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Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms
By Phillip C. Saunders, Arthur S. Ding, Andrew Scobell, Andrew N.D. Yang, and Joel Wuthnow | Feb. 11, 2019

Chairman Xi Remakes the PLAChina’s current military reforms are unprecedented in their ambition and in the scale and scope of the organizational changes. Virtually every part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) now reports to different leaders, has had its mission and responsibilities changed, has lost or gained subordinate units, or has undergone a major internal reorganization. 

Drawing on papers presented at two conferences co-organized by the U.S. National Defense University, The RAND Corporation, and Taiwan’s Council of Advanced Policy Studies, this edited volume brings together some of the world’s best experts on the Chinese military to analyze the various dimensions of the reforms in detail and assess their implications for the PLA’s ability to conduct joint operations, for the Chinese Communist Party’s control of the army, and for civil-military integration. 

The contributors review the drivers and strategic context underpinning the reform effort, explore the various dimensions of PLA efforts to build a force capable of conducting joint operations, consider the implications for the PLA services, and examine Xi Jinping’s role in driving the reforms through and using them to strengthen control over the military. The chapters chronicle successes and outstanding problems in the reform effort, and consider what the net effect will be as the PLA strives to become a “world-class” military by mid-century, if not much sooner. 

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Introduction Appendix: Central Military Commission Reforms
By Joel Wuthnow and Phillip C. Saunders | Feb. 8, 2019

Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA → Introduction: Appendix

Introduction: Appendix

Central Military Commission Reforms

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Joel Wuthnow is a Research Fellow in the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at National Defense University’s Institute for National for Strategic Studies. He also serves as an adjunct professor in both the Eisenhower School at NDU and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Phillip C. Saunders is Director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs and a Distinguished Research Fellow at National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies. 

This appendix analyzes the organizational logic behind the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) shift from a system centered on a small Central Military Commission (CMC) staff and the four general departments to a much larger post-reform CMC staff that incorporates many of the functions of the former general departments. It also describes the functions of the 15 new CMC departments, commissions, and offices that were announced on January 11, 2016.1

From the General Departments to an Expanded CMC

The pre-reform CMC had 11 members, including a civilian chairman, 2 military vice chairmen, minister of defense, heads of the four general departments, and commanders of the navy, air force, and Second Artillery. The four general departments—the General Staff Department (GSD), General Political Department (GPD), General Logistics Department (GLD), and (from 1998) General Armament Department (GAD)—were led by army officers and collectively served as the ground force headquarters, among other functions. The CMC members supervised the general departments, services, and seven military regions and were supported by a relatively small staff of about 1,000 people in the CMC General Office.2 In this setup, the heads of the general departments and services represented their organizations in CMC debates and were responsible for implementing CMC decisions within their organizations. The CMC chairman (who served concurrently as the Chinese Community Party general-secretary and state president) nominally had the final word on decisions, though during the Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao eras, considerable decisionmaking authority and autonomy were delegated to the uniformed vice chairmen.

The post-reform CMC has only seven members, with the GLD, GAD, and service commanders losing their seats, and the director of the CMC Discipline Inspection Commission gaining a seat on the CMC proper (see table 1). (See the chapter by McFadden, Fassler, and Godby in this volume for an analysis of the post-reform CMC leadership.)

Table 1. Pre- and Post-Reform Central Military Commission (CMC) Membership


Pre-Reform CMC Status

Post-Reform Position

CMC Status

CMC Chairman

CMC Chairman

CMC Chairman

CMC Chairman

CMC Vice Chairman

CMC Vice Chairman

CMC Vice Chairman

CMC Vice Chairman

CMC Vice Chairman

CMC Vice Chairman

CMC Vice Chairman

CMC Vice Chairman

Minister of Defense

CMC Member

Minister of Defense

CMC Member

GSD Director

CMC Member

CMC Joint Staff Department Director

CMC Member

GPD Director

CMC Member

CMC Political Work Department Director

CMC Member

GLD Director

CMC Member

CMC Logistics Department Director

GAD Director

CMC Member

CMC Equipment Development Department Director

Navy Commander

CMC Member

Navy Commander

Air Force Commander

CMC Member

Air Force Commander

Second Artillery Commander

CMC Member

Rocket Force Commander

Discipline Inspection Commission Director

CMC Discipline Inspection Commission Secretary

CMC Member

Key: GAD: General Armament Department; GLD: General Logistics Department; GPD: General Political Department; GSD: General Staff Department.

The four general departments were abolished, and the post-reform CMC staff grew into a much larger organization that now includes 15 departments, commissions, and offices. The parts of the general departments that focused on managing the ground forces moved into the new army headquarters, while those involved in executing space, cyber, signals intelligence, electronic warfare, and psychological warfare operations mostly moved to the Strategic Support Force. The remaining parts of the general departments were either converted into successor CMC departments (the CMC Joint Staff Department, CMC Political Work Department, CMC Logistics Support Department, and CMC Equipment Development Department) or elevated to the status of independent CMC departments, commissions, or offices (see table 2).

Table 2. CMC Departments, Commissions, and Offices



Initial Director

Current Director

General Office [办公厅]

General Office

GEN Qin Shengxiang

MG Zhong Shaojun

Joint Staff Department

General Staff Department (GSD)

GEN Fang Fenghui

GEN Li Zuocheng

Political Work Department

General Political Department (GPD)

GEN Zhang Yang

ADM Miao Hua

Logistics Support Department

General Logistics Department (GLD)

GEN Zhao Keshi

GEN Song Puxuan

Equipment Development Department [装备发展部]

General Armaments Department (GAD)

GEN Zhang Youxia

LTG Li Shangfu

Training and Administration Department [训练管理部]

GSD Military Training Department

LTG Zheng He [郑和]

LTG Li Huohui

National Defense Mobilization Department [国防动员部]

GSD Mobilization Department

MG Sheng Bin [盛斌]

LTG Sheng Bin

Discipline Inspection Commission [纪律检查委员会]

GPD Discipline Inspection

GEN Du Jincai

GEN Zhang
Shengmin [张升民]

Political and Legal Affairs Commission [政法委员会]

GPD Military Procuratorate

LTG Li Xiaofeng

LTG Song Dan

Science and Technology Commission

GAD Science and Technology

LTG Liu Guozhi

LTG Liu Guozhi

Strategic Planning Office

GSD Strategic Planning Department

MG Wang Huiqing

MG Wang Huiqing

Reform and Organization Office

GSD Military Affairs Department

MG Wang Chengzhi

MG Zhang Yu

Office of International Military Cooperation

MND/CMC Foreign Affairs Office

RADM Guan Youfei

MG Hu Changming

Audit Bureau [审计署]

GLD Audit Bureau

MG Guo Chunfu

MG Guo Chunfu

Organ Affairs General Management Bureau [机关事务管理总部]

GSD Management Support Department

MG Liu Zhiming

MG Liu Zhiming

Key: GAD: General Armament Department; GLD: General Logistics Department; GPD: General Political Department; GSD: General Staff Department.

This shift from a PLA centered on the general department system to one managed by the CMC and CMC staff reflects the three broad drivers of PLA reforms described in the introduction:

  • strengthening the PLA’s ability to plan and conduct joint operations in order to fight and win informationized wars
  • revitalizing party control and discipline within the PLA
  • improving “civil-military integration” so that the PLA can tap civilian resources and leverage breakthroughs in the civilian science and technology sector.

Strengthening the PLA’s Ability to Plan and Conduct Joint Operations

One way the reorganization strengthened the PLA’s ability to conduct joint operations is by reducing CMC responsibilities to allow greater focus on jointness and managing operations. Freed from the need to serve as army headquarters and operate technical intelligence collection and space operations, the expanded CMC staff can concentrate on building a joint force and supervising joint operations. The removal of service commanders from CMC membership weakens the services relative to the CMC, although ground force dominance and the service-centric organizational culture within the PLA remain obstacles to building a joint force. Key functions such as joint training (including military education), national defense mobilization, and strategic planning were elevated from second-level departments within the GSD to the status of independent departments and offices within the CMC staff, allowing the CMC chairman and vice chairmen direct oversight over these functions and improving their ability to push forward a joint agenda without obstruction from a GSD or Joint Staff Department director concerned about ground force equities. Some new CMC organs, such as the reform and organization office, were created to help implement leadership priorities.

Revitalizing Party Control and Discipline within the PLA

Bringing the general departments and most of their functions inside the CMC strengthens the ability of the CMC chairman and vice chairmen to monitor those personnel and activities. The CMC General Office is the key CMC staff organization responsible for ensuring compliance with CMC directives and gathering information on what the larger CMC bureaucracy is doing. That office’s critical role is reinforced by the fact that Zhong Shaojun, a longtime civilian aide [秘书] to Xi Jinping, was installed as a key General Office official to serve as Xi’s trusted eyes and ears within the military.3 Zhong followed Xi to Beijing, was appointed deputy director with a military rank of senior colonel, and was subsequently promoted to major general before being named as General Office director in 2018.4 The reorganization also seeks to strengthen the effectiveness of monitoring and control mechanisms by giving the Discipline Inspection Commission, Political and Legal Affairs Commission, and Audit Bureau independent status and the ability to report directly to CMC leaders without interference from their superiors.

Elevation of the CMC Discipline Inspection Commission director to CMC member status increases the authority of that organization within the PLA (and likely the effectiveness of its subsidiary discipline inspection commissions throughout major parts of the PLA). According to interviews, the discipline inspection system now functions as a parallel chain of information that reaches directly up to Xi and provides an independent assessment of the performance of commanders, political commissars, and party committees.5 This arrangement should reduce opportunities for commanders and political commissars to engage in corrupt practices and provide an independent source of information for Xi to use when making promotion decisions.

Improving Civil-Military Integration

The reorganization also strengthens parts of the PLA that collaborate with civilian counterparts in the state and party apparatus. The Science and Technology Commission, previously under the GAD, is now an independent CMC organ.6 The commission will promote civil-military cooperation in defense research and development and strengthen high-level guidance for the research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) system. The National Defense Mobilization Department, which manages the military districts and garrisons that interface with the party and civilian government organs that run China’s provinces and cities, is now an independent department that reports directly to top CMC leaders. The CMC’s Office of International Military Cooperation helps ensure that military diplomacy is coordinated with China’s broader foreign policy objectives.

Assessing Effectiveness of CMC Reforms

While the shift from the general department system to an expanded CMC staff system has a clear organizational logic that corresponds to the goals that PLA reforms are intended to advance, this does not necessarily mean that the organizational reforms will achieve their intended results. The reforms should increase effectiveness and improve monitoring by creating a clearer division of responsibilities and improving the flow of information from the agents (CMC staff organs) to the principal (CMC chairman and vice chairmen). Our assessment is that the PLA has adopted a CMC organizational structure that can support development of a more effective joint force, but that result is by no means guaranteed.

Challenges include the fact that the expanded CMC staff is a larger, more complex organization to run than its smaller predecessor, which delegated more responsibilities to the general departments. As in other aspects of current Chinese government reforms, this reflects an impulse to centralize power and Xi’s reluctance to delegate responsibilities to others. The “CMC Chairman Responsibility System” calls for Xi to make all the important military decisions. Given that the scarcest resource in government is high-level attention, how much time can Xi actually devote to these responsibilities?7 Does he trust the CMC vice chairmen enough to delegate some decisions to them?

