Factbox: China’s civilian-military ties

BEIJING (BestGrowthStock) – China’s ruling Communist Party keeps a tight grip on the country’s military, but civil-military relations have been evolving in ways that could affect the country’s conduct abroad.

Here are some facts about how the People’s Liberation Army is run:

UNDER THE THUMB OF THE PARTY

The People’s Liberation Army is under the control of China’s ruling Communist Party. The ideological and organizational bond between the two was forged during the revolutionary wars that brought the Party to power under Mao Zedong in 1949.

Mao and later Deng Xiaoping, who rose as China’s reformist leader from the late 1970s, both had deep roots in the PLA, and their military prestige was an important part of their power.

Both men also served as chairmen of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the peak body through which the Party exercises control of the PLA.

LEADERS NOW LESS ENMESHED IN THE MILITARY

Since the death of Deng, China’s leaders have not come to power with a strong resume of prior military experience.

Deng’s successor, President Jiang Zemin, and Jiang’s successor since late 2002, Hu Jintao, both rose through civilian Party and government postings that exposed them to limited dealings with PLA commanders until they emerged as top leaders.

The tradition of PLA deference to the Party leadership remains powerful. Both Jiang and Hu matured in their military role by having a hand in military appointments and giving speeches and statements setting out PLA tasks and doctrine.

The PLA is strongly represented on the Party’s Central Committee, the body that usually meets once a year to consider and bless broad policies. In the current Central Committee, PLA officers make up around 18 percent of the more than 370 full and alternate member members.

But the PLA has nobody on the Party’s Standing Committee, the Party’s nine-strong inner-council, which steers day-to-day policy and key decisions.

“PROFESSIONAL” PLA FOCUSED ON EXTERNAL TASKS

Observers say the diluting of the old bonds between Party leaders and the PLA make coordination more difficult in the country’s top-down bureaucracy, as does the modernization of the Chinese military, which has made it a more complex organization.

Chinese President Hu has tended to follow CMC nominations on PLA promotions, giving him less of role in directly cultivating followers in the military.

“Under Hu, PLA nominations have basically become professional and functional, with fixed terms and little connection to civilian factional networks and major policy debates,” wrote You Ji and Daniel Alderman.

ROOM FOR MIS-COORDINATION AND MISCOMMUNICATION

Some analysts say, however, that China’s civil-military relationship also opens the way for problems, such as tardy communications, poor coordination and troublesome bureaucratic jostling that has to be taken to the very top for resolution.

The civilian government led by Premier Wen Jiabao has limited direct say over military affairs, and the government’s Ministry of Defense serves as the PLA’s window for dealing with the outside world, and not as an effective policy-maker.

(Sources: Nan Li, “Chinese Civil-Military Relations in the Post-Deng Era”; You Ji and Daniel Alderman, “Changing Civil-Military Relations in China”; David Finkelstein, vice president and director of China Studies, CNA; Reuters)

(Reporting by Chris Buckley, editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

Factbox: China’s civilian-military ties