’: “[It] ensnared officials and corrupted their values. …These influences distorted their concept of moral evaluation and value orientation,” wrote Peng. That is too easy!
But with thirty generals fallen in three months, ‘will the PLA ever learn?’
The depletion of generals also raises questions about the Middle Kingdom’s level of military preparedness.
It has serious implications for India. Take Lt Gen Lt Yang Jinshan, a former Commander of the Tibet Military District, located opposite Indian forces in Sikkim and Arunachal. Last year, Yang lost his membership of the CCP’s Central Committee. After becoming Commander of Tibet Military District in 2009, the young general was promoted member of Central Committee in November 2012; by that time, he had been transferred to Chengdu and was holding the powerful post of Deputy Commander of the Chengdu MAC. He was one of the first to fall.
This shooting star in the Tibetan sky had purchased his elevation.
The recent arrests leave the senior ranks not only completely depleted, but also the PLA’s top hierarchy is deeply disorganized.
The People’s Daily mentions the other Military Area Command (MAC) facing India in Ladakh, the Lanzhou MAC, which had been the base of General Guo Boxiong, the senior most general with Cai to be put under ‘investigation’ (on April 11, he was reported to have been arrested).
Lieutenant General Liu Lei, the MAC’s Political Commissar affirmed: “The key to governing a country is to manage its officials, just as the key to governing an army is to manage the generals. Being lax in administering officials would bring endless disasters. …For a general to manage his men, he has to manage himself well first.”
A disaster for China might be a blessing for India, but Xi Jinping and his colleague Wang Qishan seem determined to clean up the PLA and change the stakes. Whether they can succeed is another issue.
Already some positive signs have appeared after the CMC began to reform the system of procurement. The PLA Daily quoted a statement of the PLA general armament department: “Five bidders, both military and civilian, won the first open tender for 2015 organized by the PLA for weaponry purchase. …The total purchase price was ‘significantly below’ the budgets in previous years. …This is the first time that, the PLA military weapon procurement website, has been used for open, competitive bidding.”
It is too early to say if it is just for the show, but “reforms [in military procurement] should promote competitiveness and efficiency,” states the PLA’s website.
A few days ago, China Military Online published an interesting article entitled ‘China can fight modern war for 4 reasons’. It is written by Chen Dingding, an assistant professor of Government and Public Administration at the University of Macau. The first reason was ‘equipment is essential’; the second, training is also important; the third, military experience is overvalued (China has not fought a war for 30 years) and the last one is that ‘resolve is absolutely critical’. The author believes that ‘resolve’ could make the difference in favour of China in case of a conflict with the US.
It is where Beijing fools itself, a corrupt (or recently corrupt) army has no resolve, because it has lost its ‘traditional’ incentive, i.e. money.
In Sinosphere, the blog of The New York Times, Michael Forsythe rightly questioned: “Who could possibly bemoan rising prosperity, greater economic freedom, a declining birthrate and increasing university enrollment?”
His answer points to the crux of the problem for Xi Jinping and his colleagues: “Perhaps a Chinese military recruiter. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a career in the People’s Liberation Army is becoming less attractive for talented young people, even as the country’s armed forces are increasingly in need of educated soldiers, sailors and airmen to operate its rapidly growing arsenal of advanced weapons.”
In the meantime, the PLA vowed to fully implement Xi Jinping’s strategic thought, known as the ‘Four Comprehensives’ in order to build a strong army. Xi’s ‘comprehensives’ are a moderately prosperous society, deepening reform, advancing the rule of law and China strictly being governed by the Party. Nice program, but without ‘incentives’, it may take decades to re-motivate China’s defense forces.

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