This challenge is aggravated by the fact that the PLA’s organizational culture does not encourage independent decisionmaking and taking responsibility, which suggests that greater centralization may slow down decisionmaking. According to one PLA source, many of the senior officers Xi has appointed are relatively inexperienced and reluctant to make decisions. Instead, they pass the buck to their superiors.8 Xi’s promulgation of his own thought on military matters—now required study within the PLA—may also make senior officers more reluctant to challenge suboptimal decisions from the top. The result may be slower decisionmaking and difficulty in correcting mistakes.

Finally, most key CMC and CMC staff positions are held by army officers, and all of them are staffed by officers whose careers have been spent in a military dominated by the ground forces and with rigid promotion and assignment systems. Will their decisions reflect their personal experiences in a PLA with limited jointness or the leadership’s goal of building a military capable of conducting integrated joint operations? Can the PLA move from a service-centric mentality to a joint mentality? Even if the structure of the reorganized CMC supports efforts to build an effective joint military force, the individuals in key leadership positions may frustrate that objective. Building a joint force with capable joint commanders and staff officers may ultimately require generational change.

Overview of CMC Departments, Commissions, and Offices

The rest of this appendix describes the composition of the post-reform CMC and functions of the new CMC departments, commissions, and offices that were announced on January 11, 2016. These departments, commissions, and offices are presented in the protocol order provided by authoritative People’s Republic of China media accounts.9

CMC Departments [bu, /ting, ]

General Office [bangongting, 办公厅]

The CMC retained a General Office whose key responsibilities include managing information flows between CMC members and subsidiary departments, providing advice, and conducting policy research.10 Under Xi, a key mission of the General Office has been implementing the CMC Chairman Responsibility System, which refers to the principle that all important decisions ultimately rest with Xi.11 Authoritative Chinese sources list the General Office ahead of all other CMC departments, including those led by former general department directors (that is, Joint Staff, Political Work, Logistics Support, and Equipment Development), underscoring its importance in ensuring that CMC orders are being implemented across the PLA. The office’s director from 2012 through 2017 was Lieutenant General Qin Shengxiang, who previously served as director of the General Political Department Organization Department.12 In late 2017, Qin departed to serve as the PLA Navy’s political commissar but a successor was not immediately announced. Major General Zhong Shaojun, one of Xi’s longtime civilian aides, was promoted from his position as deputy director to CMC General Office director in 2018.13

Joint Staff Department [lianhe canmou bu, 联合参谋部]

The Joint Staff Department is responsible for command and control (C2), “combat command support” [zuozhan zhihui baozhang, 作战指挥保障], campaign planning, formulating military strategy, organizing joint training, performing combat capability assessments, and working to ensure combat readiness [zhanbei jianshe, 战备建设].14 Thus, the department performs many of the functions of the former General Staff Department Operations Department [zongcan zuozhan bu, 总参作战部].15 The Joint Staff Department also likely absorbed some of the GSD’s role in intelligence collection and analysis (former 2PLA) and, as documented in the chapter in this volume by Costello and McReynolds, plays a role in cyber and electronic warfare management through its Network-Electronic Bureau (former 4PLA). Other former GSD functions were transferred to the Strategic Support Force and service headquarters. The organization plays a significant role in the evolving joint C2 structure by serving as the institutional link between the CMC and five joint theater commands, though the nature of that role remains unclear.16 Its initial director was former Chief of the General Staff General Fang Fenghui. In August 2017, Fang, who had become embroiled in an anti-corruption investigation, was replaced by former PLA ground force commander Li Zuocheng. Li serves concurrently as a CMC member.

Political Work Department [zhengzhi gongzuo bu, 政治工作部]

The Political Work Department performs the duties of the previous GPD, including overseeing political education, “human resources management,” and party organizations within the military, in addition to managing the PLA’s internal and external propaganda arms. Some have speculated that the Political Work Department might have assumed the former GSD Military Affairs Department’s role in enlisted personnel management.17 This department is instrumental in strengthening the party’s “absolute leadership” over the military, which has been a consistent theme of the reforms.18 However, unlike the former GPD, the Political Work Department does not oversee party discipline inspection or the military prosecutorial system; those functions migrated to independent Discipline Inspection and Political and Legal Affairs commissions under the CMC. It was initially led by former GPD Director General Zhang Yang. Zhang, who like Fang Fenghui was caught up in an anti-corruption investigation, was replaced in September 2017 by Admiral Miao Hua, former PLA Navy political commissar. Miao serves concurrently as a CMC member.

Logistics Support Department [houqin baozhang bu, 后勤保障部]

The Logistics Support Department is responsible for overseeing logistics support, setting standards, performing inspections, and carrying out other duties previously entrusted to the General Logistics Department.19 As Luce and Richter note in their chapter in this volume, the Logistics Support Department also plays a role in facilities management, contracting, budget management and funds disbursement, international military engagement, and overall administration of PLA hospitals and medical programs.” A key focus of the department is managing the logistics system, though combat support appears to be carried out by the Joint Logistics Support Force and its subordinate units.20 Its first director was former GLD Director General Zhao Keshi, who retired in October 2017, and was replaced by former Northern Theater commander General Song Puxuan.

Equipment Development Department [zhuangbei fazhan bu, 装备发展部]

Like its predecessor, the General Armaments Department, the Equipment Development Department performs RDT&E functions and oversees procurement management and information systems building [xinxi xitong jianshe, 信息系统建设]. However, the GAD’s Science and Technology Commission did not migrate to this department and was instead placed directly under the CMC (see below). In addition, the GAD’s role in overseeing equipment development for the ground forces was sent to the new army headquarters. According to the Ministry of National Defense (MND), the PLA aims for a division of labor in RDT&E between the new CMC department, services, and theaters, but how this will work in practice is unclear.21 The initial director was former GAD Director General Zhang Youxia. Following Zhang’s elevation to CMC vice chairman in October 2017, the department was directed by Lieutenant General Li Shangfu, a previous deputy commander of the Strategic Support Force.

Training and Administration Department [xunlian guanli bu, 训练管理部]

The Training and Administration Department is responsible for overseeing training and professional military education, and likely coordinates with the Joint Staff Department, theater commands, and services to develop joint training requirements and assess training programs. It replaced the former GSD Military Training Department [zongcan junxun bu, 总参军训部], which had been stood up in 2011.22 Establishing a training department under direct CMC supervision underscores the importance of strengthening “realistic” joint training across the PLA.23 The first director was Lieutenant General Zheng He, who went on to serve as president of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences and later the PLA National Defense University. He was replaced by Lieutenant General Li Huohui, who was previously commander of the 31st Group Army, one of the PLA’s elite units.

National Defense Mobilization Department [guofang dongyuan bu, 国防动员部]

The National Defense Mobilization Department oversees the reserve forces and the provincial military districts [sheng junqu, 省军区] and below, other than the Tibet and Xinjiang Military Districts and the Beijing Garrison (which were placed under the army headquarters in part due to their higher bureaucratic grade).24 This department succeeds the former GSD Mobilization Department [canmou dongyuan bu, 总参动员部]. Elevating mobilization to a separate CMC department highlights the importance of civil-military integration, given the office’s oversight over reserve force and mobilization planning.25 The first director was Lieutenant General Sheng Bin, who was previously deputy commander of the Shenyang Military Region.

CMC Commissions [weiyuanhui, 委员会]

Discipline Inspection Commission [jilu jiancha weiyuanhui, 纪律检查委员会]

The CMC Discipline Inspection Commission is responsible for enforcing party discipline within the PLA, including conducting investigations of suspected corrupt personnel. Its mission parallels that of the civilian Central Discipline Inspection Commission, which has played a prominent role in China’s anti-corruption campaign since late 2012. Although Chinese sources describe this as a new organization,26 the CMC has had a discipline inspection commission since November 1980.27 However, the work of that commission was reportedly carried out by the GPD. Its inaugural secretary was General Du Jincai, a previous GPD deputy director. In March 2017, Du was replaced by General Zhang Shengmin, who had been political commissar of the CMC Logistics Support Department. Zhang was appointed a CMC member at the 19th Party Congress.

Political and Legal Affairs Commission [zhengfa weiyuanhui, 政法委员会]

This organization establishes regulations and legal norms to improve the administration of the PLA—what the Chinese armed forces call “regularization” [zhengguihua, 正规化].28 It also helps to “prevent, investigate, and deal with” criminal activities in the military.29 Centralizing the military’s legal system reduces the potential for interference with the enforcement of laws and regulations at lower levels. Previously, the military court system and Military Procuratorate (which conducted police investigations) were under the GPD. The organization parallels the civilian Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, formerly under Zhou Yongkang, which supervises the legal and police systems. The first secretary of the CMC Politics and Law Commission was Lieutenant General Li Xiaofeng, who previously served as the PLA’s chief procurator. In March 2017, he was replaced by Lieutenant General Song Dan, previously the commission’s deputy secretary.

Science and Technology Commission [kexue jishu weiyuanhui, 科学技术委员会]

As part of the CMC reshuffling, the PLA’s Science and Technology Commission was transferred from the GAD to direct CMC oversight.30 It continues to be responsible for advising PLA leadership on weapons development and serving as a nexus for collaboration between the armed forces and defense industry.31 Moving the commission to the CMC highlights the importance of civil-military integration to the PLA, a theme of the larger reforms. The commission’s director remained Lieutenant General Liu Guozhi, who was appointed to his position in 2014.32

CMC Offices [bangongshi, 办公室/shu, /zongju, 总局]

Strategic Planning Office [zhanlüe guihua bangongshi, 战略规划办公室]

The Strategic Planning Office is responsible for centralizing authority over “military strategic planning.”33 It replaced the GSD Strategic Planning Department, which was established in 2011 and carried out functions such as long-term strategic analysis, resource allocation analysis, and organizational reform analysis.34 The new department continues to perform some of these roles, including managing military budgets and project evaluation and accountability systems.35 Organizational reform issues, however, appear more likely to be addressed within the CMC Reform and Organization Office (see below). Major General Wang Huiqing remained as the office’s director after its transfer from the GSD.

Reform and Organization Office [gaige he bianzhi bangongshi, 改革和编制办公室]

The Reform and Organization Office is responsible for coordinating military reforms and managing the PLA’s organizational structure.36 The organization likely coordinates closely with the CMC’s military reform leading small group [zhongyang junwei zhenhua guofang he jundui gaige liangdao xiaozu, 中央军委深化国防和军队改革领导小组], which was established in 2014 to provide guidance for the entire reform process under Xi’s leadership.37 It appears to replace some functions of the former GSD Military Affairs Department [zongcan junwu bu, 总参军务部] and may also have acquired some responsibilities from the former GSD Strategic Planning Department related to organizational reform.38 The office’s first director was Major General Wang Chengzhi, who formerly led the GPD’s Direct Work Department [zong zheng zhishu gongzuo bu, 总政直属工作部]. In 2017, he was replaced by Major General Zhang Yu, who previously served as the office’s deputy director.

Office of International Military Cooperation [guoji junshi hezuo bangongshi, 国际军事合作办公室]

The CMC Office of International Military Cooperation is responsible for managing foreign military exchanges and cooperation and supervising foreign affairs work throughout the PLA.39 It replaced the previous MND Foreign Affairs Office [guofang bu waishi bangongshi, 国防部外事办公室], which had doubled as the CMC General Office Foreign Affairs Office (FAO). However, the MND Information Affairs Bureau [guofang bu xinwen shiwu ju, 国防部新闻事务局], part of the former FAO that conducts news briefings, remained within the MND. Clarifying the office’s status within the CMC underscores the importance of military diplomacy, which has been an emphasis of Xi.40 The first director of the office was Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, who previously headed the MND Foreign Affairs Office.41 In May 2017, Guan was replaced by Major General Hu Changming, who had previously served as the office’s deputy director.

