On the 80th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) promised to modernize the armed forces with a bigger budget and greater use of technology. Hu, in his pomp, reiterated that the Chinese Communist Party must retain absolute leadership over the 2.3 million-strong PLA.
However, military modernization means more than upgrading to advanced equipment and weaponry.
The Communist Party uses the armed forces to keep its monopoly on power. The troops played a fundamental role in ending the Cultural Revolution and the arrest of the Gang of Four. The pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, was also suppressed by the PLA under the Party's orders.
Hu's statement that the PLA is in the service of the Chinese people is nothing more than a ringing slogan. As a matter of fact, the troops are used as the Chinese Communist Party's house army, unduly following the party banner and resolutely fulfilling tasks assigned by the leaders of the Party.
The Chinese Communist Party's absolute command of the army creates a stark foil for the democratic process in Taiwan. Taiwan has captured the essence of military modernization by nationalizing the troops. The nationalized army of Taiwan, loyal to the government and neutral in its political position, has made itself a force to protect the security of all citizens, instead of serving a particular party.
The contrasting notions of military modernization not only pinpoint the lurid difference between China and Taiwan, but also shed light on China's entrenched and self-perpetuating dictatorship.