How Well Does China Control Its Military?

Discussion in 'China' started by sorcerer, Nov 14, 2014.

  1. sorcerer

    sorcerer Senior Member Senior Member

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    Questions about coordination at the operational level have some significant implications.

    By Johannes Feige November 14, 2014


    Developments in East Asia in recent years hint at the possibility that communication between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is not all that it might be when it comes to coordinating military activities. Incidents such as the surprise stealth fighter test during former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ visit in 2011, or the 2007 anti-satellite test, are prime examples of the CCP’s leadership being seemingly unaware of what its military is doing. This suggests weakness in coordination between the center and the military, and helps explain numerous episodes where the civilian apparatus seemed oblivious to the PLA’s activities and confused about officers’ statements that made the PLA appear “rogue.”

    In 2009, Andrew Scobell argued for the existence of a “civil-military gap” in China’s peaceful rise.
    Scobell uses this expression in two ways. First, it refers to a potentially serious difference between the attitudes and perspectives of civilian and military elites based on different life experiences and career paths; second, it refers to a possible “loose civilian control of the military.” The PLA detests political intrusion by the party into its own affairs and has subsequently carved out more autonomy for itself. Thus, the claim that in recent years, “civilian CCP leaders seem to have adopted a hands-off approach to the day-to-day affairs of the PLA” seems to plausibly describe the relationship between the military and the civilian leadership.

    This could have far-reaching implications. In 2012, outgoing President Hu Jintao hinted that the chain of military command “might be more fragile than commonly understood,” although the true meaning of this statement remains abstruse. Certainly, confusion in the chain of command is not a new problem for China. Past examples include the 16th Party Congress, when Jiang retired from his post as general-secretary, but retained his seat as chairman of the CMC, while Hu became the new general-secretary. This led to ambiguity as to who was China’s commander in chief and ultimately in charge of the PLA, particularly for potentially explosive issues like Taiwan, where conflict control is complicated by the involvement of the United States.

    It is assumed that senior CCP leaders hold decisive authority over the main foreign and defense policy issues, but that their authority on military actions of foreign policy relevance on subordinate levels of the policy process is not as clear.
    Given their status as commander in chief, technocratic civilian CCP leaders possess a broad knowledge of military programs and defense priorities. However, they appear to grant the PLA considerable autonomy and latitude as to how and when programs are implemented. The result is that civil-military coordination regarding specific types of military action impinging on foreign policy is weak.

    The 2011 stealth fighter test during Gates’ visit is generally regarded as a prime example of the party’s number one not knowing what his military is doing. Yet the idea that Hu would not have known about the test, or would not have been informed of it, appears inconceivable in a system based on collective direction and mutual control. Thus, the timing with Gates’ visit was not coincidental. Indeed, Gates later affirmed that, “I asked President Hu about it directly, and he said that the test had absolutely nothing to do with my visit and had been a pre-planned test.” The PLA was undoubtedly determined to display its prowess and was intent on sending a message to the U.S. at a time many had hoped tensions might be declining, given that China had resumed military contacts with the United States after suspending them following the U.S. announcement that it would sell arms to Taiwan in January that year.

    A repeat performance took place during U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s trip to China in September 2012, when another stealth fighter was revealed. The incident contained elements of both “showmanship and boasting,” and, as was the case one year earlier, was “carefully timed to reinforce some political point.” A renewed denial by China’s number one that he had been informed about the disclosure makes clear that again a message was supposed to be sent.


    It is quite possible that some of these incidents are the result of the PLA’s “rogue” tendencies, meaning that the military does not always communicate vital information, such as the dates of tests or other military activities, to the party leadership in Beijing. The 2007 satellite test is perhaps most conceivable as an example of roguish PLA behavior, since evidence suggests that top-level Chinese leaders really weren’t informed of the test details or schedule, consistent with the idea of a PLA operating on a loose leash, albeit not necessarily with malicious intent. The PLA’s attitude sometimes seems to be that if a policy issue is determined by the PLA to be an agenda exclusive to the military, its external effects need not be taken into consideration, leading to unintended consequences for Chinese foreign relations.

