The People’s Liberation Army Daily published a commentary by retired Chinese major general Luo Yuan (羅援) on Thursday that was his latest pounding on the chest and warning not to tread on Beijing’s toes.
His missive was motivated by Washington’s announcement that it would send a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to the Yellow Sea to take part in another naval exercise with South Korea. While Beijing’s bluster led the US and South Korea to move exercises away from the Yellow Sea earlier this month, Luo appears incensed that they might not stay away for good.
He wrote that both a country and a military need respect. Luo and his comrades have yet to learn that you cannot demand respect, you must earn it, but not through heavy hammer blows. While the weaker-willed might quake, the more determined simply become more steadfast in their determination to stand up for themselves.
Luo has come to prominence over the past decade as one of the leading beaters of the war drum, threatening both the US and Taiwan’s leaders over their perceived lack of respect for the Middle Kingdom. He lashed out in February after Washington announced its latest arms package for Taiwan, urging his government to take diplomatic, military and economic measures to punish the US, including dumping US Treasury bonds. He also defended the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) outsized budget increases in recent years as necessary because of the “threat in the Taiwan Strait.”
In November last year, the general, who works at the Academy of Military Sciences in Beijing, slammed President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), accusing him of promoting a policy of “peaceful secession” with his three-noes platform. Luo had been one of the more prominent proponents back in 2004 of Beijing’s drive to enact its “Anti-Secession” Law.
While academics and analysts repeatedly note that Luo and others like him do not officially speak for either the PLA or Beijing, the fact that Luo’s latest outburst was published in the PLA’s official mouthpiece speaks for itself.
China’s Central Military Commission does use military officials, both serving and retired, to float ideas and suggestions, as a means of testing reactions and as a way to let the more rabid vent some steam. However, if Luo were not voicing ideas backed by Beijing, wouldn’t he be at risk of the same kind treatment meted out to writers, bloggers and others who dare to speak out of turn? They are far too numerous to name here, but one person who recently made it onto the list featured in this paper on Thursday as well.
Unlike Luo, Tragyal’s book on Beijing’s mistaken policies in Tibet, The Line Between Sky and Earth, was not published by a state-sanctioned media outlet or publishing house. His calls for reform — and respect for Tibetans and their culture — not only fell on deaf ears, they spurred his arrest and upcoming trial. No bets on what the verdict — or punishment — will be.
Luo’s status as a retired PLA general would not even protect him if Beijing were unhappy with his comments. Look at the travails of retired PLA surgeon Jiang Yanyong (蔣彥永), who first alerted the world to Beijing’s cover-up of the SARS outbreak in 2003. Hailed as a hero both in China and around the world for speaking out, his willingness to speak his mind got him into trouble just a year later when he pressed for a review of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Neither his age nor prestige could save him from detention and house arrest.