China Leadership Monitor

China’s Assertive Behavior—Part Three: The Role of the Military in Foreign Policy

Friday, January 6, 2012

In examining the origins, characteristics, and likely future course of a “more assertive” China, many analysts point to the supposedly growing role of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Beijing’s foreign policy process. For such observers, the PLA is a conservative, highly nationalistic, and increasingly capable and confident actor in the Chinese political system and is the main force behind a range of more assertive and confrontational actions undertaken by Beijing in recent years. This article assesses what is reliably known about the role of the PLA in China’s foreign policy processes. It reviews the changing relationship of the PLA to the overall PRC leadership system and political power structure in China and focuses on the organizational and procedural relationship of the PLA to the foreign policy process in particular.