    A similar, if more pointed assertion, has been put forward by the Japanese National Institute for Defense Studies. Contending that the Chinese military is in fact unwilling to coordinate, the Institute’s scholars assert that the PLA “does not fully recognize the need for policy coordination with the government departments.” They argue that is particularly evident in the relationship between the PLA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2010, Professor Wang Yizhou, Vice Dean of Beijing University’s School of International Studies, stated in reference to various military exercises conducted in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Yellow Sea that “the PLA’s recognition of its right to hold independent events ‘led’ the [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] to lose time to have enough discussions.” In other words, naval activities could not be properly coordinated in advance.

    Prominent analysts of Chinese foreign policy have hypothesized that the CCP general-secretary and chairman of the Central Military Commission is generally not being informed of issues at the operational level, such as specific weapons tests and training exercises or small military patrols outside of China’s immediate borders. Given the apparent absence of any requirement for the PLA to provide operational information, China lacks an explicit mechanism to make sure that coordination between civilian and military authorities takes place. An exacerbating factor is China’s stove-piped bureaucratic system, which aggravates difficulties in horizontal and vertical coordination as well as information sharing between the army and the civilian apparatus.

    In a crisis, this lack of a reliable management at the highest levels may lead to unintended and far-reaching consequences, such as accidental escalation. Yet the Chinese foreign policy establishment continues to rely on temporary mechanisms created on an ad hoc basis. During a politico-military crisis, these mechanisms are often as inefficient for information processing as they are ineffective for coordinating actions, since quality information does not reach those in charge in a timely fashion.

    The decision-making procedure, too, has the potential to slow crisis management. Judging from the procedures applied in the EP-3 incident and the Chinese embassy bombing, it was the top leaders in the Standing Committee of the Politburo who called the shots. But because those leaders were not able to come together quickly, China’s responses were slow.

    In recent years, there has been talk in Chinese academic and policy circles about the advantages of establishing a supervisory body to facilitate foreign policy coordination, prevent escalation, and manage conflicts. The new Chinese National Security Council, established in 2013, was described by Li Wei, director of the Anti-Terrorism Center at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, as “an organization that has the power to coordinate different government organs at the highest level in response to a major emergency crisis and incidents which pose threats to the national security, such as defending China’s borders and dealing with major terrorist attacks.” Although this seems like a step in the right direction, it serves primarily internal security purposes, and its precise relationship with the CMC and Xi Jinping remains obscure. And so it appears that despite an increasingly pressing need, foreign policy coordination is unlikely to improve anytime soon.

    Johannes Feige is a Junior Researcher at the European Institute for Asian Studies (EIAS), Brussels.

    source:How Well Does China Control Its Military? | The Diplomat

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    @Ray, @pmaitra, @roma, @no smoking, @all others,
     
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  3. roma

    roma NRI in Europe Senior Member

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    thanks for mentioning for me to comment

    brief overall viewpoint imho is that the military is very powerful as in pakistan although
    slightly less in the case of ccp-china .

    bearing in mind that the military can pull off Tien an men square type bullying of the people
    without any negative consequences to itself - shows either political compliance or inability of polity
    to criticize the military......balance that off with the fact that xi jinping scolded them just a month or so ago
    when he was in india and they capitulated.

    let's say the two are on par in china unlike india where the military is definitely under civilian rule

    but i think it would take nothing less than an outright, overt coup for the military to really be in charge
    so till then the plenipotentiary council of the ccp in china is still the boss.

    unlike pakland - where the army has a country !
     
  4. sorcerer

    sorcerer Senior Member Senior Member

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    Is China's PLA Now Xi's Army?
    In China’s most sweeping military reshuffle since the 1950s, Xi Jinping is creating an army that is loyal only to him


    In the most sweeping military reshuffle since the 1950s, Central Military Commission Chairman Xi Jinping is creating an army that is loyal to no one but himself.



    In the old structure, the four general departments — the General Staff Department (GSD), General Political Department (GPD), General Logistics Department (GLD), and General Armament Department (GAD) — were the most powerful organizations. GSD and GPD were particularly important; GSD was the executive organization of the military and GPD controlled personnel issues. For many years, two former CMC vice chairmen, Guo Boxiong (now under investigation for corruption) and Xu Caihou (who was expelled from the party for corruption), controlled these two organizations. By downgrading these general departments, the CMC will have more power over military issues.


