PREDICTING PLA LEADER PROMOTIONS
Kenneth W. Allen
John F. Corbett, Jr.
This chapter addresses regularization of the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) promotion process for its flag-rank officers and the various analytical tools that can be used to predict the PLA's future senior leaders. The chapter begins by providing an historical context for the PLA officer grade and rank system. It then examines “formal factors” of the current promotion criteria that are mandated by regulations, such as officer grades, ranks, retirement-age requirements, and billet minimum and maximum terms of service. This section also provides some specific examples of current senior PLA leaders and the promotion squares they have filled. The chapter concludes by looking at “other factors,” such as the guanxi system of relationships, Chinese Communist Party Congress and National People's Congress (NPC) membership, education requirements, foreign travel, place of birth, and political reliability, as well as limiting factors and other possible “tickets” that must be punched as the officers climb the promotion ladder.
The terms “rank” and “grade” are basically synonymous in the U.S. military. In the PLA, however, grades, which are based on an officer's position, are more important than ranks. As a result, PLA writings usually refer to officer positions or grades and have few references to ranks.
Within the PLA, an officer's grade, not the rank, reflects authority and responsibility across service, branch, and organizational lines. Thus, while rank is a key indicator of position within the hierarchy of foreign militaries, grade is the key indicator within the PLA. For