Audit Bureau [shenji shu, 审计署]

The Audit Bureau is responsible for inspecting PLA finances and supervising the military’s audit system.42 This office was previously located within the GLD but moved to the CMC in November 2014.43 Like the Discipline Inspection Commission, the Audit Bureau sends inspection teams to units throughout the PLA to ensure compliance with rules and root out corruption.44 Major General Guo Chunfu was appointed to lead the office in December 2015.45

Organ Affairs General Management Bureau [jiguan shiwu guanli zongbu, 机关事务管理总部]

This is a new organization responsible for providing administrative support to CMC departments and subsidiary organs.46 The office was apparently the result of a merger between the former GSD Management Support Department [canmou guanli baozhang bu, 总参管理保障部], which served a logistics function (for example, facilities management), and similar offices from the other general departments.47 The new bureau appears to continue to play a role in provisioning supplies as well as in managing military wages.48 One role of the office is “cutting support units and personnel,” which suggests that it has played a role in implementing the PLA’s planned 300,000-person force reduction.49 The bureau’s first director was Major General Liu Zhiming, former head of the Shenyang Military Region Joint Logistics Department.


1 “China Reshuffles Military Headquarters,” Xinhua, January 11, 2016, available at <>; “MND Holds Press Conference on CMC Organ Reshuffle,” China Military Online, January 12, 2016, available at <>. This appendix is adapted from Joel Wuthnow and Phillip C. Saunders, Chinese Military Reforms in the Age of Xi Jinping: Drivers, Challenges, and Implications, China Strategic Perspectives 10 (Washington, DC: NDU Press, 2017), 61–65.

2 Tai Ming Cheung, “The Riddle in the Middle: China’s Central Military Commission in the Twenty-First Century,” in PLA Influence on China’s National Security Policymaking, ed. Phillip C. Saunders and Andrew Scobell (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015), 90–92.

3 Edward Wong, “The ‘Gatekeeper’ in Xi Jinping’s Inner Circle,” New York Times, September 30, 2015, available at <>.

4 “Zhong Shaojun Takes Up the Post of CMC General Office Director” [钟绍军出任军委办公厅主任], Sina News [新浪网], September 18, 2018, available at <>.

5 Authors’ interviews, December 2017.

6 For details on the pre-reform General Armament Department, see Kevin Pollpeter and Amy Chang, “General Armament Department,” in The PLA as Organization v2.0, ed. Kevin Pollpeter and Kenneth W. Allen (Vienna, VA: DGI, Inc., 2015), 228–231.

7 This rule is also known as the Saunders Theorem.

8 Authors’ interviews, December 2017.

9 “China Reshuffles Military Headquarters”; “MND Holds Press Conference on CMC Organ Reshuffle.”

10 Cheung, “The Riddle in the Middle,” 90–92.

11 Tian Yixiang, “Faithfully Implement the Duties and Responsibilities of the CMC General Office” [忠实履行军委办公厅职责使命], PLA Daily [解放军报], April 28, 2016, available at <>.

12 “Which Generals Will Be on the CMC after the Reform?” [哪些将军这次会后调进中央军委?], China Youth Online [中国青年网], January 12, 2016, available at <>. For biographical details on Lieutenant General Qin, see “CMC General Office Director Qin Shengxiang Promoted to Lieutenant General” [中央军委办公厅主任秦生祥晋升中将], Caixin Wang [财新王], July 21, 2015, available at <>.

13 “Zhong Shaojun Takes Up the Post of CMC General Office Director.”

14 “MND Holds Press Conference on CMC Organ Reshuffle.”

15 The Operations Department was sometimes known as the 1st Department
[总参一部], a second-level (corps leader grade) department within General Services Department. See Mark A. Stokes and Ian Easton, “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department: Evolving Organizations and Missions,” in The PLA as Organization v2.0, 142–145.

16 Alice Miller, “The Central Military Commission,” in The PLA as Organization v2.0, 97.

17 Kenneth W. Allen, Dennis J. Blasko, and John F. Corbett, Jr., “The PLA’s New Organizational Structure: What Is Known, Unknown, Or Speculation (Part 1),” China Brief 16, no. 3 (February 4, 2016), available at <>.

18 “MND Holds Press Conference on CMC Organ Reshuffle.”

19 Ibid.

20 See chapter in this volume by Luce and Richter.

21 “MND Holds Press Conference on CMC Organ Reshuffle.”

22 Stokes and Easton, “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department,” 154–157.

23 See “Reform Efforts Should Be Focused on the ‘Strategic Hubs’” [改革要向战略枢纽聚焦用力], PLA Daily [解放军报], April 22, 2014, available at <>.

24 Allen, Blasko, and Corbett, “The PLA’s New Organizational Structure.”

25 This theme was highlighted in a Chinese report about the initial activities of the department. See “Demystifying the Newly Established CMC National Defense Mobilization Department” [揭秘新成立的中央军委国防动员部], China Youth Daily [中国青年报], January 29, 2016, available at <>.

26 “MND Holds Press Conference on CMC Organ Reshuffle.”

27 Roy Kamphausen, “The General Political Department,” in The PLA as Organization v2.0, 173.

28 For a discussion, see Thomas A. Bickford, “Regularization and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army,” Asian Survey 40, no. 3 (May–June 2000), 456–474.

29 Strengthening the “socialist rule of law” [社会主义法制] is a theme of the broader national reforms, highlighted in particular at the 4th Plenum of the 18th Central Committee held in October 2014. See “Highlights of Communique of 4th Plenary Session of CPC Central Committee,” Xinhua, October 23, 2014, available at <>.

30 Kevin Pollpeter and Amy Chang, “General Armament Department,” in The PLA as Organization v2.0, 223–224.

31 “MND Holds Press Conference on CMC Organ Reshuffle.”

32 “Which Generals Will Be on the CMC After the Reform?”

33 “MND Holds Press Conference on CMC Organ Reshuffle.”

34 Stokes and Easton, “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department,” 153–154.

35 Li Guang, “Promote the Innovative Development of Military Strategic Planning” [推进军队战略规划工作创新发展], PLA Daily [解放军报], April 28, 2016, available at <>.

36 “MND Holds Press Conference on CMC Organ Reshuffle.”

37 See “Xi Leads China’s Military Reform, Stresses Strong Army,” Xinhua, March 15, 2014, available at <>.

38 The GSD Military Affairs Department was also responsible for welfare and benefits and served as the personnel center for enlisted servicemen. It is unclear if the new CMC office will assume these duties. See Stokes and Easton, 159–160.

39 “MND Holds Press Conference on CMC Organ Reshuffle.”

40 “Xi Jinping: Further Innovate a New Situation in Military Diplomacy” [习近平:进一步开创军事外交新局面], Xinhua, January 29, 2015, available at <>.

41 “Which Generals Will Be on the CMC After the Reform?”

42 This organization has also been translated as “Audit Office.” However, “Audit Bureau” may be a better translation of shu [] and distinguish it from bangongshi [办公室] (“office”).

43 “China Military Reaches Key Decision to Strengthen Auditing,” Xinhua, November 4, 2014, available at <>.

44 “MND Holds Press Conference on CMC Organ Reshuffle.”

45 “Guo Chunfu Becomes Director of PLA Audit Office, in a New Role Twice In a Year” [郭春富任解放军审计署审计长 年内两度履新], Caixin Online [财新网], December 30, 2015, available at <>.

46 Jiguan [机关] may also be translated as “office” or “organization.”

47 Allen, Blasko, and Corbett, “The PLA’s New Organizational Structure.”

48 Li Tongzhu, “Focus On Building a New-Type Service Support System” [着力构建新型服务保障体系], PLA Daily [解放军报], January 25, 2016, available at <>.

49 “MND Holds Press Conference on CMC Organ Reshuffle.”

About the Contributors
By NDU Press | Feb. 5, 2019

Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA → About the Contributors

About the Contributors

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Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga is a Policy Analyst at the RAND Corporation, where he focuses on Asian security issues. Prior to joining RAND, Beauchamp-Mustafaga was the Editor of the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief. He has also spent time with the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the Center for International and Strategic Studies at Peking University (CISS) under Wang Jisi and Zhu Feng, and the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC). Beauchamp-Mustafaga graduated from the dual-degree MSc in International Affairs program at the London School of Economics and Peking University, and earned a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and Chinese Language and Literature from the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University.

Dennis J. Blasko is an Asian Analyst in the China Security Affairs Group at CNA Corporation. He is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army. He served as an army attaché in Beijing and in Hong Kong from 1992 to 1996. Blasko is the author of The Chinese Army Today: Tradition and Transformation for the 21st Century, 2nd edition (Routledge 2012).

Edmund J. Burke is a senior intelligence and defense researcher at the RAND Corporation. Mr. Burke has served in and out of government as a China specialist since 1988. Immediately prior to joining RAND, he was a Senior Executive and the senior China officer at NGA. Mr. Burke was in the private sector from 2001-2009; in 2003 he founded a consulting firm, which was eventually acquired by a large defense contractor. From 1997-2001 Mr. Burke was an all source analyst, manager and PDB briefer at CIA. He spent his first nine years of government service as a China analyst at the National Photographic Interpretation Center. is a senior intelligence and defense researcher at the RAND Corporation.

Arthur Chan was previously a policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. Prior to joining RAND, he worked at the National Bureau of Asian Research, the American Enterprise Institute, the NYU Department of Politics and the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France. Arthur holds a Masters in European Affairs from Sciences Po Paris and a BA in political science and French from New York University. He is a native speaker of Cantonese and has professional proficiency in Mandarin and French.

John Chen is a Research Associate at the Special Programs Division of SOS International, where he conducts China-related research and analysis on foreign policy, national security, and science and technology issues using Chinese-language sources. He received an AB from Dartmouth College and an MA from Georgetown University.

Tai Ming Cheung is Director of the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) located at the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla. He leads the institute’s Study of Innovation and Technology in China project that examines China’s efforts to become a world-class science and technology power. Dr. Cheung is also a professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego, where he teaches courses on Chinese foreign and defense policy and Chinese security and technology policy. Dr. Cheung is a long-time analyst of Chinese and East Asian defense and national security affairs, especially defense economic, industrial and science and technological issues. He is the author of Fortifying China: The Struggle to Build a Modern Defense Economy (Cornell University Press, 2009), editor of Forging China’s Military Might: A New Framework for Assessing Innovation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014), and co-editor of The Gathering Pacific Storm: Emerging US-China Strategic Competition in Defense Technological and Industrial Development (Cambria Press, 2018). He was based in Northeast Asia (Hong Kong, China, and Japan) from the mid-1980s to 2002 covering political, economic, and strategic developments in Greater China and East Asia as a journalist for the Far Eastern Economic Review from 1988-1993 and subsequently as a political and business risk consultant for a number of companies, including PricewaterhouseCoopers. Dr. Cheung has a PhD in War Studies from King’s College, London.

