People’s Liberation Army
It is customary for a nation to have an army but extremely rare for a political party to have one. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is an exception, as it owes allegiance to the Communist Party of China (CPC).
- This exclusive arrangement was formalised in December 1929 during the Ninth Meeting of the CPC at Gutian in Fujian province where Mao Zedong, while addressing the men of the Fourth Army, clarified the role of the military: it was “to chiefly serve the political ends”, Mao said.
Formation of PLA
- The PLA traces its roots to the ‘Nanchang Uprising’ of August 1, 1927, the day the Communists led by stalwarts like Mao, Zhou Enlai and Zhu De rose against the nationalist forces. It played a key role in the successful culmination of the Communist revolution in 1949, and of the CPC coming to power. The PLA’s iconic commanders, Mao and Deng Xiaoping, led the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for almost a half century as its first and second generation leaders.
- Given its symbiotic relationship with the CPC, the PLA is well represented in the two apex governing bodies – in the Politburo, the PLA has 2 members out of 25, and in the Central Committee, the PLA accounts for 18-20 per cent of the 205 permanent and 171 alternate members.
- The Central Committee elects the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), the highest political body that is currently composed of seven members. Until 1997, the PLA had representation in the PSC as well; General Liu Huaqing was the last general to hold that position.
- The Central Military Commission (CMC), the highest military body, is composed of the PLA top brass, appointed by the PSC. The chairman of the CMC is the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the PLA, usually the Secretary General of the CPC, and presently President Xi.
- Senior PLA officers are invariably members of the CPC. While commanders handle operational and training aspects, Political Commissars are responsible for personal matters, propaganda and indoctrination to establish the Party’s authority over the PLA.