China Leadership Monitor

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

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.