|Vice President Xi Jinping, Hu Jintao's likely successor, reviews military troops|
The Diplomat last month published a penetrating article by Peter Mattis that asked how much influence the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was having on foreign and national security policymaking, and whether that influence was growing as China’s armed forces expand. That article, which didn’t receive the attention it deserved, however, only asked — and perhaps answered — half the question.
What Mattis, and several others, haven’t asked is whether the civilian members within the Politburo are becoming more enamored with the PLA as an instrument to achieve their political objectives. In other words, the question that needs to be asked is whether recent Chinese assertiveness in the East and South China Sea is the result of greater “push” by an increasingly vocal PLA, or more “pull” by the civilian leadership. The answer to that question is more important than it might appear, as it could reveal the pressure points that are key to understanding, and in turn dealing with, the future behavior of the Chinese military.
My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.