The Role of the Chinese Military in National Security Policymaking

By Kojac, Jeff | Air & Space Power Journal, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

The Role of the Chinese Military in National Security Policymaking


Kojac, Jeff, Air & Space Power Journal


The Role of the Chinese Military in National Security Policymaking by Michael D. Swaine. RAND, 1700 Main Street, Santa Monica, California 90407, 1996, 100 pages, $15.00.

In March 1996, two US aircraft carriers were deployed to Taiwan as a response to the launching of theater ballistic missiles by the People's Republic of China (PRC) into areas that bracketed the island nation, while the People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducted a large amphibious-assault exercise in relative proximity. Many pundits speculated that the PRC's belligerence was PRC president Jiang Zemin's method of placating the PLA and saving face after suffering the double ignominy of the US Senate's approval of Taiwan president Lee Tenghui's visit to the United States and Taiwan's first free presidential elections. However, this is only conjecture because the PRC's actual national-security decision-making processes are unknown, both to the world and to China's citizens. Such opacity only deepens the potential that US-Sino confrontations will lead to conflict as a consequence of mutual misassessment.

Michael Swaine, director of RAND's Center for Asia-Pacific Policy, attempts to cut through China's dangerous turbidity and investigate the role of the PLA in China's national-security policy making. Swaine divides his study into four categories: the influence of the PLA in (1) national strategy; (2) foreign policy; (3) defense policy; and (4) strategic research, analysis, and intelligence. The ultimate authority over national strategic objectives rests with Jiang Zemin, Premier Li Peng, Adm Liu Huaqing, and Gen Zhang Zhen. Foreign affairs, in turn, are managed by Li Peng, and his key deputy is Liu Huaqiu, director of the State Council Office of Foreign Affairs-not the better-known Foreign Minister Qian Qichen. Whereas the PLA has little direct input into foreign affairs, the uppermost tier of defense policy is guided by the Central Military Committee, consisting of Jiang Zemin, Adm Liu Huaqing, Gen Zhang Zhen, as well as Gen Zhang Wannian and Gen Chi Haotian. …

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