chapter  2
19 Pages

The Chinese Army: Coping with the Consequences of Tiananmen

WithEllis Joffe

Aside from the victims, the biggest loser in the Tiananmen massacre was its perpetrator–the People's Liberation Army (PLA). When the crisis that led to the Tiananmen intervention broke out in April 1989, the PLA had undergone a decade of reforms that had radically changed its face and character. The Chinese set out to "teach Vietnam a lesson"–to inflict a swift, decisive, and humiliating defeat as punishment for what they viewed as Vietnam's intransigence and arrogance. Extensive modernization of military technology can be achieved only by buying abroad, an approach that would make the Chinese dependent on suppliers for ever-newer models and spare parts. The first consequence of the Tiananmen intervention pertains to the political power of the military. By far the most critical consequence of the Tiananmen intervention for the military has been the ensuing political assault on the PLA. Castigated after Tiananmen as supporters of "bourgeois liberalization," the reformers were accused of "preaching the depoliticization of the army."