John Costello is Director of the Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans in the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security. He coauthored this chapter before taking his current position. Previously, he served as a Cybersecurity Policy Fellow in New America’s Cybersecurity Initiative and a Senior Analyst for Cyber and East Asia at Flashpoint. He is also a former Congressional Innovation Fellow for majority staff in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. During his time on the Hill, Costello helped investigate the 2015 breach into the Office of Personnel Management and helped oversee federal IT management. Previously, Costello was a research analyst at Defense Group, Inc., where he concentrated on Chinese cyber espionage, information warfare, and intellectual property theft. He is a U.S. Navy veteran, former NSA analyst, and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, having graduated with honors from the Defense Language Institute. His insights have appeared in Wired, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Jamestown China Brief. Costello’s research focuses on Chinese cyber forces, evolving technology and innovation environment, and quantum technologies.

Mark R. Cozad is a senior international defense research analyst at RAND. Previously, he served in both the military and intelligence community in a variety of areas including intelligence analysis, targeting, operational planning, and strategy development. Cozad’s work at RAND focuses on strategic warning, intelligence analysis, and security issues in Europe and East Asia. In his final assignment in the intelligence community he served as the deputy to the Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for the President’s Daily Brief (PDB). Immediately preceding his assignment to the ODNI, he was the Defense Intelligence Officer for East Asia, the senior intelligence officer on that issue within the Department of Defense.

Andrew S. Erickson is a Professor of Strategy in the U.S. Naval War College (NWC)’s China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI). As a core founding member, he helped to establish CMSI and to stand it up officially in 2006, and has subsequently played an integral role in its development. CMSI has inspired the creation of other research centers, to which he has provided advice and support. Since 2008 Erickson has been an Associate in Research at Harvard University’s John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. He is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Kim Fassler is a political-military analyst at the U.S. Department of Defense where her focus includes U.S.-China relations and East Asia political and security issues. She holds an M.A. in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a B.A. in political science and Chinese from Williams College. Ms. Fassler also studied at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center on a National Security Education Program Boren Fellowship. Originally from Honolulu, she worked in journalism, public relations, and energy consulting before starting her career with the U.S. Government.

David M. Finkelstein is a Vice President of CNA and Director for China and Indo-Pacific Security Studies. A retired U.S. Army Officer, Dr. Finkelstein held command and staff positions in various field units and China-related positions at the Pentagon. He also served on the faculty at West Point, where he taught Chinese and Japanese history and the history of warfare in Asia. Finkelstein holds a Ph.D. in Chinese and Japanese history from Princeton University, is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College, and the Army War College. He also studied Mandarin Chinese in Tianjin, China at Nankai University. A long-time student of Chinese security affairs, his edited volumes include Chinese Warfighting: The PLA Experience Since 1949 (ME Sharpe), China’s Revolution in Doctrinal Affairs: Developments in the Operational Art of the People’s Liberation Army (CNA), Civil-Military Relations in Today’s China: Swimming in a New Sea (ME Sharpe), and China’s Leadership in the 21st Century: The Rise of the Fourth Generation (ME Sharpe). His historical monograph, From Abandonment to Salvation: Washington’s Taiwan Dilemma, 1949-50 (George Mason University and Naval Institute Press), was hailed in Presidential Studies Quarterly as “blazing a new trail” and as certain to “take an important place in the literature of U.S.-China relations in the mid-20th Century.”

Daniel Gearin is a liaison officer with the Department of Defense, currently serving in Taipei, Taiwan. Daniel previously served as an analyst with the Department of Defense, focusing on China’s military capabilities. Before joining the Department of Defense, Daniel held research positions with the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the National Defense University, and the Brookings Institution. He obtained a B.A. in International Affairs from Northeastern University, and an M.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University. Daniel also spent two years living in Beijing, China studying Mandarin Chinese.

Justin Godby is a Department of Defense political-military analyst specializing in East Asia security issues. He previously served as a liaison officer to the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Asia-Pacific Security Affairs and as a researcher for James Madison University’s Institute for National Security Analysis. Mr. Godby will graduate in 2018 with a M.S. in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University created by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Mr. Godby attended James Madison University and graduated with a B.S. in Information Analysis and a minor in Asian Studies.

Brian Lafferty is a Chinese language researcher at the Special Programs Division of SOS International, specializing in research on China’s defense science and technology development. He has written a number of articles, briefs, and conference papers concerning China’s civil-military integration. Dr. Lafferty holds a B.A. from Cornell University and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University.

David C. Logan is a Ph.D. Student in Security Studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where his research focuses on U.S.-China security relations and nuclear strategy and arms control. His writing has been published by Asian Security, Nonproliferation Review, Foreign Affairs, Joint Force Quarterly, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Mr. Logan attended Grinnell College and received his MPA in International Relations from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

LeighAnn Luce is an independent analyst specializing in Chinese civil-military integration and science and technology development with a particular focus on defense electronics and information technology. She has previously worked as a senior engineer at SOS International’s Special Programs Division as well as an Associate Deputy Director of Technical Analysis at Defense Group Incorporated’s Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis. Ms. Luce attended the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and received a dual B.A. in International Relations and Chinese Language and Literature, with concentrations in Asian Studies and International Economics.

Ma Chengkun is Professor and Dean of the College of PLA Studies at Taiwan’s National Defense University. Professor Ma received his Ph.D. in China’s war behavior study from National Taiwan University and specializes in People’s Liberation Army affairs. His articles include “China’s security strategy and military development” and “China’s three warfares against Taiwan.” Professor Ma is currently researching China’s military strategic thinking and military transformation and participates in international academic exchanges about China’s military modernization with various countries.

Joel McFadden is a specialist in East Asian politics and security issues with the U.S. Department of Defense. Prior to joining the federal government in 2008, he worked for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) as a senior aide on defense and greater China policy. Mr. McFadden holds a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and has also studied Chinese history and language at Fudan University in Shanghai. He spent most of his youth living in the Asia-Pacific region including Taiwan.

Joe McReynolds is a Principal Cyber Analyst at SOS International. His research interests primarily center on China’s approach to computer network warfare and defense science & technology development. Mr. McReynolds has previously worked with the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pacific Council for International Policy, and is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and Graduate Security Studies programs. He speaks and reads Chinese and Japanese, and has lived and studied in Nagoya, Guilin, and Beijing.

Ian Burns McCaslin is a contract researcher at the U.S. National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs and a China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) Associate. Previously, he worked as an intern at the Project 2049 Institute. He received his B.A. in International Studies with a minor in Mandarin Chinese from Ohio Wesleyan University and his M.A. in International Relations from the National University of Singapore (NUS). At NUS his thesis focused on the role of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in China’s foreign policy and behavior abroad using the Korean War, 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, and the South China Sea as case studies. He has also studied at National Taiwan University and Fudan University.

Erin Richter is a Senior Intelligence Officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency where she has specialized in Chinese military capabilities and civil-military interdependencies for the last 14 years. Erin has served for the last 20 years in the United States Marine Corps as a logistics officer, intelligence officer, and reserve attaché, completing reserve and active duty assignments throughout the Indo-Pacific, in the Middle East, Balkans, and within the continental United States. She is a graduate of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and Joint Forces Staff College, and holds a M.A. in International Affairs from American University and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Maryland.

Phillip C. Saunders is Director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs and a Distinguished Research Fellow at National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies. Dr. Saunders previously worked at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, where he was Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program from 1999-2003, and served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force from 1989-1994. Dr. Saunders is co-author with David Gompert of The Paradox of Power: Sino-American Strategic Restraint in an Era of Vulnerability (NDU Press, 2011) and co-editor of five books on Chinese military and security issues. Dr. Saunders attended Harvard College and received his MPA and Ph.D. in International Relations from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

Andrew Scobell is a Senior Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation. He was previously an Associate Professor of international affairs at the George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. He is the author of China’s Use of Military Force: Beyond the Great Wall and the Long March (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and co-authored China’s Search for Security (Columbia University Press, 2012). In addition to editing or co-editing 12 books, Dr. Scobell has written dozens of reports, monographs, journal articles, and book chapters. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.

Joel Wuthnow is a Research Fellow in the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at National Defense University’s Institute for National for Strategic Studies. He also serves as an adjunct professor in both the Eisenhower School at NDU and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Dr. Wuthnow has worked as a China analyst at CNA, a postdoctoral fellow in the China and the World Program at Princeton University, and a pre-doctoral fellow at The Brookings Institution. He is the author of Chinese Diplomacy and the UN Security Council (Routledge). Dr. Wuthnow holds degrees from Princeton University (A.B., summa cum laude, in Public and International Affairs), Oxford University (M.Phil. in Modern Chinese Studies), and Columbia University (Ph.D. in Political Science).

18. Conclusion: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms
By Phillip C. Saunders and Joel Wuthnow | Feb. 5, 2019

Chapter 18

Assessing Chinese Military Reforms

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Phillip C. Saunders is Director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs and a Distinguished Research Fellow at National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies. Joel Wuthnow is a Research Fellow in the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at National Defense University’s Institute for National for Strategic Studies. He also serves as an adjunct professor in both the Eisenhower School at NDU and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. 

China’s military reforms are driven by Xi Jinping’s ambition to reshape the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to improve its ability to win informationized [xinxihua, 信息化] wars and to ensure that it remains loyal to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). There is broad political support within the party for Xi’s goal of building a stronger military. The outline of the current military reform agenda was endorsed at the third plenum of the 18th Party Congress in November 2013, and Xi played a central role in working with PLA leaders to develop detailed reorganization plans and implement the reform agenda.1 At the first meeting of the new leading group on military reform in early 2014, Xi declared that the overriding goal was to produce a military that can “fight and win battles.”2 The 19th Party Congress work report in October 2017 advanced the timeline for Chinese military modernization, calling for achieving mechanization and making strides on informationization and building strategic capabilities by 2020 and building “world-class forces” [shijie yiliu jun, 世界一流军] by mid-century.3

The reforms are unprecedented in their ambition and in the scale and scope of the organizational changes. Virtually every part of the PLA now reports to different leaders, has had its mission and responsibilities changed, has lost or gained subordinate units, or has undergone a major internal reorganization. The relationships between and among the Central Military Commission (CMC) departments, offices, and commissions, the services, and the theater commands have all changed. The military education system has been reformed to reduce duplication and place greater emphasis on jointness, and changes to the military assignment, promotion, and grade/rank systems are still to come. The reforms will have important implications for the PLA’s responsiveness to political direction and ability to achieve the modernization goals that the CCP has set for it.

The chapters in this book explore various dimensions of Xi’s PLA reform agenda in detail. This conclusion draws the analytical threads together to assess what difference the reforms are likely to make for the PLA’s ability to conduct joint operations, for the CCP’s control of the army, and for civil-military integration. The analytic judgments draw on some of the arguments, evidence, and assessments presented in the individual chapters, but those authors do not necessarily share all our conclusions.

Assessing the Reforms

While the reforms are not complete, the chapters in this book show how much has been accomplished in a relatively short period. One important judgment is that Xi and fellow PLA reformers have succeeded in forcing the military to adopt needed reforms that previous CMC Chairmen Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao were unable to push through and that the PLA could not adopt on its own. Xi’s political strategy for pushing his reform agenda through bureaucratic opposition appears to have succeeded, with the reforms breaking up the four general departments (previously described as “independent kingdoms”), reducing the institutional power of the previously dominant ground forces and purging the senior PLA officer corps of many potentially disloyal and corrupt elements.4

The structural reorganization of the PLA is basically complete, with the responsibilities and constituent parts of the four general departments redistributed to CMC departments, commissions, and offices or sent to the new army headquarters, Strategic Support Force, or the Joint Logistic Support Force. The seven military regions have been converted into five joint theater commands, which now exercise operational control over the ground, naval, air, and conventional Rocket Force units within their areas of responsibility. The army has stood up its new headquarters, the Rocket Force is now a full-fledged service, and the Strategic Support Force and Joint Logistics Support Force are both operational. Ground force group armies and air force fighter and fighter-bomber units have been reorganized into a standardized “group army/corps-brigade-battalion” structure. The PLA claims to have completed its downsizing of 300,000 officers and troops, cutting over 1,000 units and 30 percent of commissioned officers by the end of 2017.5 The military education system has been reorganized and downsized to achieve efficiencies and increase emphasis on joint operations and technology. Changes have also been made to the People’s Armed Police, which handles domestic security as part of China’s armed forces. Planned changes to the military assignment, promotion, and grade/rank systems—which will have a major impact on the ultimate success of the reforms—are yet to be implemented.

