James Mulvenon

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Military Affairs

"Ding, Dong, The Witch is Dead!"—Foreign Policy and Military Intelligence Assessments after the Retirement of General Xiong Guangkai

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Monday, January 30, 2006

For more than a decade, General Xiong Guangkai used his position as the head of military intelligence to influence Chinese leadership assessments of foreign and security policy, especially Sino-U.S. relations. News reports suggest that General Xiong has finally retired, after staying in his position well past the mandatory retirement age, a longevity that most foreign observers attributed to his self-described and perhaps real indispensability. His replacement, General Zhang Qinsheng, is not a military intelligence officer by training, but has instead occupied a series of critical staff and command positions. This article analyzes General Zhang's known biographical data and presents his limited public comments for clues about his outlook and attitudes.

Military Affairs

"Inspired with Enthusiasm": Themes from the October 1 National Day Editorial

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Sunday, October 30, 2005

Each year on October 1, Liberation Army Daily publishes an editorial celebrating the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Along with similar commentary published on Army Day on August 1 and the anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party on July 1, each year's National Day editorial offers a snapshot of the dominant political and military policy "lines." This article compares the text of this year's commentary with the three previous National Day messages, and assesses the implications for party-military relations and military modernization.

Military Affairs

They Protest Too Much (Or Too Little), Methinks: Soldier Protests, Party Control of the Military, and the "National Army" Debate

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Saturday, July 30, 2005

Protests by retired soldiers—coupled with stern internal propaganda campaigns aimed at reinforcing military loyalty and denouncing talk of a "national army"—suggest cracks in the façade of Chinese party-army unity. This article analyzes recent civil-military developments in China, and assesses their implications.

Military Affairs

Power, Money, and Sex: The PLA and the Educational Campaign to Maintain the Advanced Nature of the Party

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Saturday, April 30, 2005

In the course of consolidating his leadership, Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao has moved to put his personal stamp on the content of political work in the party and in the army. The main theme calls for maintaining the "advanced nature" of all party members, particularly those in the military. Based on the principle that the party's "advanced nature" derives from the party's "historic tasks for different periods," the current focus is on implementing "Jiang Zemin's thoughts on national defense and army construction," speeding up "military reform with Chinese characteristics," preparing for "military struggle," shouldering the "historic mission," "fighting to win," "resisting degeneration," and improving "the fighting capability of the army in the information era." This article explores each of these themes, providing textual exegesis of their probable meanings and assessing their implications for civil-military relations.

Military Affairs

The King Is Dead! Long Live the King! The CMC Leadership Transition from Jiang to Hu

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Sunday, January 30, 2005

At the 2004 fall plenum, Jiang Zemin finally stepped down as chairman of the party Central Military Commission, abdicating the position to Hu Jintao. Jiang is also expected to relinquish the ceremonial chairmanship of the state Central Military Commission at the National People's Congress (NPC) meeting in March 2005. Hu now possesses the holy trinity of leadership positions: CCP general secretary, PRC president, and CMC chairman. This essay analyzes the origins and dynamics of this transition and ponders the implications of Jiang's retirement for civil-military relations and military modernization.

Military Affairs

Anticipation Is Making Me Wait: The "Inevitability of War" and Deadlines in Cross-Strait Relations

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Saturday, October 30, 2004

People's Republic of China (PRC) statements asserting the "inevitability" of war in the Taiwan Strait and imposing a deadline for resolution of the Taiwan question loom larger as facets of debate over potential conflict between the PRC and Taiwan, particularly with Taipei's proposed constitutional revision in 2006 and Beijing's hosting of the Olympics in 2008 on the horizon. On the one hand, Beijing may believe that asserting deadlines for resolution of the Taiwan question through nonauthoritative channels is useful psychologically to undermine morale in Taiwan and deter U.S. military intervention. On the other hand, PRC media commentary to the contrary continues to underscore the difficult trade-offs between specificity and flexibility in Beijing's policymaking toward Taiwan. On balance, the evidence suggests that Beijing's position toward Taiwan (and, by extension, toward the role of the United States in a future conflict) has hardened since President Chen Shui-bian's reelection in spring 2004, elevating prospects of a military crisis in the next four years.

