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

Liu Mingfu first became prominent in 2010 with the publication of his book The China Dream, an ultra-nationalist tract arguing that China should build the world’s strongest military and move swiftly to supplant the US as the global “champion.”

In his new work, the colonel drew a parallel with 1894, when China’s forces were swiftly defeated by a rapidly modernizing Japan, even though the Chinese were equipped with expensive ships from Europe. Historians often attribute the defeat to corruption.

Another retired army officer, and a member of the aristocratic class known as the “princelings,” said that corruption existed throughout the military, but that the new commission would probably refrain from a sustained campaign against it.

“It won’t be a big campaign against corruption,” the retired officer said in an interview. “You can’t do it too much, otherwise the party comes out too black and the leaders won’t like it.”

Indeed, the arrest of Gu was probably just another example of sporadic efforts against big names in the army rather than signifying a concerted campaign, James Mulvenon, a US analyst of the Chinese military, said in a recent article for the China Leadership Monitor.

“Before Gu Junshan’s arrest, there had not been a high-profile PLA corruption case in more than five years, which says more about the political constraints on corruption enforcement than the actual level of corruption in the PLA,” Mulvenon wrote.

RUFFLED FEATHERS

The new lineup of the military commission suggests that being too outspoken about corruption is detrimental to career advancement.

Liu Yuan did not win a seat on the military commission, although supporters had tipped him as a likely new member. Some analysts speculated that Liu Yuan, who is the son of former Chinese president Liu Shaoqi (劉少奇), may have taken a step too far in his anti-graft speech and ruffled enough feathers that even his friendship with Xi was not enough to secure him a berth.

The Chinese military also faced outmoded methods of organization that hamper its ability to fight, said a Western diplomat who specializes in the study of China’s army.

One of the most striking shortcomings of the Chinese military was the failure to develop a system that would give the Chinese a method of joint command to assure overall coordination in war fighting and reduce rivalries among the navy, air force and army similar to that in the US and other Western countries, the diplomat said.

Chinese military officials have debated placing four directors on the military commission under a joint commander — something akin to the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, he added.

However, a joint commander had clearly been rejected as the new commission was formed.

“Why?” the diplomat asked. “Because the individual at the head of a joint command would be more powerful than one person on the [Politburo] Standing Committee,” the innermost decisionmaking body in China that Xi will lead as party chairman.

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