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The Role of the PLA in National Security Policy Making in China

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1 The Role of the PLA in National Security Policy Making in China
CNA CHINA STUDIES Dave Finkelstein


3 I. The Fundamental Questions
What is the role of the PLA in the formulation of national security policy in the PRC? Where does the PLA “fit” in the process? How does the PLA make its voice heard? How does it behave as a bureaucratic actor? What is the current nature of the “Party-Army” dynamic?

4 Why Are We Asking These Questions?
Update the state of our knowledge Our understanding has always been very imperfect China’s national interests are expanding What are the implications for the PLA’s policy making role? Concerns based on recent developments 2007 ASAT test Actions in South China Sea and EEZ “Assertive” policies of 2009, 2010, 2011 Western media and “rogue PLA” stories PLA officers in PRC media spouting tough talk

5 Data Interview activities Subject Matter Experts (SME) Review of relevant secondary literature

6 II. Key Take-Aways

7 On Party-Army Relationship
Q: Is the PLA a “rogue actor” off on its own, defying CCP policy, or imposing its will on a reluctant CCP leadership? A: No. The Party still controls the gun. “The PLA suggests, but the Party approves” The PLA is carrying out its orders Moreover, the PLA’s role in domestic politics & policies has actually contracted

8 However — New Domestic Context Favorable to PLA
Power and authority at the pinnacle of the system has become more diffused The PLA now has an institutional monopoly on military expertise Hu Jintao & civilian leaders depend on the PLA for military advice The PLA has unique access to Hu Jintao via CMC Civilian oversight of the PLA appears minimal The PLA, like other bureaucracies, has emerged as an interest group Expanding PRC security interests creating more “bureaucratic space” for the PLA to “weigh in” on policies with defense or security dimensions Poor policy coordination in “the system”

9 Put Another Way, the Research Effort Suggests…
Today, the voice of the PLA in PRC national security policy, defense policy, and some dimensions of foreign policy is likely amplified due to six factors — China’s expanding national security interests Increased demand signal for PLA input PLA monopoly on defense expertise Civilians stay out of defense “lane in the road” Direct access to Hu Jintao CMC as high-level CCP organ New operational capabilities Allows PLA to put more options on the table Poor national-level coordination mechanisms Bureaucratic room to maneuver Media-Savvy PLA Shaping domestic perceptions

10 III. Institutional Sources of PLA Influence

11 Importance of the Central Military Commission
Standing Committee of CMC is a high-level CCP committee Only CCP organ responsible for military & defense affairs High status with party & access to top leadership The Party Secretary General is usually also CMC Chairman As a CCP organ, status of CMC much higher than state-level ministries (such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and others

12 Xi Jinping Guo Boxiong Xu Ciahou
Chairman Hu Jintao Vice Chairman Members Xi Jinping Guo Boxiong Xu Ciahou Chen Bingde GSD Liang Guanglie MND Li Jinai GPD Liao Xilong GLD Chang Wanquan GAD Jing Zhiyuan 2nd Arty Wu Shengli Navy Xu Qiliang PLAAF

13 Xi Jinping Guo Boxiong Xu Ciahou
? Chairman Hu Jintao Vice Chairman X X Members Xi Jinping Guo Boxiong Xu Ciahou X X X X X Chen Bingde GSD Liang Guanglie MND Li Jinai GPD Liao Xilong GLD Chang Wanquan GAD Jing Zhiyuan 2nd Arty Wu Shengli Navy Xu Qiliang PLAAF

14 CMC Vice Chairmen & Only PLA Officers on Politburo
General Guo Boxiong General Xu Caihou Direct access to Hu Jintao to communicate advice if necessary “Can pick up the phone.”

15 Only 2 Civilians on CMC Standing Committee
Except for CMC Chairman & Vice Chairman, CMC Is Insular Group

16 Suits Versus Uniforms

17 Pull-Push Dynamic Hu Jintao depends on CMC for advice on military and defense affairs and asks CMC for advice… …and CMC can offer unsolicited advice on defense, military, and national security affairs… …but it is unknown where line is drawn on types of issues where CMC can offer unsolicited advice…where the official mandate ends Civilians are said to be extremely reluctant to comment or offer advice on military and defense affairs

18 Who Is Advising CMC on How to Advise Hu & PBSC?
Offices that staff the CMC bureaucracy (very little data) The four General Departments (GSD, GPD, GLD, GAD) Academy of Military Science Some elements of National Defense University Commanders & Political Commissars of the Services & 2nd Artillery Commanders & Political Commissars of 7 Military Regions PLA intelligence community Possibly Foreign Affairs Office of Ministry of National Defense (speculation at this point)

