In the last edition of China Leadership Monitor, I explored the ways in which the leadership transition to the "fourth generation" of Chinese leaders might possibly affect Sino-American security relations in the future. At the time (late December 2002), it was difficult to draw very many conclusions, particularly since I had not visited China after the Crawford summit and the 16th Party Congress. I subsequently traveled with a Harvard entourage to Taipei, Shanghai, and Beijing in January to interview government elites, government and nongovernment think-tank scholars, and university academics. The main topic of our discussions was relations across the Taiwan Strait, but we also discussed other issues related to U.S.-China security relations, especially questions regarding North Korea, arms proliferation, and Iraq.
Corruption among Chinese officers and enlisted personnel continues to be a point of tension between civilian and military elites in China. While the level of corruption reached its apex during the late 1980s and early 1990s, affectionately known as the "go-go" years of PLA, Inc., the repercussions of the center's decision in 1998 to divest the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of its commercial operations are still being felt in the system. For the first time, investigators and prosecutors from outside the military apparatus were given the authority to probe and pursue PLA malfeasance, and many in the military felt that the civilians pursued their assignment with far too much vigor and tenacity. This animosity was further exacerbated by reports of PLA complicity in the massive Yuanhua scandal in Xiamen and by the public prosecution of former General Staff Department intelligence chief General Ji Shengde on multiple counts of corruption. This paper analyzes PLA corruption since Tiananmen, with special emphasis on the civil-military aspects of the issue. The first section outlines the course and character of PLA corruption since 1990, as well as efforts by the military and civilian leadership to stamp it out. Particular attention is paid to the divestiture process in 1998, as well as the Yuanhua and Ji Shengde investigations. The article then concludes with an evaluation of the implications of these trends for Chinese civil-military relations and offers predictions for the future.
In the months since he has taken over as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Hu Jintao has focused on domestic issues. Indeed, recent interviews in China suggest that some foreign policy specialists are concerned that Hu's domestic interests will distract him from important foreign policy issues. In any event, a recently published survey of social trends in China outlines the depth of the problems facing the Chinese government. These are not short-term or easily handled problems; they are rooted in the demography of China and in the long-term separation between urban and rural areas. Public opinion surveys suggest that China's most vulnerable do indeed feel worried about the future. Nevertheless, the same surveys show that a sizable majority of Chinese is cautiously optimistic about the future. Such assessments of the future appear to give the government a window of opportunity for addressing the social pressures it faces.
Wen Jiabao is not yet formally premier of China, but he has been acting as premier since December. Evidence is accumulating that Wen will present a large-scale government reorganization plan to the National People's Congress (NPC) in March 2003. Wen is making a fast start and intends to make his mark on China's government. This diligence suggests that Wen will try to generate significant forward momentum on further economic reform within calendar year 2003.
The four-month period between the 16th Party Congress held in November 2002 and the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) scheduled to open in March 2003 is transitional. The senior party leaders around Jiang Zemin who retired from their party positions are serving out the waning months of their terms in top posts of the People's Republic of China (PRC) state hierarchy, awaiting full retirement at the NPC. Meanwhile, the younger leaders around new party General Secretary Hu Jintao who succeeded them on the party Politburo await accession to the top state posts at the NPC. Despite the transitional nature of the pre-NPC period, the new party leaders have already begun work in roles that suggest the overall priorities of the new leadership. In particular, Hu Jintao has been at the center of efforts to present the new leadership as focused on the plight of those left behind in China's prosperity, on clean government and the rooting out of corruption, on the rule of law, and on greater transparency in leadership workings.
The 16th Party Congress marked a shift of power to a younger generation of Chinese leaders, the so-called "fourth generation." These fourth generation leaders, led by new General Secretary Hu Jintao, not only have now held almost all top ministerial and provincial leadership posts, but also have occupied about 80 percent of the seats on the 16th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But ironically, these "younger generation" leaders are not really that young. Most generational studies on Chinese political elites define the fourth generation as the generation whose members were born between 1941 and 1956 and had their formative years during the Cultural Revolution. Now these leaders are between 47 and 62 years old.