Improving Joint Operations Capability

The reforms revised the division of labor within the PLA, with the CMC providing “general management” [junwei guan zong, 军委管总], the theater commands focusing on operations [zhanqu zhu zhan, 战区主战], and the services managing force-building [junzhong zhu jian, 军种主建].6 The resulting theater joint command and control structure, with the theater commands exercising control of ground, naval, and air forces through service-specific theater component headquarters, rectifies a major problem with the pre-reform command and control structure, where the military region headquarters did not have peacetime command of naval, air, and missile units within its area of responsibility. The new construct should be much better suited to joint planning, training, and operations. PLA joint exercises at the theater level appear to be focused on developing the ability of commanders and their staffs to employ joint forces effectively. There have been significant growing pains as the theater commands and their components adjust to new command relationships and learn how to work together, but the basic joint command structure appears to be workable. The disruption caused by the organizational reshuffling and personnel downsizing has probably reduced the PLA’s near-term combat readiness, but the reforms are likely to produce significant improvements in the PLA’s ability to plan and execute larger and more complex joint operations within 2 to 3 years.

Important questions remain about the relationships between the CMC’s Joint Staff Department (JSD) and theater commands and about how theater commanders will tap nuclear and nonnuclear strategic capabilities that remain under CMC command. The reforms established joint command and control structures at the national level (under the CMC’s JSD, which also has nominal control of operations beyond China’s periphery) and at the theater level (the theater commands). But the precise division of labor and willingness of the CMC to delegate decision authority to the theater commander remains unclear. Will the JSD (acting on behalf of the CMC) view its role primarily as providing supporting strategic capabilities (such as antiship ballistic missiles, intelligence derived from space and cyber systems, counterspace and offensive cyber capabilities, and long-range precision strike) to help a theater commander execute his war plan, or will the JSD (run by a CMC-member grade officer senior to the theater commanders) attempt to micromanage the theater’s operations? The prevailing PLA organizational culture emphasizes caution and deference to authority, not taking responsibility for actions not fully vetted with more senior leaders.7 The notion of empowering military officers to exercise initiative to carry out the intent of their commanders (known as mission command), which is integral to some Western militaries, is not culturally accepted in the PLA at present.8 Integrated communications systems and a common operational picture provide both opportunities for timely support and temptations to intervene in the decisions of subordinate commanders.

A second question is the role of the services in supporting joint operations and building a joint force. In principle the reforms remove the service headquarters from operations, but in practice all of them have held onto some operational command responsibilities. Army headquarters retains responsibility for border and coastal defense; navy headquarters supervises the counterpiracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden; air force headquarters retains centralized control of bomber, transport, and airborne assets; and the Rocket Force has operational control over strategic forces. Moreover, all the services are using service-specific training requirements (including multi-theater exercises) as a means of asserting a continued operational role. The theater command service component commanders report to both the theater command headquarters for operations and to their service headquarters for service training and administration. How they will reconcile competing (and potentially incompatible) demands remains to be seen.

While the services are responsible for building forces to support joint operations, there is ample evidence of interservice rivalry and competition for missions and resources. Ian Burns McCaslin and Andrew Erickson show in their chapter how the higher priority accorded to the maritime domain by Xi Jinping has prompted efforts by the air force, Rocket Force, and even the army to develop and showcase capabilities relevant to maritime operations.9 Similar trends are evident in long-range precision strike, where the navy, air force, and Rocket Force all have systems that perform similar missions. Especially in an environment where military budgets are growing more slowly, interservice competition over missions and resources may impede operational cooperation. This may also be the case in the nuclear domain as the PLA Navy’s submarine-launched ballistic missile–equipped nuclear submarines become operational and if the PLA Air Force develops nuclear capabilities. The tension between the services desire to maximize their budgets and capabilities and the needs of theater commanders for trained forces that can work jointly to achieve operational synergies is real. One question going forward is whether the removal of the service commanders from membership on the CMC will allow that organization to override parochial service considerations and make procurement decisions that maximize PLA joint capabilities.

Achieving the potential synergies of a joint force will ultimately depend on the PLA’s ability to successfully recruit, educate, and train operational commanders and staff officers who can lead and work effectively in a joint environment.10 The PLA recognizes this as a current weakness, and some planned military reforms are aimed at fixing these problems. PLA Army officers currently spend the bulk of their careers in a single group army, in a single theater, with limited opportunities to work with units from other locations or services. This system produces officers and commanders who may be proficient in their service tasks and assigned responsibilities in specific contingencies, but who have a very limited perspective. Building effective joint commanders will require changes not only to the military education system to teach soldiers about the other services and how to conduct joint operations but also to the military assignment, promotion, and grade/rank systems. Without cross-fertilization and broader operational experiences, PLA effectiveness could be stunted.

However, these changes are interdependent and would constitute a major disruption of longstanding PLA practices. For example, a rotational assignment system would allow officers to gain experience with other services, localities, and job responsibilities and help them develop into well-rounded commanders capable of leading joint operations. But rotational assignments would require developing new military housing and schools for dependent children to entice officers to accept assignments in remote regions.11 They would also likely require a shift to a centralized promotion system that evaluates officers fairly and rewards them for their experience and qualifications rather than their relationship with their local commander.12 Such changes to the assignment and promotion systems are being contemplated and experimented with, but conversations with PLA officers suggest that military leaders remain cautious about implementing reforms that will reshape career incentives and affect every member of the PLA.

Ensuring CCP Control over the Military

A second major driver for the reforms was Xi Jinping’s desire to strengthen party control over the military, which had eroded during Hu Jintao’s tenure as CMC chairman. Rampant corruption within the PLA was one major problem, but the potential for the military not to follow orders from the CCP (and from Xi himself) was an even bigger issue. Xi asserted his authority over the PLA by emphasizing the “CMC Chairman Responsibility System” [zhongyang junwei zeren zhi, 中央军委责任制], which gives the chairman the ultimate authority over military affairs, and by using anti-corruption investigations to root out senior officers who might be disloyal, including retired CMC Vice Chairmen Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong (both appointed by Jiang Zemin). The example set by these cases—and the vulnerability of other corrupt officers to investigation—proved to be a potent weapon in defusing potential opposition to military reforms.

Xi has implemented a series of structural and personnel changes designed to combat graft and ensure political orthodoxy among the officer corps. These include reducing the susceptibility of PLA supervisory mechanisms to the influence of commanding officers by elevating the Discipline Inspection Commission to independent status, raising its secretary to CMC member status and placing the audit bureau and the military court system under direct CMC oversight. It also includes efforts to reemphasize the importance of party organs and political work at all levels of the PLA, including the requirement to incorporate Xi’s writings on military issues into the military education system. Finally, Xi has used corruption investigations, rotations of senior officers, forced retirements, and promotion of younger officers to reshape the ranks of the senior PLA officer corps, eliminating or sidelining officers deemed to be potentially disloyal and promoting those viewed as politically reliable and relatively free from corruption.

These measures have marginalized potential opposition to Xi’s PLA reform agenda and have likely been effective at uprooting officers who might have been part of patronage networks tied to Xu and Guo. The structural changes to the CMC’s organization should improve the effectiveness of monitoring mechanisms, while the appointment of Zhong Shaojun as head of the CMC General Office gives Xi’s long-time personal aide the ability to monitor communications and activity within the CMC. Xi’s personal involvement in the promotions of senior officers and ability to initiate (or withhold) investigations are powerful carrots and sticks to help ensure an obedient officer corps. However, the continued effectiveness of these measures requires Xi to continue to dedicate significant time to military personnel issues and is likely to create a climate of toadying and fear that may stimulate resentment and inhibit diverse or contrary military advice.

More generally, efforts to use political work to rekindle the ideological flame of belief in Marxism-Leninism will be difficult. Senior PLA officers are willing to mouth the correct slogans and swear their loyalty to the party and to Xi as its core leader. But formal compliance is not the same as genuine belief and may not produce better behavior over the long term or loyalty to the CCP and to Xi personally in a political crisis. Moreover, the hypocrisy of CCP leaders pursuing an aggressive anti-corruption campaign when their own family members have amassed fortunes by trading on their political connections is likely to breed cynicism and undermine efforts to produce a cleaner PLA.

Strengthening Civil-Military Integration

A third major driver of PLA reforms is the desire to strengthen civil-military cooperation, known as civil-military integration [junmin ronghe, 军民融合] (CMI) or civil-military fusion. The PLA has long relied on defense mobilization to reduce military expenditures by tapping civilian transportation, personnel, and supply resources in a crisis or conflict. However, a major focus of CMI is finding ways for the military to leverage breakthroughs in the civilian science and technology (S&T) sector and to ensure that military science and technology needs are met. CMI also involves other types of military and civilian cooperation, including expanding reliance on civilian contractors in the military supply chain and incorporating military specifications into the design of civilian transport ships, which could be mobilized during wartime (especially during an amphibious invasion of Taiwan). As Brian Lafferty discusses in this volume, strengthening CMI has been part of the PLA’s reform agenda since the 1990s, but its implementation has been hindered by ineffectual top-level management, bureaucratic stove-piping, and other obstacles.

The PLA reforms include several initiatives to enhance CMI. One involves upgrading the PLA’s Science and Technology Commission, previously subordinate to the General Armaments Department, to a higher level CMC organization that reports to Xi Jinping. This commission is responsible for the military’s coordination with civilian experts in critical technological areas. Another change involves reforms to the military educational and research systems. For instance, several technical research institutes were merged into the PLA’s Academy of Military Science, helping to more closely integrate technology advances with innovations in China’s military doctrine.13 To improve management and supervision of the process, the government declared civil-military integration to be an official development strategy in 2015 and created a new Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development in January 2017, with Xi as chairman.14

In their chapters in this volume, Brian Lafferty and Tai Ming Cheung analyze the prospect for intensified CMI efforts to build on the existing foundation and produce important breakthroughs in military technology. Cheung sees the adoption of civil-military fusion as an official development strategy, the establishment of the new commission, integrated civilian and military S&T planning, efforts to develop China’s advance manufacturing base as part of the “Made in China 2025” plan, and reforms of defense research institutes as creating the conditions for major innovations. He concludes with a positive assessment of “prospects for the Chinese defense industry to successfully transition from an innovation follower to an original innovator that is able to engage in higher end technological development.”15 Lafferty has a more measured assessment, noting that the Chinese government has laid an initial foundation for CMI, improved its understanding of challenges in implementing CMI, and shown a commitment to tackling them, but that success is not guaranteed.16

Although there are clearly potential civil-military synergies in some areas, the large-scale cooperation envisioned by CMI advocates requires Chinese companies and government agencies to reduce their organizational autonomy by opening up their decision processes to incorporate the views and interests of other actors. The contradiction between the CCP’s desire to incorporate all civilian and military interests into economic and S&T decisionmaking and the reluctance of companies and agencies to cede control to others may make it difficult for China to move beyond formal compliance (for example, establishing mechanisms to participate in CMI) to actual accomplishments. The CCP’s ability to appoint the leaders of Chinese state-owned enterprises is a powerful tool, but it has not prevented these leaders from pursuing the financial and institutional interests of the companies they run and resisting implementation of mandates that would interfere with profits.

