Aug. 1, 2010
Civil-Military Relations in China: Assessing the PLA’s Role in Elite Politics
This study reviews the last 20 years of academic literature on the role of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Chinese elite politics. It examines the PLA’s willingness to support the continued rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and to obey directives from top party leaders, the PLA’s influence on the selection of China’s top civilian leaders, and the PLA’s ability to shape the domestic political environment. Over the last two decades the discussion of these three issues has largely been shaped by five trends identified in the literature: increasing PLA professionalism, bifurcation of civil and military elites, a reduced PLA role in political institutions, reduced emphasis on political work within the PLA, and increased military budgets. Together, these trends are largely responsible for the markedly reduced role of the PLA in Chinese elite politics.