“PLA Influence Over Chinese Politics: Fact of Fiction?”

Trefor Moss at The Diplomat has a response to the piece that ran a few days ago claiming that the PLA is pushing for more power in China:

The take-home message of the Times story is therefore that PLA leaders are indebted, and also subordinate, to top Party figures like Hu – not that they’re agitating for greater political clout. The odd drunken rant aside, these men know their place.

The idea of the PLA getting out of control, or at least of asserting greater influence over foreign policy, is of course an attractive one for the lazy headline-writer. It’s news, unlike the long and deliberate arc of incremental military modernization, which is the real story of what’s happening with the PLA.

There is some fire behind all the media smoke. It’s true that PLA generals are quoted in the Chinese press with increasing regularity, and that China’s nationalistic newspapers provide a ready platform for hawks both inside and outside the military. One such purveyor of interesting views, Major General Luo Yuan, has become a minor celebrity thanks to his forthright commentary on territorial disputes: he recently spoke out in favour of “decisive action” against the Philippines, for example.

But it’s important to remember that Luo is a small fish in a big Chinese power-pond. The government, while tolerating (or perhaps encouraging) his confrontational stance, did of course completely ignore his advice. Instead, Beijing took a much more measured position, sending civilian law enforcement ships rather than the PLA Navy to handle its spat with Manila. Hence the military that is supposedly trying to grab influence over foreign policy was uninvolved in the biggest foreign-policy issue the country has faced this year – and that was probably just how most senior PLA commanders would have wanted it.

There’s no reason for the PLA to crave political power, so long as the government continues to ramp up military spending – as it has done reliably for over two decades.

I’ll be interested to see if this response generates another response in turn.

1 Comment

Filed under 2012 power transfer, Communist Party, PLA

One response to ““PLA Influence Over Chinese Politics: Fact of Fiction?”

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