    In the new structure, these four general departments have been renamed and become four of 15 “functional departments” directly under the leadership of the Central Military Commission (CMC). In the new lineup, the CMC General Office is ranked first, followed by the four renamed departments (the CMC Joint Staff Department, the CMC Political Work Department, the CMC Logistic Support Department, and the CMC Equipment Development Department). These organs are followed by two new departments (the CMC Training and Administration Department and the CMC National Defense Mobilization Department), making a total of seven departments.

    It is significant that the CMC General Office is placed ahead of the four general departments. It is likely that the CMC chairman will control the military through the General Office and that the head of the General Office will likely become a member of the CMC.

    In the same structure, three commissions have been created. The military’s disciplinary inspection organ, which used to work under the GPD, has been upgraded into an independent organization with the same rank as the former GPD: the CMC Discipline Inspection Commission. The CMC Politics and Law Commission has been created anew. The final commission, the CMC Science and Technology Commission, however, is not entirely new. The Commission of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (CSTIND) was established on May 10, 1982 by merging three relevant institutions. This commission was replaced by two organizations in the government restructuring in 1998: one was the GAD and one was the CSTIND of the PRC under the State Council. On March 15, 2008, the 11th National People’s Congress decided to abolish the CSTIND of the PRC.

    In the same rank, there are five new organs directly under the leadership of the CMC. They are the CMC Office for Strategic Planning, the CMC Office for Reform and Organizational Structure, the CMC Office for International Military Cooperation, the CMC Audit Office, and the CMC Agency for Offices Administration.

    If heads of these functional departments are all members of the newly structured CMC, along with the commanders of three new military institutions (the general command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Army, PLA Rocket Force, and PLA Strategic Support Force) and those of the PLA Navy and PLA Air Force, the membership of the CMC would be more than doubled, from 10 currently to 23.

    As Xi is the architect of this reorganization, no doubt the new commanders will all be personally loyal to him. Through the restructuring, Xi is effectively creating an army of his own.
    http://thediplomat.com/2016/01/is-chinas-pla-now-xis-army/

    But..its China!!!
     
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  5. no smoking

    no smoking Senior Member Senior Member

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    Basically, a writer without any idea about CCP & PLA.

    In PLA, every company has its own CCP committee and every order (except military activities during war) has to be endorsed by these committees. This committee has the authority to revoke the order issued by the commander of the same grade. You know, who these committees answer to.

    So, this is the power struggle between 2 top CCP bosses, not PLA. Who controls CCP will control PLA.

    You have to keep this in mind: currently PLA is still deployed in China, they need cooperation of civilian departments in any movement within the border, from transportation schedule to logistics support. But they can't command those civilian departments, only the sate council can. So, there is policy process, just this writer doesn't know.


    That is a very good example of how much these western journalists or experts know about CCP. Chengdu aviation, as much as every other Chinese defence industry manufacturer, is funded and controlled by the state council, PLA can't order them to do such kind of big thing.

    The same applies to Shenyang.



    Again, that is a task can't be carried by PLA alone. Those related R&D institutions are subjected to the sate council. PLA is their customer, not boss.

    So far, I haven't see this writer giving any decent analysis of CCP's command chain yet.

    Here, the writer puts up 2 different questions together, 2 completely different questions: the first one will be treated as a revolt by any government; the later is a general bureaucratic problem in any country. Does this writer really know what he is talking about?

    Let's wrap it up: in PLA, every soldier is brainwashed from the day one: they are commanded by CCP only.
     
  6. sorcerer

    sorcerer Senior Member Senior Member

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    Lets unwrap it open: In PLA , if every soldier is brainwashed from the day one:they are commanded by CCP ONLy, then why did XI say he was not aware of the PLA crossing into INDIAN borders and pitching tents.?

    If there is a reshuffle in PLA with CCP coming at every checkpoint means a tactic to exert political control over PLA so that such misadventures doesnt happen that would embarrass the CCP.
     
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  7. no smoking

    no smoking Senior Member Senior Member

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    Can you provide a link of this? I can't find any paper suggesting he said so.

    Any, he wouldn't acknowledge that PLA was crossing into "INDIAN" borders since there was no agreement of Sino-India border. There is even a 10km gap between the LOC recognised by either side. So, technically, both sides have been crossing into "other side's borders" for decades.



    Are you sure that is not what CCP wants?
     

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