Military Affairs

Your Guess Is As Good As Mine: PLA Budgets, Proposals, and Discussions at the Second Session of the 10th National People's Congress

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, July 30, 2004

For observers of People's Liberation Army (PLA) politics and civilian-military relations, annual sessions of China's parliament—the National People's Congress (NPC)—are interesting for three main reasons. First, the session reviews the government's annual budget, which includes official figures for defense spending. These figures, with significant caveats, indicate the pace and scope of military modernization—as well as the relative political weight of the PLA. Second, roughly one-tenth of all delegates to the NPC are active-duty military officers, and their discussions (often complaints) in plenary sessions are useful markers of intramilitary concerns. Third, the NPC often passes military-related regulations, which sometimes reveal institutional or doctrinal trends in the armed forces. From that perspective, the second session of the 10th NPC in March 2004 is notable for restoring double-digit increases in the defense budget and for giving new guidance on military modernization and management of the army. Also notable was the absence of any visible civil-military split like the "two centers" debate from the NPC in March 2003.

Military Affairs

The PLA, Chen Shui-Bian, and the Referenda: The War Dogs That Didn't Bark

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, April 30, 2004

In the fall of 2003, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian put forward a series of controversial proposals, including calls for referenda on various sensitive issues and reform of the 1947 constitution. This program sent immediate shock waves through the Taiwan presidential election campaign and roiled the policy establishments in Beijing and Washington. On the Chinese side, strongly worded condemnations of Chen's behavior came almost exclusively from civilian government and party channels, while senior military officials and the military propaganda apparatus were notably silent. The relative silence of authoritative military statements, complemented by the lack of evidence in open sources of troop movements, exercises, or other escalatory behavior, signals important changes in strategy and tactics with respect to Taiwan. This new posture contrasts starkly with the 1995–96 and even 2000 crises, when People's Liberation Army (PLA) voices were among the most aggressive and threatening. This subtler, nuanced strategy tracks with broader evidence of China's "new diplomacy" in the region, which seeks to achieve security goals with a more indirect approach. It is also consistent with Chinese strategy since the 2000 presidential election that has emphasized the twin pillars of economic inducement and a united front with the opposition while avoiding public displays of military coercion in favor of the quiet, serious preparation of military hedging options.

Military Affairs

The Mystery of the Missing Godfather: Civil-Military Relations and the Shenzhou-5 Manned Space Mission

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Friday, January 30, 2004

On October 15, 2003, China launched Shenzhou-5, its first manned space mission. China's space program was personally associated with Jiang during his tenure China's top leader, and he was prominently involved in the previous four Shenzhou launches. In the saturated media coverage of the launch and recovery, however, Jiang was noticeably absent. Instead, the new top party leader Hu Jintao was the center of the action, issuing the "important speech" on the success of the mission, and PRC Premier Wen Jiabao played a significant role. This report examines the possible reasons why Jiang was not in attendance at the Shenzhou-5 launch and assesses their implications for Chinese civil-military relations.

Military Affairs

The Crucible of Tragedy: SARS, the Ming 361 Accident, and Chinese Party-Army Relations

by James Mulvenonvia China Leadership Monitor
Thursday, October 30, 2003

The recent loss of Ming-class submarine Number 361 with all hands aboard and the role of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) medical system in the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) cover-up threaten to further strain a Chinese party-army dynamic that was already undermined by the incomplete leadership transition of the 16th Party Congress. Yet, the evidence also suggests that Hu Jintao, despite the potential opening offered by the governance crisis over SARS, appears unwilling or unable to directly challenge Jiang Zemin's leadership at this point in time, portending more months of jockeying and ambiguity in the political arena and an unclear chain of command in the military realm.

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