Why, asks Peter Mattis, do China's leaders keep reminding its military about loyalty?
Since the controversy surrounding the ouster of Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai in March, China has appeared to be teetering on the edge of reform—or of chaos. While Premier Wen Jiabao’s calls for urgent reform turned into official press notices to “assault the castle of reform,” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) set firm limits on what such reform could accomplish, especially as foreign hostile forces might try to take advantage of any political instability. The latest issue of the Central Party School journal, Red Flag, mentioned “structural political reform” for the CCP to adapt to the changing nature of Chinese society, at least acknowledging high-level dissatisfaction with the political status quo. Such reform, however modest it appears to outsiders, could be divisive and China’s leaders may be trying to shore up the military’s loyalty lest leadership splits lead to social disorder.
The selections below highlight just a few of the official Chinese press articles drawing attention to the dangers of a disloyal PLA and the need for military officers to close ranks around the CCP:
-On June 25, the People’s Daily ran an article by a Jinan Military Region political commissar exhorting military cadres to more aggressively challenge mistaken ideas about the PLA’s political role in the face of growing pluralism in Chinese society.
-On June 17, the PLA Daily called for military officers to maintain their loyalty to the CCP, suggesting many officers were insufficiently committed to the party’s continued rule.
-On May 15, a PLA Daily op-ed encouraged soldiers to recognize the conspiracy behind efforts to separate the army from the party, and the need to adhere to the fundamental political system that places the CCP above the army.
-On April 6, the PLA Daily editorialized that the PLA needed to be firmly aligned with the party to ensure political stability, because historical experience has demonstrated ideological competition intensified whenever the CCP faced a crucial moment of reform.
-On March 19, the PLA Daily ran an article stating the PLA needed to resist the “three mistaken ideas” listed above about the Chinese military development, stating “always put ideological and political construction first” because it is an essential requirement for strengthening the PLA.
-On March 13, Xinhua carried an article on President Hu Jintao opining that “every soldier in the military must be aware that development while maintaining stability is the priority. Hu stressed that the PLA and the armed police must focus on national defense and army building, and adhere to the fundamental requirement of making progress while maintaining stability.”