Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by David S.G. Goodman
Chapter 7: Post-Deng transformation of the People’s Liberation Army: changes, continuities and consequences
Post-Mao reforms have driven China’s military transformation, which is a key component of the country’s overall social engineering. Generally the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) transformation has unfolded in three major areas simultaneously. Politically its interaction with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has undergone substantial changes with profound impact on CCP–PLA relations. Organizationally, the PLA’s personnel composition and structure has been overhauled from peasant-based to one that is increasingly cosmopolitan. In terms of force modernization the PLA is taking on a brand new look through doctrinal innovation, capability enhancement and war preparation. The PLA reform has accelerated since Xi Jinping became the Commander-in-Chief in November 2012 and ordered the PLA to concentrate all its effort on improving combat readiness in order to fight and win the next war. Clearly his hands-on approach of ‘commanding the gun’ is very different from that of his two post-Deng predecessors, and has further reshaped CCP–PLA relations (You 2014a: 60). This chapter will concentrate on the first category of PLA transformation, namely the change in CCP–PLA relations, although the other two will also be touched upon.
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