China’s establishment of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone has incited strong criticisms and increased regional tensions. Both authoritative and non-authoritative sources argue consistently and often emphatically that the zone is intended to improve safety and stability and is not directed at any particular country or target. Yet the vague language used to describe the zone, as well as the extensive and often hostile rhetoric toward Japan, suggests that such assertions are incorrect and disingenuous at best. While China has every right to set up an ADIZ, its failure to reassure other nations or clearly define the enforcement and intended impact of the zone has undermined any purported stabilizing intentions and damaged China’s larger strategic interests.
When PRC leader Xi Jinping met with Taiwan’s former vice president Vincent Siew at the APEC leaders meeting in early October, he went beyond reiterating the standard position on the importance of promoting peaceful development of cross-Strait relations. Xi said that, in the “long term,” political differences between the two sides must be resolved and not be passed on from generation to generation. In this essay we explore that statement and its implications.
Since the first sweeping structural reform of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 1985, the military media have periodically floated trial balloons about deeper restructuring, but the political realities of the situation have consistently stymied the proposed changes. In early 2014, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the PLA was planning to make the most significant modifications to its command and control structure in almost 30 years, replacing its administrative, geographically oriented military region system with a mission-oriented configuration designed to match the increasing “joint” orientation of its deployed forces. To the surprise of many, official Chinese media organs did not reject the report out of hand, but instead expressed dismay that the information had been disseminated prematurely, and grudgingly acknowledged plans to carry out the changes. This article describes the historical rationale for the current command and control structure of the PLA, analyzes the factors motivating its alteration, and assesses the implications of these latest indications of reform.
The Third Plenum basically fulfilled the expectations placed on it, as it responded adequately to the credibility crisis that confronts Chinese policy today. New challenges of interpretation and implementation now rise to the fore. With the creation and staffing of the Reform Leadership Small Group, the initial outlines of the implementation process are coming into view. These show continued strong commitment to the goals of economic reform, but significant risks of reform strategy and implementation persist.
Nearly four decades after his death, Mao Zedong remains a controversial figure in Chinese Communist Party history, raising as he does questions of legitimacy. Over the past year the issue of how the Mao years should be evaluated in comparison to the reform years has been raised and discussed by Xi Jinping and others. This discussion apparently responds to divergent opinions in the party and seems to reflect Xi Jinping’s determination to define China’s ideology and its limits.
Assessments of the political strength of Xi Jinping have varied widely over the year since he became China’s new top leader. This article addresses the question of Xi’s power in light of the results of the 18th Central Committee’s Third Plenum in November 2014 and of other recent trends.
Like successful politicians elsewhere, President Xi Jinping assumed China’s top leadership role with the support of an inner circle. This group has been crucial to Xi’s efforts to consolidate power during his first year in office. This first article in a series of three focuses on native-place associations, namely the so-called Shaanxi Gang, which includes the “Iron Triangle” grouping in the Politburo Standing Committee. Such discussion can help reveal the future trajectory of politics and policy-making during the Xi administration. The analysis of the positioning and promotion of some of Xi’s longtime friends provides an invaluable assessment of both Xi’s current power and the potential for effective policy implementation.