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Rotting From Within


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rotting_from_withinForeign Policy:

Investigating the massive corruption of the Chinese military.

JOHN GARNAUT

APRIL 16, 2012

 

In many fields of international competition, China is less sanguine about its abilities than outsiders. Chinese leaders often remind Westerners that China is a developing country, with hundreds of millions of people living in poverty, an unbalanced economy, and high social tensions. What should most worry Beijing, and provide some comfort to those who fear Chinese military expansionism, is the state of corruption in the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

 

True, the world underestimated how quickly a four-fold jump in Chinese military spending in the past decade would deliver an array of new weaponry to prevent the United States from interfering in a regional military conflict. Top American generals have worried publicly about "carrier-killer" ballistic missiles designed to destroy U.S. battle groups as far afield as the Philippines, Japan, and beyond. Last year, China tested a prototype stealth fighter and launched its maiden aircraft carrier, to augment new destroyers and nuclear submarines. What is unknown, however, is whether the Chinese military, an intensely secretive organisation only nominally accountable to civilian leaders, can develop the human software to effectively operate and integrate its new hardware.

 

Judging from a recent series of scathing speeches by one of the PLA's top generals, details of which were obtained by Foreign Policy, it can't: The institution is riddled with corruption and professional decay, compromised by ties of patronage, and asphyxiated by the ever-greater effort required to impose political control. The speeches, one in late December and the other in mid-February, were given by Gen. Liu Yuan, the son of a former president of China and one of the PLA's rising stars; the speeches and Liu's actions suggest that the PLA might be the site of the next major struggle for control of the Communist Party, of the type that recently brought down former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai. Liu is the political commissar and the most powerful official of the PLA's General Logistics Department, which handles enormous contracts in land, housing, food, finance, and services for China's 2.3 million-strong military.

 

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