The People’s Liberation Army

  • Tony Saich
Chapter
Part of the China in Focus series book series

Abstract

The People’s Liberation Army, unlike armies in the West, is more than a professional standing army and has a wider field of operation than that of a bureaucratic pressure group competing for scarce resources. The role of the army in the Chinese political system owes its origins to the pre-liberation struggle described in chapter 1. Apart from causing institutional and personnel overlap, the liberation struggle has affected the functions of the military since liberation. The conditions during the Long March and in Yanan, and the need to rely on the population to wage guerrilla warfare, meant that the PLA became a multi-functional body carrying out education and production tasks. This legacy of the past, and the success of the military, led Mao Zedong to have a highly favourable view not just of the military per se but also as a participant in the political system. When Mao sought to purify the ranks of the Party and state during the Cultural Revolution he turned to the army for help, because he felt that under Lin Biao’s leadership it embodied the ‘true spirit’ of the revolution. Since liberation certain sections of the leadership have tried to downgrade this ‘traditional’ role of the PLA, and have tried to ‘professionalise’ it by concentrating on its purely military functions.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. 1.
    Article 14 of The Constitution of the Communist Party of China in Documents of the Eleventh Party Congress of the Communist Party of China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1977).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Article 19 of The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China in Documents of the First Session of the Fifth National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1978).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The present Chief of Staff is Yang Dezhi, who replaced Deng Xiaoping in early 1980.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Its Director is Wei Guoqing.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The first change in Kunming was when Yang Dezhi replaced Wang Bisheng and Yang was replaced by Zhang Zhixiu when Yang was made Chief of Staff.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Military districts do not have air force or naval units stationed under them.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    J. Gittings, The Role of the Chinese Army (Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 202.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid., p. 211.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    H. Nelson, The Chinese Military System (Westview Press, 1977), p. 184.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    ‘Organise the Militia Well’, People’s Daily (Renmin Ribao RMRB) and Liberation Army Daily editorial (29 September 1973).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Quoted in H. Nelson, The Chinese Military System, p. 184.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    RMRB (3 June 1977).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Nie Rongzhen, ‘The Militia’s Role in a Future War’ in Peking Review (PR), no. 35 (1978), pp. 16–19.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    For example, see J. Domes, The Internal Politics of China 1949–1972 (C. Hurst & Co., 1973).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    See W. Whitson, ‘The Field Army in Chinese Communist Military Polities’ in China Quarterly (CQ), no. 37 (January-March 1969), pp. 1–31.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    RMRB editorial (24 July 1954) quoted in J. Gittings, The Role of the Chinese Army, p. 128.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See J. Gittings, The Role of the Chinese Army, pp. 225—34, for a full discussion of this point.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    D. Charles, ‘The Dismissal of P’eng Te-huai’ in CQ, no. 8, p. 65.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    The Five-Good Movement, or the Five-Good Soldier Movement, was launched at the end of 1960 and early 1961. The ‘Five-Goods’ soldiers were to attain were to be good at: political thought; military training; the ‘Three-Eight Work Style’; fulfilment of duties; and physical training. The Three-Eight Work Style’ referred to the three phrases of correct political orientation, hard work and simple life, and flexibility in strategy and tactics and to the eight characters for unity, earnestness, energy and vitality. In 1963 Lei Feng was first put forward as a person to be emulated. Before his death, aged 22, Lei Feng had led a life of selfless devotion to his work and comrades as was revealed in his diaries. As a model to be emulated he was used to show that ordinary people carrying out their ordinary lives could contribute to socialism — one did not have carry out spectacular deeds.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    J. Gittings, The Role of the Chinese Army, p. 247.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    At the Eleventh plenum of the Eighth CC (August 1966) Lin put forward the three criteria for cultivating cadres. They were: (1) Do they hold high the red banner of Mao Zedong’s Thought? Those who fail to do so shall be dismissed from office. (2) Do they engage in political and ideological work? Those who disrupt it and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution are to be dismissed. (3) Are they enthusiastic about the revolution? Those who are entirely devoid of such enthusiasm are to be dismissed.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Quoted by Paul H. B. Goodwin in ‘China’s Defence Dilemma: The Modernisation Crisis of 1976–77’ in Contemporary China, vol. 2, no. 3 (fall 1978), pp. 63–85.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Xu Xiangqian, ‘Strive for the Realisation of the Modernisation of National Defence’, Red Flag, no. 10 (1979).Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    D. Tretiak, ‘China’s Vietnam War and its Consequences’ in CQ, no. 80 (December 1979), p. 756.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    New China News Agency (23 October 1979).Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    On the morning of 18 May 1980 China launched its first carrier rocket to a target in the Pacific Ocean. The object of this exercise, according to Li Xiannian, was to develop science and technology and to accelerate the modernisation of the country as well as strengthening its defence capabilities against the threat of ‘hegemonist powers’. See Beijing Review (BR), no. 21 (1980).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Summary of World Broadcasts: the Far East (SWB FE) 6420.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    RMRB (5 March 1980) and SWB FE/6393.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    David S. G. Goodman, ‘Changes in Leadership Personnel After September 1976’ in J. Domes (ed.) Chinese Politics After Mao (University College Cardiff Press, 1979), p. 43.Google Scholar

Selected further reading

  1. P. Bridgham, ‘The Fall of Lin Piao’ in China Quarterly, no. 55, pp. 427–49.Google Scholar
  2. D. A. Charles, ‘The Dismissal of Peng Teh-huai’ in China Quarterly, no. 8, pp. 63–76.Google Scholar
  3. J. Domes, ‘The Cultural Revolution and the Army’ in Asian Survey, vol. VIII, no. 5, pp. 349–63.Google Scholar
  4. J. Domes, ‘The Role of the Military in the Formation of Revolutionary Committees’ in China Quarterly, no. 44, pp. 112–45.Google Scholar
  5. J. Gittings, The Role of the Chinese Army (London: Oxford University Press, 1967).Google Scholar
  6. S. B. Griffiths, The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967).Google Scholar
  7. E. Joffe, Party and Army: Professionalism and Political Control in the Chinese Officers Corps 1949–64 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965).Google Scholar
  8. E. Joffe, ‘The Chinese Army Under Lin Piao: Prelude to Political Intervention’ in J. M Lindbeck (ed.), China: Management of a Revolutionary Society (Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  9. C. Johnson, ‘Lin Piao’s Army and its Role in Chinese Society in Current Scene (Hong Kong), vol. IV, nos 13 and 14 (1 and 15 July 1966).Google Scholar
  10. Y. M. Kau (ed.), The Lin Piao Affair: Power Politics and Military Coup (White Plains, N.Y.: International Arts and Sciences Press, 1975).Google Scholar
  11. H. Nelson, The Chinese Military System (Colorado: Westview Press, 1977).Google Scholar
  12. R. L. Powell, The Party, the Government and the Gun’ in Asian Survey, vol. X, no. 6, pp. 441–71.Google Scholar
  13. J. D. Simmonds, ‘Peng Te-huai: A chronological Re-examination’ in China Quarterly, no. 37, pp. 120–38.Google Scholar
  14. D. Tretiak, ‘China’s Vietnam War and its Consequences’ in China Quarterly, no. 80, pp. 740–67.Google Scholar
  15. W. Whitson, The Chinese High Command: A History of Communist Military Politics, 1927–1971 (London: Macmillan, 1973).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Tony Saich 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tony Saich

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations