The Role of the Military
This chapter identifies the major characteristics of the Maoist model of the military and the difficulties of applying this model in the post-1949 geopolitical context. It discusses efforts to find the proper balance between the societal and professional roles of the military and the effects of the Sino–Soviet dispute, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution on the PRC’s military modernization. The poor performance of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the 1979 war with Vietnam underscored the need for greater professionalism. Since the cost of the war forced the cancellation of some economic projects, Deng Xiaoping urged the PLA to become involved in civilian economic production. This, however, facilitated a massive increase in corruption within the military. Jiang Zemin severed the PLA’s connection with the civilian economy, but the separation was imperfect; Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has revealed shocking abuses of power. At the same time, expanded PLA budgets since 1989 have created a military that, though not battle-tested, is equipped with increasingly lethal state-of-the-art weapons.