Mon, Nov 19, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Corruption in People’s Liberation Army poses test for China

By Jane Perlez  /  NY Times News Service, BEIJING

An insider critique of corruption in China’s military, circulating just as new leadership is about to take over the armed forces, warns that graft and wide-scale abuses pose as much of a threat to the nation’s security as the US.

Colonel Liu Mingfu (劉明福), the author of the book Why the Liberation Army Can Win, is not a lone voice.

Earlier this year, a powerful Chinese army official gave an emotional speech describing corruption as a “do-or-die struggle.” Days later, according to widely published accounts, Lieutenant General Gu Junshan (谷俊山), a deputy director of the logistics department, was arrested on suspicion of corruption. He now awaits trial. The general is reported to have made huge profits on illicit land deals and given more than 400 houses intended for retired officers to friends.

Those excesses may be mere trifles compared with the depth of the overall corruption, the speech by General Liu Yuan (劉源), an associate of the new Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平), suggested.

For Xi, who boasts a military pedigree from his father — a guerrilla leader who helped bring former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) to power in 1949 — China’s quickly modernizing army will be a bulwark of his standing at home and influence abroad.

Yet the depth of graft and brazen profiteering in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) poses a delicate problem for the new leader, one that Liu Yuan and others have warned could undermine the status of the CCP.

As part of the nation’s once-a-decade handover of power, Xi assumed the chairmanship of the CCP’s 12-member Central Military Commission immediately. Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), the departing party leader, broke precedent and did not retain his position atop the body that oversees the armed forces for an extended period after his retirement, unlike previous leaders.

Recent territorial disputes with Japan and Southeast Asian neighbors have raised nationalist sentiment in China, and the popular desire for a strong military could make it politically dangerous for Xi to embark on a campaign that unmasks squandering of public funds.

‘MARITIME POWER’

In his opening speech to the CCP’s 18th Party Congress, Hu said China would aim to become “a maritime power.”

It was one of the few references in the address about foreign affairs and suggested the government would continue the double-digit increases in expenditures for the military.

However, along with the modernization and bigger budgets has come more corruption, a problem that pervades China’s ruling party and its government.

For the first time in the history of the People’s Liberation Army, the land-based army has had to give up its dominance of the military commission, Chinese analysts say.

The former People’s Liberation Army Air Force commander Xu Qiliang (許其亮) will be a vice chairman, giving the air force new weight in big decisions, they said. An army general, Fan Changlong (范長龍), the former commander of the Jinan Military Region, will also be a vice chairman.

These two men will run the day-to-day operations of the military, Chinese analysts said.

In his book, Liu Mingfu, a former professor at China’s National Defense University, wrote that the army had not been tested in decades and had grown complacent.

“As a military that has not fought a war for 30 years, the People’s Liberation Army has reached a stage in which its biggest danger and No. 1 foe is corruption,” he wrote.

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