Signposts for the Future

How can we gauge the extent to which PLA reforms are succeeding?

In the absence of a regional conflict that would put the PLA’s new joint command structure to the ultimate test, joint training and exercises will provide the best window into improvements in PLA joint operations capability. Large exercises that involve multiple PLA services working together against an adaptive enemy would be the best evidence that new joint command and control structures can not only plan joint operations but also execute them and respond to changing battlefield conditions. Effective use of Strategic Support Force and Joint Logistics Support Force units to support theater exercises—and the ability to integrate other strategic capabilities controlled by the CMC or the services—would be additional evidence of improvements in higher level joint operational capabilities.

Another metric will be the extent to which joint operations and forces take priority over their service counterparts. A crude metric for assessing reductions in ground force dominance is the army’s share of overall personnel, theater command positions, important jobs in the CMC, and slots in the joint military education courses that will train future PLA leaders. A more sophisticated metric will be observing whether officers with joint experience enjoy a promotion advantage over peers who stick to traditional service-centric career paths. The U.S. military ultimately required congressional intervention to make joint experience a requirement for promotion to general officer; a similar PLA regulation would be an important milestone for jointness. Of course, major changes to the PLA assignment and promotion system would be necessary to support such an action. The U.S. experience suggests that building an effective joint force can takes decades, since it requires a new generation of senior leaders that has experience working with other services and that develops a mindset that prioritizes joint operations over service interests.17

Another question is whether the CMC eventually develops the ability to contain interservice rivalry and discipline service desires for new weapons systems that advance service equities rather than joint objectives. The removal of the service chiefs from CMC membership in October 2017 may mark an important evolution in jointness within the PLA. The addition of the navy, air force, and Second Artillery commanders to the CMC in 2004 marked what might be called “representational jointness,” with those services gaining a voice in high-level PLA decisions. The removal of the service commanders from CMC membership as part of Xi’s reforms could mark a transition to “directed jointness,” where the CMC imposes its decisions about how to build a joint force on the services. Given the service-centric nature of the PLA, the CMC is unlikely to play this role anytime soon, but this would be an important development if it occurs.

Assessing the degree to which Xi’s efforts to reassert CCP control over the PLA have succeeded will be a much more difficult analytic challenge. All senior PLA officers are likely to say the right things in public; any officers who refuse to profess loyalty to the party and Xi will not last long. But the real test would only come in a major political crisis or if the CCP’s efforts to maintain economic growth and to achieve nationalist goals falter and call Xi’s leadership (and the party’s legitimacy) into question. Until then, our assessment that the reforms are likely to strengthen CCP control over the military in the short term, but will not guarantee military support in a crisis, must remain a tentative judgment.

Identifying markers of progress in civil-military integration is also difficult because the priority that CCP leaders place on the program requires Chinese companies and agencies to pay lip service to CMI and emphasizes procedural improvements rather than substantive outputs. The clearest evidence of success would be a leap forward in innovation in Chinese weapons systems that incorporate dual-use technologies and production processes. Another indicator would be a major expansion of PLA use of civilian contractors and Chinese defense industries subcontracting important parts of weapons system development to civilian companies or state-owned enterprises outside the defense sector.


If PLA reforms succeed, they will have significant implications for China’s neighbors, competitors, and opponents. A better trained, organized, and equipped PLA will be in a stronger position to accomplish its primary functions: winning modern wars, especially what the U.S. Department of Defense terms “short-duration, high-intensity regional conflicts”; deterring both large and small competitors; performing a variety of military operations other than war (also known as nontraditional security missions); and protecting Chinese interests in Asia.18 A more effective joint command structure will enable the PLA to more quickly and seamlessly transition from peacetime to combat operations, as well as to more capably oversee complex peacetime missions that may require participation from multiple services, such as large-scale disaster relief or noncombatant evacuations. That system will be further improved as the PLA educates and trains commanders and staff to employ joint forces, and as more advanced capabilities in the various domains of warfare come online.

Rival territorial claimants, such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, and India, will face a more confident and capable adversary in the South and East China seas and across the Sino-Indian border. Reforms to the broader Chinese armed forces, including placing the People’s Armed Police under firm CMC control, could permit closer coordination between PLA, coast guard, and maritime militia forces, thus giving Beijing a strong hand in gray zone operations against other claimants. Taiwan will have to contend with a PLA that can more credibly plan and execute joint operations, such as amphibious landings, blockades, and joint missile strikes.19 This will further strengthen the need for the Taiwan military to develop and implement asymmetric and innovative approaches to respond to the threat posed by a more capable PLA. U.S. forces operating throughout the Indo-Pacific region will face a PLA that can respond more quickly to regional crises and conduct counter-intervention operations more effectively. Moreover, a Chinese military and defense industry that can effectively harness civilian S&T breakthroughs to create advanced and innovative weapons would be an even more formidable strategic competitor over the long term. This latter point is important to counter the U.S. defense strategy that seeks to regain its technological edge over time to sustain a favorable regional balance of power.

A Future Expeditionary PLA?

One future requirement that the current PLA reforms do not fully address is the potential need to command and support a broader range of military operations beyond China’s borders. In the last several decades, PLA overseas operations have been limited to participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations, counterpiracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden (since 2008), short-term deployments to participate in military exercises and conduct military diplomacy, and a few noncombatant emergency evacuations.

The theater commands are better equipped to respond to a range of regional contingencies than was possible under the pre-reform military regions. However, their ability to plan and execute operations has geographic limits depending on their areas of responsibility and the specific contingencies they are assigned.20 For example, the Southern Theater Command already routinely conducts operations that extend into the far reaches of the South China Sea, while the other theater commands have more limited areas of operations. However, in the event of a Taiwan contingency, the PLA Navy may be tasked to operate even farther from Chinese territory into the Western Pacific, and it is not clear whether the Eastern Theater Command, navy headquarters, or the CMC’s Joint Staff Department would have operational control over forward-deployed naval forces. Command and control arrangements are even less clear in the event of a conflict with India that involves both ground operations along the Sino-Indian border and naval operations in the Indian Ocean, since the Western Theater Command does not have a naval component to conduct contingency planning or take charge of naval operations in a war.

The PLA is devoting considerable effort to developing power projection capabilities, doctrine, and political justifications that would support expeditionary operations well beyond China’s land borders and outside the second island chain.21 The new PLA logistics base in Djibouti provides the ability to sustain peacetime naval operations in a permissive environment and a nascent capability to support other types of operations that may involve a combat role. These operations are justified domestically by the need to protect China’s overseas interests and internationally by the claim that the Chinese military can provide public goods and contribute to international stability.22

PLA operations beyond the theater command areas of responsibility are currently handled differently depending on the type of operations. For example, navy headquarters appears to retain responsibility for the counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, with each escort task force composed of ships drawn from a different fleet. Conversely, the Joint Staff Department’s Overseas Operations Office is in charge of PLA deployments to support United Nations peacekeeping operations. Unlike the U.S. military, which assigns every part of the world to a geographic combatant command responsible for contingency planning and operations within its area of responsibility, the PLA has gaps where potential operations fall outside the areas of responsibility of the theater commands. Moreover, it does not appear to have established a standing or ad hoc joint task force mechanism to command such operations.

To date, most PLA independent overseas operations (such as the evacuation of Chinese citizens from Libya in 2011) have been small, of short-duration, and in relatively permissive environments.23 These types of operations could be assigned to either the Joint Staff Department or one of the service headquarters depending on the nature of the operation. However, these mechanisms are likely to prove inadequate if PLA overseas operations become larger, require joint forces, last for extended periods of time, or occur in nonpermissive environments where deployed forces face threats from hostile state or nonstate actors. Conducting multiple simultaneous overseas operations would further stress the PLA’s ability to command overseas operations. If the PLA begins to regularly conduct such operations, new joint command and control mechanisms will likely be necessary.


This volume has traced the drivers of the PLA’s ambitious reform agenda, examined how the reforms affect the component parts of the PLA and their relationships to each other, and assessed the opportunities and challenges that will affect the success of the reform agenda. The reforms that have been implemented have already had a major impact on how the PLA is organized and how it expects to plan, train, and execute combat operations. The reforms that are still to come—which will affect the military recruitment, education, assignment, promotion, and rank/grade systems—are likely to play a decisive role in determining whether a reformed PLA can realize Xi Jinping’s goal of building a joint force capable of fighting and winning informationized wars. As the PLA begins conducting larger and more sophisticated joint operations and potentially expands the range and scope of its overseas operations, experience is likely to reveal the need for additional adjustments to joint command and control mechanisms to fully support China’s growing military ambitions.


1 “CCP Central Committee Decision on Deepening of Reforms for Major Issues” [中共中央关于全面深化改革若干重大问题的决定], Xinhua, November 15, 2013, available at <>.

2 “Xi Leads China’s Military Reform, Stresses Strong Army,” Xinhua, March 15, 2014, available at <>.

3 “Full Text of Xi Jinping’s Report at the 19th CPC National Congress,” Xinhua, November 3, 2017, available at <>.

4 See Minnie Chan, “Chinese General’s New Job Suggests Army Revamp Finished,” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), June 25, 2016.

5 “Facts and Figures on China’s Military Reform,” Xinhua, December 19, 2017, available at <>.

6 “Central Military Commission Opinion on Deepening National Defense and Armed Force Reforms” [中央军委关于深化国防和军队改革的意见], Xinhua, January 1, 2016, available at <>.

7 Roger Cliff, “Chinese Military Reforms: A Pessimistic Take,” Joint Force Quarterly 83 (4th Quarter 2016), 53–56.

8 Eitan Shamir, Transforming Command: The Pursuit of Mission Command in the U.S., British, and Israeli Armies (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011).

9 See Ian Burns McCaslin and Andrew S. Erickson, “The PLA and Maritime Security Challenges,” in this volume.

10 See Joel Wuthnow and Phillip C. Saunders, “A Modern Major General: Building Joint Commanders in the PLA,” in this volume.

11 See Shanshan Mei, People of the PLA (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: China Aerospace Studies Institute, 2018).

12 See Peng Wang and Jingyi Wang, “How China Promotes Its Officers: Interactions Between Formal and Informal Institutions,” China Quarterly, no. 234 (June 2018), 399–419.

13 Interviews with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Science personnel, 2017.

14 “Xi to Head Central Commission for Integrated Military, Civilian Development,” Xinhua, January 22, 2017, available at <>.

15 See Tai Ming Cheung, “Keeping Up with the Jundui: Reforming the Chinese Defense Acquisition, Technology, and Industrial System to Engage in Advanced Innovation,” in this volume.

16 See Brian Lafferty, “Civil-Military Integration and PLA Reforms,” in this volume.

17 PLA officers have asked U.S. counterparts how the U.S. joint professional military education system works to develop a “joint mentality” among the U.S. officer corps.

18 Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2016 (Washington, DC: Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2016), i; “China’s Military Strategy (Full Text),” Xinhua, May 27, 2015, available at <>.

19 Phillip C. Saunders and Joel Wuthnow, “What Do China’s Military Reforms Mean for Taiwan?” NBR Commentary, May 19, 2016, available at <>.

