China seems to always have civil discontent bubbling just below the surface. A military force loyal to the Party is essential to maintain power. With the massive loss of paper wealth in the past few weeks on the Chinese stock market, the slowing economy and lay-offs are potential flashpoints.
Speculation has been rife as to why the change in the PLA is happening now. One reason may be that the PLA is not modern in its organization and is unprepared to meet an external threat in modern times. The PRC is involved in several territorial disputes with its Asian neighbours. It has been accused of land grabs in the S. China Sea. Rhetoric has been exchanged with the US regarding the PRC’s territorial claims as well.
A modern military must be efficient in information gathering and dispersing that knowledge to the correct parties. And not least is the fact that the PLA has no experience fighting a modern enemy. Since the 1950s the Party has maintained control and quashed opposition but a civilian opposition is not the challenge of facing trained and experienced foes.
Aside from tightening control to ensure loyalty to the central party, the reforms may be a way to root out corruption within the PLA. President Xi has made it public policy to expose corrupt officials. It looks as if the anti-corruption campaign is serious. Fourteen PLA generals have been named as corrupt and face court-marshal. Some have already been expelled from the Party which spells disaster on a personal level.
In any case, it is interesting times.
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