THE 16TH PARTY CONGRESS AND LEADERSHIP
CHANGES IN THE PLA
The 16th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), held November 8-15, 2002, set into motion significant changes in the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) high command. In a single re-shuffle, the directorship of each of the four general departments of the PLA was replaced, ushering into power a group who, most concur, are younger, better educated, and more professionalized than any previous PLA leadership. At the same time, Jiang Zemin retained the position of Central Military Commission (CMC) chairman although giving up all his other Party (and later State) positions.
This transition takes place at a critical moment in China's history. China's new military (and political) leadership is faced with a rapidly changing international security environment, radically different from those facing its predecessors. The current leadership must adjust to the new demands brought about by the U.S.-led Global War on Terrorism, even as it is responding to transnational issues that had previously been given less attention (everything from issues of emerging diseases to emerging terrorism threats). Moreover, it must do so in the context of latent domestic upheaval. China's internal situation is undergoing tremendous change as well, partly as a consequence of two decades of economic reform, and there are a host of burgeoning social, economic, and political problems.
Finally, these new leaders have come into power at an important phase in PLA reform and modernization. They will be charged with implementing many of the reforms first developed before or during Jiang's tenure as paramount leader of the PRC. These challenges go