20 See Andrew Scobell et al., eds., The People’s Liberation Army and Contingency Planning in China (Washington, DC: NDU Press, 2015).

21 Kristen Gunness and Oriana Skylar Mastro, “A Global People’s Liberation Army: Possibilities, Challenges, and Opportunities,” Asia Policy, vol. 22 (July 2016), 131–155.

22 This theme is prominent in China’s 2012 defense white paper. See The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces (Beijing: State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, April 16, 2013).

23 See Michael S. Chase, “The PLA and Far Seas Contingencies: Chinese Capabilities for Noncombatant Evacuation Operations,” in Scobell et al., The People’s Liberation Army and Contingency Planning in China, 301–319.

17. System Overload? The 2015 PLA Force Reduction, Military-Locality Relations, and the Potential for Social Instability
By Ma Chengkun and John Chen | Feb. 5, 2019

Chapter 17

System Overload:
The 2015 PLA Force Reduction, Military-Locality Relations, and the Potential for Social Instability

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Ma Chengkun is Professor and Dean of the College of PLA Studies at Taiwan’s National Defense University. Professor Ma is currently researching China’s military strategic thinking and military transformation and participates in international academic exchanges about China’s military modernization with various countries. John Chen is a Research Associate at the Special Programs Division of SOS International, where he conducts China-related research and analysis on foreign policy, national security, and science and technology issues using Chinese-language sources. 

On September 3, 2015, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary and Central Military Commission (CMC) Chairman Xi Jinping announced a reduction in the overall size of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from 2.3 million personnel to 2 million, a reduction of about 11 percent of the military’s end strength.1 The announcement was followed by a Work Conference on Central Military Commission Reform [zhongyang junwei gaige gongzuo huiyi, 中央军委改革工作会议] in which Xi initiated his military reform plan.2 A flurry of organizational and structural reforms to the PLA soon followed, and continues apace today.

The reforms were to be implemented in three main stages. First, top leadership and management organs of the PLA were to be reorganized and the joint operations command structure reformed before the end of 2015. Next, changes in force structure and size, along with reforms to the military education system and the People’s Armed Police, were to be implemented before the end of 2017. Finally, the above reforms, along with changes to the policy system and civil-military integration, were to be adjusted, advanced, optimized, and completed from 2017 to 2020.3

To those ends, the Ministry of National Defense announced that the reduction of 300,000 personnel from the PLA would be completed by the end of 2017.4 Broadly speaking, Xi’s reform directives explicitly included rationalizing the structure and organization of the military force, reducing numbers of administrative and noncombat personnel, and adjusting and improving the ratio of different services.5 The troop reduction was widely interpreted as a means of implementing these overarching directives. Noncombat billets are likely to be targeted for elimination, and PLA interlocutors have suggested that the ratios of navy and air force personnel will increase relative to their army counterparts.6

Downsizing 300,000 PLA personnel while simultaneously upending and reorganizing the operational and administrative components of the military would inevitably bring considerable turmoil and dislocation. Xi’s downsizing policy also forced Chinese society to absorb and reintegrate a substantial portion of these 300,000 personnel in the span of approximately 2 years. At a minimum, any failure or inefficiency in accommodating these personnel and their families could jeopardize the pace and effectiveness of the military reforms; at worst, neglect or poor execution of the downsizing could lead to potentially regime-threatening social instability.

The risks of a botched troop reduction were not lost on the Xi regime. Xi himself has consistently reiterated the importance of properly reintegrating downsized military personnel back into Chinese society, and he has emphasized the work of veteran administration and support at the central government level to forestall dissatisfaction from downsized personnel.7

This chapter argues that although force reductions are especially fraught for the local governments responsible for accommodating veterans, the effort will ultimately be successful due to a number of countervailing forces in play during this latest reduction effort. These offsetting forces range from the benevolent encouragement of veteran entrepreneurship to the more ominous specter of Xi’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign, and most importantly, the supremacy of party rule over any potential legal, economic, and political contradictions. The announcement in March 2018 that the troop reduction was “basically complete” supports this judgement, while the establishment of a new Ministry of Veterans Affairs [tuiyi junren shiwu bu,退役军人事务部] speaks to the military-locality tensions and conflicts of interest that had to be managed and overcome in the process.8

The chapter proceeds in four parts. The first section gives a brief historical overview of military-locality relations and documents changes in relations that have increasingly pushed the burdens of troop reductions and personnel resettlement onto local governments. The second section describes key parts of the military-locality administrative system and the legal regulations overseeing the 2015–2017 troop reduction. The third section explores political, economic, and legal issues that complicate force reduction efforts, and describes the intermittent protests by dissatisfied veterans that have resulted from past complications. The chapter concludes with an examination of several countervailing considerations and various factors unique to the Xi era that are likely to offset the difficulties of the reduction, albeit at the expense of strains in military-locality relations.

Evolving Military-Locality Relations

The PLA’s modern-day efforts to reduce its end strength are dependent on good relations with the localities that must absorb the burden of troop reductions. Military-locality relations in the years before Deng Xiaoping’s late 1970s reforms focused primarily on providing moral and material support to the PLA and its predecessors. After Deng’s reforms began to take hold, however, the realities of China’s emerging market economy began to substantially increase pressure on localities charged with handling troop reductions. These difficulties have extended to the present day.

Early Military-Locality Relations

The PLA has a long history of drawing support from the people, dating back to the 1927 founding of its predecessor military organization, the Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army [zhongguo gongnong hongjun,中国工农红军]. In the years leading up to 1949, interactions between the military and the people, referred to as “military-locality relations” or “double support work” [shuangyong gongzuo, 双拥工作] by the Communist Party, initially emphasized preferential treatment for Red Army soldiers and their dependents in order to increase recruitment and political and logistical support for the Communist cause, and later expanded to demobilization and mobilization efforts.9

The resolution of the First Red Army Representative Assembly [minxi di yi ci gongnong bing daibiao dahui xuanyan ji jueyian, 闽西第一次工农兵代表大会宣言及决议案], held in Fujian in March 1930, provided a monthly stipend to Red Army soldiers and called for CCP members to shape the societal atmosphere to improve the social position of the Red Army.10 This treatment was later extended to Red Army dependents in 1934: the CCP 2nd National Soviet Assembly adopted the Resolution on Preferential Treatment of Red Army Dependents [zhongguo gongchangdang zhongyang weiyuanhui, zhonghua suweiai gongheguo renmin weiyuanhui guanyu youdai hongjun jiashu de jueding,中国共产党中央委员会、中华苏维埃共和国人民委员会关于优待红军家属的决定], emphasizing the necessity of extending this resolution into a social movement for the purpose of strengthening the combat determination of the Red Army and encouraging more people to join the forces.11

The founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 introduced demobilization of military personnel as a major new task for military-locality relations. Military victory over the Kuomintang on the mainland precipitated a pressing need to reduce the size of the PLA, which led to an initial force reduction in March 1950.12 Newly anointed PRC officials set up governing and administrative infrastructure according to socialist ideology for national development. Early centrally planned mechanisms for resettling and reintegrating demobilized soldiers in their hometowns provoked relatively little controversy between the military and various localities because the interests of central and local governments often overlapped—for instance, the PLA needed to shed personnel, and local governments needed labor.

Mao Zedong’s decision to send PLA troops to the Korean War abruptly upended the initial process of demobilization and sent defense mobilization to the top of the priority list of military-locality issues. On December 2, 1950, the Central Government Interior Affairs Ministry and General Political Department of the People’s Revolutionary Military Commission issued “Instructions for Supporting Policy and Loving the People and Initiating Movement of Supporting Military Personnel and Their Dependents” [guanyu xinjiu nianguan kaizhan yongzheng aimin he yongjunyoushu yundong de zhishi, 关于新旧年关开展拥政爱民和拥军优属运动的指示], formally establishing a mechanism of interaction for local governments to mobilize logistics and recruitment support for the army.13 This was the first official directive by the Chinese government codifying a mechanism for mobilization efforts from the Chinese population.

Defense mobilization, preferential treatment for military personnel and their dependents, and resettlement of demobilized military personnel remained the core issues of military-locality relations until 1979, along with a strong emphasis on maintaining popular support for the military. The provision of preferential benefits to soldiers and codification of mobilization efforts were supplemented by patriotic parades and ceremonies organized by local governments on significant days for the PLA. The main responsibility for military-locality interaction fell largely on the people, who were charged with showing their respect and support for military personnel.

Popular moral support for the military belied the comparatively underdeveloped nature of demobilization mechanisms. After the PRC was founded in 1949, the government kept the military permanently mobilized as it continually perceived serious hostility from the international community. Under these circumstances, the PLA had little chance to transform itself from a revolutionary force organized mainly by rural citizens into a regular army with regular conscription and a demobilization mechanism. Time in service was not well defined. Personnel could remain in the military until they decided to leave or the military believed they were too old to continue service. While mobilization mechanisms relied heavily on popular local support, demobilization mechanisms remained comparatively underdeveloped.

Reform and Opening Up, Military Modernization, and Military-Locality Relations, 1979–Present

China’s leaders initially sought to maintain existing military-locality relations even as Deng Xiaoping’s 1979 reform and opening up [gaige kaifang, 改革开放] shifted the direction of the national zeitgeist from revolution to peaceful development. The December 14, 1979, “Notice to Enhance the Glorious Tradition of Supporting Military Personnel and Dependents, Supporting Policy and Loving the People, and Further Strengthening Military-People Unity” [guanyu fayang yongjunyoushu, yongzheng aimin de guangrong chuantong, jinyibu jiaqiang junmin tuanjie de tongzhi, 关于发扬拥军优属, 拥政爱民的光荣传统, 进一步加强军民团结的通知] exemplified this extension of the status quo and confirmed existing mechanisms of military-locality interaction.14

In the early 1980s, however, China’s program of defense modernization presented a new major challenge to military-locality relations. Deng announced a force reduction plan in June 1985 that would trim 1 million military personnel from the PLA as part of a broader defense modernization and cost reduction effort.15 The announcement of the massive troop reduction was followed soon by a notice placing the responsibility of resettling demobilized personnel at the top of the priority list for localities. The July 27, 1985, “Notice on Respecting the Military and Actively Supporting Military Reform and Construction” [guanyu zunzhong, aihu jundui jiji zhichi jundui gaige he jianshe de tongzhi, 关于尊重,爱护军队积极支持军队改革和建设的通知] elevated resettlement [anzhi, 安置] for demobilized PLA personnel as the most important task that localities could undertake to support the reforms.16

At first, local governments were usually able to resettle demobilized PLA personnel into corresponding high- or low-level positions. Local governments had more billets available than the central government and proved able to accommodate demobilized personnel one way or another. Officers were offered local government positions roughly equal to their former military grade and became civilian officials; enlisted personnel, for whom the local government had no resettlement responsibility, were nonetheless often pointed toward lower level grassroots labor units to forestall potential unemployment.

As Deng’s economic reforms accelerated, however, China’s transition to a market economy made military resettlement much more difficult. Market pressures for organizational and financial reform in government sectors to reduce personnel spending and improve government efficiency made it increasingly difficult to accommodate demobilized PLA personnel. Local governments, given wide latitude to implement their own reforms, began privatizing state-owned enterprises, reducing redundant billets, laying off underperforming employees, or at least slowing the hiring of new personnel. The remaining collectively run government enterprises were hit especially hard, facing stiff competition from foreign and foreign-
invested competitors.

