The US Department of Defense budget for last year totaled US$566 billion.
As Xi came to power at the CCP’s 18th National Congress in November last year, there was substantial turnover in the Central Military Commission. Eight of 10 uniformed members of the council were replaced.
It is not clear if there is close patronage or loyalty between Xi and his top commanders.
However, other princelings, Chinese military analysts and foreign military attaches identify several generals with whom Xi is on especially good terms.
One is Central Military Commission member Zhang Youxia (張又俠). Also close are two officers outside that top body: army General Liu Yuan (劉源) and air force General Liu Yazhou (劉亞洲). (The two Lius are not related).
Like Xi, these officers are princelings.
Zhang Youxia is the son of General Zhang Zongxun (張宗遜), a celebrated senior commander in the PLA’s wars against the Japanese and the Nationalists.
The elder Zhang fought civil war battles with Xi’s father in northwestern Shaanxi Province, according to people familiar with both men’s family background.
People close to the military say Xi last year wanted to nominate Zhang Youxia, now head of the PLA’s General Armaments Department, as one of the two vice chairmen of the CMC.
Retired leaders Jiang and Hu vetoed the move, these people say.
Liu Yuan and Liu Yazhou are engaged in what they have described as an undeclared war by subversive foreign forces to unseat the CCP.
They have also warned of the danger that unchecked corruption poses to the party’s survival.
Liu Yuan, 61, is the son of former president Liu Shaoqi (劉少奇), once designated to succeed Mao before he was brutally purged in the Cultural Revolution and died in custody.
The elder Liu was posthumously rehabilitated after Mao’s death, clearing the way for his son’s life of privilege.
In a late start to a military career, Liu Yuan joined the People’s Armed Police as a political commissar at 41 before transferring to the army. He is now commissar of the PLA’s General Logistics Department. Xi has publicly acknowledged his friendship with Liu on a number of occasions.
Liu Yuan was also close to the former regional party chief Bo Xilai (薄熙來).
Bo was sentenced to life imprisonment in September for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.
Liu first attracted wide attention for a rambling essay he wrote as a preface for a friend’s book in 2010.
He called for China to reject imported political models, including Western democracy, and extremes of the left and right.
In convoluted language, Liu nevertheless appeared to be suggesting a more open political system that would allow more robust debate without challenging the leadership of the party.
More recently, Liu has led a rhetorical assault on corruption in the military.
“Liu Yuan himself has become the anti-corruption poster child,” said Huang.
The campaign mirrors Xi Jinping’s declared attack on graft, in which he has threatened to go after “tigers and flies” — corrupt officials big and small.
Liu Yuan helped bring down Lieutenant General Gu Junshan (谷俊山), who was sacked last year as deputy director of the PLA’s logistics department and is soon expected to be court-martialed for corruption, according to three sources in Beijing.