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PLA out of the TAR Standing Committee
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Claude Arpi | Date:27 Dec , 2016 0 Comments
Claude Arpi
Writes regularly on Tibet, China, India and Indo-French relations. He is the author of 1962 and the McMahon Line Saga, Tibet: The Lost Frontier and Dharamshala and Beijing: the negotiations that never were.

A new radical ‘reform’ is bound to create a lot of resentment in the ranks of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA): generals commanding a military district or area have been removed from the Regional/Provincial Standing Committees of the Chinese Communist Party.

They used to play an influential role in the past.

Since the days of the Revolution in 1949, it has been the tradition that either the region’s Commander or the Political Commissar were made members of the Region’s Standing Committee.

And they were influential members.

It will not be the case anymore.

Remember the first Party Secretaries in Tibet, Zhang Guohua, Fan Ming, Zhang Jingwu, Zhang Guohua, Ren Rong, Yin Fatang; all were PLA generals. They ruled the plateau from 1951 to 1985.

Wu Jinghua and later Hu Jintao (later President and General Secretary of the CPC) were the first civilians to be Party bosses in Tibet.

On Saturday, The Global Times, the Party’s mouthpiece, explained that according to ‘experts’ (i.e. the Leadership of the Party): “removing military officers from the standing committee of provincial Party committees would help reduce the military’s influence over local governments and create a better military.”

Probably true, but does it mean that the influence of the PLA over ‘regional affairs’ will vanish?

According to The Legal Mirror which broke the news: “The previous practice saw a member, who serves as military commander or political commissar from a provincial military command, sitting in the standing committee,” is stopped.

The Global Times reported: “Fourteen provinces have removed the position of military members in the shuffle of new standing committees. …Shanghai, Tianjin and Northwest China’s Gansu Province have no post for the military.”

More interesting for India: the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has also lost its PLA’s representative(s). During the last couple of years, either Lt Gen Xu Yong, the Commander of the Tibet Military Command (TMC) or Lt Gen Diao Guoxin, the TMC’s Political Commissar attended the meetings of the TAR Standing Committee.

After the recent 9th Regional Congress, I noticed that their names were missing from the list (and the photo, see above). I wondered if it could be a ‘mistake’, but the Party never does a ‘mistake’.

We have now the explanation.

Xu Yaotong, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told The Global Times: “Not choosing any military officer as provincial standing committee member would help create well-equipped military forces and comply with the development requirements.”

Perhaps, but how will this new ‘reforms’ be digested by the military?

For Xu: “The military used to have enormous clout over local governments when military officers dealt with their private affairs, such us helping family members,” the professor also argues that “corruption surfaces when they enjoy privileges because of social links with the government, also called guanxi. “

Can China survive without guanxi?

This is a serious question.

The Global Times quotes the example of Wang Bianjiang, the Political Commissar in Liaoning Military Command, who was removed as a member of the standing committee at the first plenary meeting of the 12th Liaoning Provincial Committee.

Though The Legal Mirror reported that a total of 28 provincial military commands are under the National Defense Mobilization Commission, it is not the case of the TMC which was ‘upgraded’ earlier this year and which now depends on the PLA Army (as well as the Western Theater Command).

Xu Yaotong commented: “Since the military, which involves national mobilization, only engages with the local government when carrying out their duties in the region, it is unnecessary for military officers to assume posts in administrative organs,” but it is not the case of the TMC, they do not function under National Defense Mobilization Commission, therefore the argument is invalid.

What it exactly means for Tibet may take some time to emerge, but it is clear that the objective of the current military reforms is to have a professional Army with “a significant improvement in key combat capabilities.”

The new reform may help the senior officers to concentrate on military issues, though once again, it is bound to create resentment among many.

Further a close coordination between the local Party and the Military Command is required in time of peace or war.

How will it be done is anybody’s guess.

Auditing Practices

At the same time, Xinhua announced that a revised regulation has been issued “to streamline auditing practices in the armed forces and tighten disciplinary supervision.”

The regulation will take effect on Jan. 1, 2017: “All economic activity of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Armed Police is subject to auditing, and officials with economic duties must also be placed under scrutiny. …Officials with a lot of financial and logistics responsibilities, those who have been considered for promotion and those who are leaving their posts should be placed under particularly close watch.”

The new Regulation also says: “Military auditing agencies with powers to investigate and penalize must hand over disciplinary and legal violations cases in the financial sector to anti-graft and prosecution authorities for further investigation.”

The screw is being tightened.

The Loyalty to the Party

The Central Military Commission (CMC) has also decided “to ‘prioritize’ political loyalty in selecting military delegates to the 19th National Congress”.

According to Xinhua, a CMC document says that the delegates from the PLA at the National People’s Congress (NPC) “must be absolutely loyal and reliable, and they must unswervingly adhere to the Party’s absolute leadership over the Army.”

The Party members’ political integrity and moral qualities are major criteria for selecting candidates, says the regulation: “Military authorities must strengthen supervision over the election to prevent canvassing and bribery.”

Does it mean that bribery is still prevalent?

Life for the Chinese generals is becoming dangerous; some 55 of them have already been sacked.

The ‘happy’ days under Jiang Zemin or Hu Jintao seem over.

We will have to wait and see how the other PLA officers, not just the generals, take the on-going reforms.

The game is not won for Xi Jinping.


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