China’s Central Military Commissions After the NPC

The 11th National People’s Congress (NPC) stamped in the new leadership of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Membership of the state organ’s CMC and the 17th CMC of the Communist Party of China (CPC) are identical, in that the state organ and the party organ are “two different names, one identical group” (liangkuai paizi yitao banzih), which ensures the continuance of the so-called “Chinese characteristics of military affairs” (Zhonguo junshitese) that guarantee the leadership of the party over the military (Central News Agency [Taiwan], March 17).

On March 16, the 11th National People’s Congress approved Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou as vice-ministers of the state organ’s CMC, and Liang Guanglie, Chen Bingde, Li Jinai, Liao Xilong, Chang Wanquan, Jing Zhiyuan, Wu Shengli and Xu Qiliang as commissioners.

According to a Beijing analyst cited by the Hong Kong-based newspaper Wen Wei Pao, the state organ’s CMC and the party organ’s CPC have essentially become “one organization under two different names” (yige jigou liangkuai paizi), which is significant because the party via the CMC has strengthened its control over the defense and preparation for possible contingencies in the Taiwan Strait, and at the same time the country’s national defense and military modernization (Wen Wei Pao, March 16).

Membership in the CMC remains at 11, however the traditional structure of having one executive vice-minister and three vice-ministers changed to one executive vice-minister and only two vice-ministers. Analysts see the change as consistent with measures undertaken in terms of managing succession in many provincial level party apparatuses throughout China, as an effort to reduce the size of executives to increase efficiency, which is a part of the comprehensive strategy of streamlining the Chinese bureaucracy (Central News Agency [Taiwan], March 17).

It should also be noted that the new commissioners to the CMC are young relative to the previous class: the average age of the members is 63.5 years old, the oldest is 67, and the youngest is 57 years old.

Additionally, the new commissioners come from different ranks of the military: ranging from the army, navy, air force and second artillery. For instance, Vice-Minister Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, Director of the General Logistics Department of the People’s Liberation Army Liao Xilong and Director of the General Armaments Department Chang Wanquan come from the army; Commissioner Li Jinai and Jing Zhiyuan are from the second artillery. While Commissioner Wu Shengli, a commander in the navy, Commissioner Xu Qiliang, a commander in the air force, as well as Chang Wangquan are new faces, the three are said to have extensive military experience and proven combat leadership credentials.

According to military analysts, the representations of the navy, air force and second artillery in the leadership command illustrates the determination of the PLA to become a comprehensive and technologically advanced modern army (Central News Agency [Taiwan], March 17).