Civil-Military Change in China: Elites, Institutes, and Ideas after the 16th Party Congress

By Andrew Scobell; Larry Wortzel | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 7

PLA LEADERSHIP IN CHINA'S MILITARY REGIONS

Elizabeth Hague


INTRODUCTION

This chapter will examine the characteristics of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) military leaders in the seven military region (MR) headquarters. A study of leaders at the military region level can provide critical insight into how PLA modernization is being implemented at the operational level. The PLA has moved away from the field army model described by William Whitson in the 1970s, where field army affiliation played a key role in building contacts for promotion. While the PLA Group Army (GA) is a new organizational basis for forming contacts that can enhance a PLA officer's career, professional experience becomes an increasingly important factor for promotion as the PLA modernizes. 1 New assignments can be vertical (promotions) or lateral (often offering fresh experience within one's current rank or grade). First, the chapter will begin by identifying some key characteristics of MR leaders, and, where possible, potential turnover in the MRs based on criteria such as age, time in position and grade, and promotion potential. 2 It will focus on leaders at the deputy commander level and below, rather than on the commanders of the MRs. While in some cases promotions and assignments are based on connections, age, and timing of open positions, in many cases, the selection of key military leaders in MR headquarters reflects operational priorities of the PLA or specific mission objectives of that military region. Second, the chapter will examine how, collectively, PLA leaders in a MR reflect PLA and MR priorities. Finally, just as the provinces are training grounds for national-level civilian leaders, military regions are training grounds for national-level military leaders. 3 The chapter will conclude by examining the backgrounds of selected military leaders who have been transferred or promoted from the MRs to the national level in the past two years, reflecting

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