19 Institutional Presence on Leading Small Groups
Total Number of LSGs (领导小组) unknown — perhaps a dozen or so: Foreign Affairs Leading Small Group Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping, Gen Liang Guanglie, Gen Ma Xiaotian National Security Affairs Leading Small Group Taiwan Affairs Leading Small Group Hu Jintao Gen Guo Boxiong, Gen Ma Xiaotian Politics & Law Committee Gen Sun Zhongtong (DD GPD), Gen Wu Shuangzhan (CDR PAP)

20 IV. Policy Coordination Issues

21 Generally Speaking, Poor Horizontal Coordination
The policy community in the PRC is self-described by officials within it as — Stove-piped Turf-conscious, and Horizontally uncommunicative “All analysts in China understand and are worried that the capacity of the Chinese government to coordinate foreign policy and national security decisions and policies is weak.” – PRC Intelligence Community Analyst

22 No Overarching Coordinating Body
No NSC-like entity coordinating across the PRC “inter-agency” Even at Hu Jintao level, his Leading Small Groups are said to be stove-piped Situation compounded by new actors such as State Owned Enterprises and local governments On some security issues, lines of authority and responsibility are blurred or overlapping. Example: Besides PLA Navy, there are 12 Ministerial-level organizations in China that have some responsibility for some aspect of maritime security policy

23 MFA Viewed as “Weak Bureaucratic Actor”
Institutional status of MFA relatively low compared to Party organs such as CMC FM Yang considered weak & marginal player whose party rank is relatively low Eclipsed by Dai Bingguo and Foreign Affairs Office of Central Committee MFA action officers often junior to counterparts MFA “is the ministry others love to revile” MFA is “mired down in daily actions and requirements” and has no time for strategic thinking MFA Yang Jiechi

24 PLA Views of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
PLA attitudes towards the MFA ranged from dismissive to derisive Reluctance to coordinate beyond minimal requirements Vignettes of PLA (and others) “attacking” MFA action officers at inter-ministerial meetings “The PLA operates in its own sphere. The PLA does not ‘ask” the MFA. The PLA ‘does’. It does not ‘ask.” Since the January ASAT test, the PLA has been better about informing the MFA, but it still does not ‘ask.’“ -- PLA General Officer

25 PLA Coordination: “Two Disconnects”
#1: PLA is reluctant to coordinate with other ministries # 2: Coordination within PLA often times poor Operations & Training Communities as example: Not inclined to coordinate its plans with MFA or other ministries OPS & TNG communities hold high status within PLA Therefore feels little need to coordinate with other parts of PLA Dismissive of PLA foreign affairs & intelligence communities

26 V. The PLA as an Interest Group

27 The PLA is One Among Many Interests Groups
As a result of – Diffusion of power and authority at pinnacle of system Institutionalization of authority Lack of military experience by civilian party elite More complex domestic legal & regulatory environment Expanding Chinese national interest sets Resource requirements for military modernization program

28 Tools PLA Has to Shape or “Lobby”?
Institutional venues such as CMC and presence on key Leading Small Groups PLA delegates to National People’s Congress and CCP Party Congresses Internal papers and analyses sent through CMC to Hu Jintao In-person briefings to leadership Ex: Politburo Standing Committee “Study Sessions” Use of PLA media complex to shape views of civilian leaders & public Intelligence analyses Appearances in non-PLA media to shape views of public as well as CCP leadership Operational activities (?)

29 But Not Always a Unitary Actor
Vignettes suggest PLA is not always a “unitary actor” Uncertain how PLA divides on some security & foreign issues: By service? By professional communities? (ops, training, political, intel, foreign affairs, logistics, etc.) By Military Regions (continental MRs, maritime MRs) “Beijing PLA” versus “Field PLA” What are the various communities of interest within the PLA?

30 VI. Some Implications

31 If The PLA Is Not Totally “Off the Reservation”…
…then the tough PLA “lines” about the U.S. or its tough approach to the military relationship (“Three Obstacles”) may not be out of sync with the rest of Party-State leadership.

32 Smaller Portfolio But Louder Voice
The good news is that the PLA’s role in providing policy advice is now more constrained than at any time in the past The bad news is that the issues on which the CCP leadership turns to the PLA for advice are issues that matter to the U.S. defense establishment: PRC defense policy PLA military modernization Foreign military relations Taiwan Policy in “the global commons”

33 As China’s Global Footprint Expands…
…China’s global security interests will also expand. The PLA will likely be called upon more and more for regional security advice.

34 If Coordination is as Poor as Portrayed…
…We can probably expect — Confusing signals Disconnects between stated policy & actual behavior Time lags or unresponsiveness to requests for clarification Uncertainty as to where to “enter the system”

35 The Three Critical Groups
Members of the Central Military Commission Those who advise the Central Military Commission The PLA operations community


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