Gun Barrel Politics: Party--Army Relations in Mao's China

Gun Barrel Politics: Party--Army Relations in Mao's China

Gun Barrel Politics: Party--Army Relations in Mao's China

Gun Barrel Politics: Party--Army Relations in Mao's China

Synopsis

Although the Chinese military elites throughout the Maoist period played a pivotal role in party politics, they remained compliant to the ultimate party rule. This paradoxical behavior is explained by the dualistic nature of the Maoist political system, which institutionalized military participation in the political leadership while impeding the development of military professionalism & bureaucratic autonomy. This central theme is developed through theoretical discussions, structural analyses, & historical case studies. The book offers a military-centered interpretation of the political history of Maoist China.

Excerpt

China's party-army relations since 1949 have presented a continuous paradox. On one hand, the military leaders were deeply involved in intraparty conflicts, colluding or cooperating with their civilian colleagues for political power and policy influence. On the other hand, even at the peak of its political power, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) was never able to overthrow the party leadership. Instead, it displayed remarkable discipline and loyalty to the party regime. Two fundamental questions thus arise: What caused the pla to become so involved in party politics, and what prevented it from taking over?

The PLA's involvement in politics has been evident in every key political crisis since the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC). the first such crisis came in 1953, during a major power redistribution in the leadership, which ended with the purge of the "Gao-Rao Antiparty Clique." Gao and Rao were senior political-military leaders with substantial power in their respective military and administrative regions. Soon after they were transferred to the central leadership in Beijing, they were accused of trying to usurp power on the top level. We now know that they did not act alone. Among their chief supporters were some of the highest-ranking commanders of the communist army. It was remarkable that the party center was able to purge Gao and Rao without causing any significant disturbances in the military ranks. This was the first case of intraparty conflict that ended with a majority of the military elite yielding to the central party authority.

The next major leadership conflict occurred in 1959. At a series of Politburo meetings known as the Lushan Conference, Defense Minister Peng Dehuai took the lead in criticizing Mao's economic policies known under the rubric of the Great Leap Forward. Initially, a majority of the party . . .

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