China Leadership Monitor

The PLA and the 16th Party Congress: Jiang Controls the Gun?

Thursday, January 30, 2003

For Western observers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the 16th Party Congress presented a curious mixture of the past, the present, and the future. Jiang Zemin's long-rumored and ultimately successful bid to retain the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission (CMC) brought back memories of party-army relations in the late 1980s before Tiananmen. At the same time, the new crop of PLA leaders elevated to the CMC represents the present and future PLA, possessing high levels of experience, training, and education, and thus professionalism. This article explores the implications of Jiang's gambit, analyzes the retirements of senior PLA leaders and the biographies of their replacements, and offers some predictions about the choice of defense minister and the future course of Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-PLA relations.