This rush to privatize state-owned enterprises disenfranchised demobilized PLA personnel. Newly privatized enterprises began to shirk their responsibilities to resettle and retrain veterans in their drive to compete in the marketplace. The 1993 “Notice Concerning Problems of Enterprises Canceling Worker Identification Boundaries and Fully Implementing the Labor Contract System” [guanyu qiye quxiao gongren shenfen jiexian shixing quan yuan laodong hetong zhi ruogan wenti de yijian de tongzhi, 关于企业取消工人身份界限实行全员劳动合同制若干问题的意见的通知] was one such example; the notice allowed enterprises to cancel the national cadre identity of former military cadres in order to establish more normal, efficient personnel systems within the enterprise.17 It also freed enterprises from the burden of subsidies, as well as medical and social insurance for these military cadres, all of which had been promised by the government when they left the military.

In an attempt to respond to reports of shirking, the central government promulgated a series of legal and organizational measures intended to ensure better military-locality relations. A National Double Support Work Leading Group [quanguo shuangyong gongzuo lingdao xiaozu,全国双用工作领导小组] was established in 1991 by the State Council and CMC to coordinate and unify the work of provincial, county, city, and municipal Double Support Offices [shuangyong bangongshi, 双用办公室].18 To further clarify regulations regarding the treatment of separated officers, the State Council and CMC issued the Provisional Measures for Resettling Transferred Officers [jundui zuanye ganbu anzhi zanxing banfa, 军队转业干部安置暂行办法] in 2001. These measures remain in force today as the primary reference document governing the treatment of demobilized, retired, or downsized PLA personnel; the measures have been supplemented by additional laws codifying the treatment of enlisted personnel. The administrative organs and the legal regulations guiding the resettlement of PLA personnel are covered in detail in the following section.

Administrative and Legal Mechanisms for Force Reduction

As the 2015 PLA personnel reduction has proceeded, several details about troop reduction have surfaced. Half of the downsized personnel are reportedly officers,19 and generally speaking, administrative and command billets have been reduced.20 For the most part, these discharged personnel will have a number of separation options available according to a collection of laws passed and overseen by two main organizations of the State Council. This section examines key components of the separation process, giving an overview of the legal mechanisms and organizations responsible for accommodating discharged PLA personnel.

Resettlement and Separation Options

Soldiers leaving the PLA have a number of separation options available to them according to their grade and time in service.21 Resettlement and separation options for conscripts, noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and officers are governed by a variety of relevant laws discussed in the text and figures below.22

Table. Separation Options and Major Associated Benefits for PLA Servicemembers
Table. Separation Options and Major Associated Benefits for PLA Servicemembers
Table. Separation Options and Major Associated Benefits for PLA Servicemembers
Photo By: NDU Press
VIRIN: 190207-D-BD104-009

Conscripts (义务兵). As late as 2007, conscripts appeared to have only one main option for separation from the PLA. They could choose to simply be released from service [tuiwu, 退伍] after their 2-year service commitment with no government obligation to provide job placement, or they could decide to extend their term of service and become NCOs, after which they would enjoy the separation benefits and options described in the next section. Those who chose to leave have traditionally returned home and continued their old way of life.23

Conscripts that left after fulfilling their service obligation were entitled to certain benefits, including a small resettlement allowance and assistance in job-hunting. However, these entitlements had often been ignored or doled out unevenly across China, sparking complaints and aggravating civil-military tensions.24 Dissatisfaction with inconsistent disbursement of benefits led the central government to codify the benefits available for discharged conscripts. The most obvious changes are manifested in 2011 revisions to the Military Service Law [zhonghua renmin gongheguo bingyifa, 中华人民共和国兵役法] and Enlisted Personnel Resettlement Regulations [tuiyi shibing anzhi tiaoli, 退役士兵安置条例], which declared conscripts eligible for a one-time independent subsidy [zizhu jiuye yicixing tuiyijin, 自主就业一次性退役金], in which they would look for a job themselves and collect a one-time subsidy from the military.25 As of September 2015, demobilized conscripts also receive a one-time demobilization subsidy [tuiwu buzhufei, 退伍补助费], a one-time healthcare subsidy [tuiwu yiliao buzhufei, 退伍医疗补助费], a subsidy consisting of next month’s allowance [lidui xiayue jintie, 离队下月津贴], prorated living expenses for the month they leave [lidui dangyue shengyu tian huoshi fei, 离队当月剩余天伙食费], and living expenses for the month after demobilization [lidui xiayue huoshifei, 离队下月伙食费], among additional healthcare and retirement subsidies.26

Noncommissioned Officers (士官). NCOs enjoy more separation options and benefits than conscripts. As of 2007, enlisted personnel who had served up to 6 years beyond their initial 2-year conscription period were considered junior NCOs [chuji shiguan, 初级士官] and were eligible only for demobilization [tuiwu, 退伍]. NCOs who had served between 8 and 16 years beyond their initial 2-year conscription period were referred to as mid-level NCOs [zhongji shiguan,中级士官] and were eligible for transfer to civilian state positions [zhuanye, 转业] after 10 years of total service. Senior-level NCOs [gaoji shiguan, 高级士官], or NCOs who had served at least 14 years beyond their conscription period, were eligible to retire [tuixiu, 退休] after 30 years of total service.27

Major changes to discharge and resettlement policy enacted in 2011 expanded resettlement options and simplified separation benefits. Revisions to the Military Service Law outlined five major separation and resettlement options: independent job-searching [zizhu jiuye,自主就业]; government job placement [anpai gongzuo, 安排工作], also known as civilian transfer [zhuanye, 转业]; full retirement [tuixiu, 退休]; government support [gongyang, 供养]; and completion of education [jixu wancheng xueye, 继续完成学业].28 The 2011 revision to the Enlisted Personnel Resettlement Regulations simplified eligibility rules for separation benefits: NCOs who had served less than 12 years would receive essentially the same benefits as conscripts, including the same one-time independent job-searching subsidy per year of service from the military, along with possible further financial subsidies from local provincial and municipal governments.29 NCOs who had served more than 12 years were eligible for government job placement (also known as resettlement),30 while those who had served at least 30 years, were disabled in war or public service, were 55 years or older, or had to retire for health reasons were eligible for full retirement or government support.31

Officers (干部). Officers have the most options available for separation from the PLA and enjoy greater benefits than either enlisted soldiers or conscripts.32 Officers are required to apply for separation from the PLA. Of those whose applications are accepted, officers who have served for 30 years are eligible for full retirement. Division leader grade officers with less than 30 years of service and officers at the battalion leader grade or lower with less than 20 years of service are to be transferred to civilian state employment. Battalion and regiment leader grade officers who have served between 20 and 30 years are allowed either to accept a transfer to a civilian job or to accept a partial pension while they independently seek employment in the private sector [zizhu zeye, 自主择业].33

Officers transferred to civilian positions are entitled to the same levels of pay and benefits they would have earned at their duty grade level in the PLA,34 and their years in military service count toward retirement at their civilian positions.35 Civilian transfers also collect subsidies for living expenses [shenghuo buzhufei, 生活补助费] and home settlement [anjia buzhufei, 安家补助费].36 Officers who choose to independently seek employment accept an 80 percent pension that persists unless they accept a job in the government sector.37 They are also eligible for a job-search subsidy [zizhu zeye buzhufei, 自主择业补助费] on top of the living expenses and home settlement subsidies offered to civilian transfers.38 Officers that retire collect full pensions and are eligible for a number of allowances, including one-time payments for living expenses and home settlement,39 along with housing, healthcare, and other benefits.40

Most officers leaving the PLA must return to the location of their original household registration [hukou, 户口]. Some consideration is made for the locations of spouses or parents,41 although the policy does not elaborate on who makes the decision. Those leaving under the auspices of independent job-searching, as well as aviation and naval officers who have served 10 or more years, are also allowed a degree of flexibility in resettlement.42 Discharged officers can also be placed in other regions as needed.43 Some officers may simply be transferred to locations as needed rather than transferred home, especially to government regions in central and western China “eagerly hunting for talented people.”44

Full Government Support (国家供养). A special discharge option is full government support [guojia gongyang, 国家供养] for all military personnel who are disabled in public service and includes considerable disability compensation payments based on the level and type of disability. Disabilities are classified on a scale of severity from Levels 1 to 10 (1 is the most severe) and sorted by combat, work, or illness disabilities. Personnel with disability ratings from Level 1 to Level 4 are eligible for full government support and receive substantial compensation payments in addition to health care and housing allowances.45

Key Trends. Changes in the PLA’s separation and resettlement processes since the last major troop reduction in 2003 can be characterized in three main ways.

First, conscripts have increasingly enjoyed greater benefits for their service, and as the PLA continues to seek more college-educated personnel, it will feel compelled to better enforce existing demobilization policy and improve the conscript demobilization package by providing more generous benefits. The 2011 revisions to discharge policy afforded much greater financial assistance to conscripts by opening up independent job selection to a group that was simply demobilized and returned home in the past. Some demobilized conscripts ostensibly leave the force with marketable job skills and useful certifications such as a driver’s license,46 although their employment prospects are in doubt in an economy that increasingly values higher skilled workers. The PLA faces no shortage of available conscripts,47 but in recent years it has been forced to relax physical standards to attract better educated personnel.48 As it continues to compete with the private sector for college-educated personnel, the PLA will have little choice but to continue increasing expenditures on demobilized conscripts as one way to attract desired talent.

Second, the PLA has placed increasing emphasis on higher education as a separation pathway, especially for its enlisted and noncommissioned personnel. This is evident in the various incremental revisions to NCO discharge and resettlement policies. Starting in 2011, NCOs who have been discharged for longer than a year, have tested into a full-time higher education program, and are participating in independent job-searching are also entitled to a yearly tuition subsidy of up to 6,000 RMB (roughly $942 USD in 2018 )49—a figure that was adjusted upward in 2014 to 8,000 RMB ($1,257) a year for undergraduate programs and 12,000 RMB ($1,885) a year for graduate programs.50 Discharged enlisted personnel who choose independent job selection are also entitled to attend local government vocational education for up to 2 years at no cost.51

Third, the civilian transfer process for officers has become increasingly competitive. Though the burden of resettling transferred officers is the legal responsibility of local governments52 and rejecting officers is not allowed,53 there appears to be a priority order for the best positions. Division and regiment leader grade officers eligible for civilian transfer must undergo an evaluation process [kaohe, 考核] that assigns civilian positions based on moral virtue, grade, military rank, time in service, specialty skills, hardship duty, and military commendations. Eligible officers at the battalion leader grade or lower would undergo the above evaluation process and an additional testing process [kaoshi, 考试] administered by the receiving province, consisting of a written test and an in-person interview.54 The competitive nature of civilian transfers has generated considerable anxiety over transfer prospects.55

Separation and resettlement mechanisms have changed over time according to various needs and pressures. The PLA’s desire for college-
educated personnel precipitated an increase in benefits for demobilized conscripts, while the looming expense and difficulty of finding jobs for NCOs led officials to highlight education as an increasingly important pathway for discharged troops. The opacity of the officer civilian transfer process prompted officials to clarify the process in an attempt to defuse criticism from the affected group. In each case, the PLA and the relevant civilian agencies have taken deliberate steps to address a need or a potential problem.

Resettlement Organizations

The task of reintegrating PLA personnel into Chinese civil society falls to a pair of State Council small groups [xiaozu, 小组] comprised of various agency officials with relevant roles. These national-level small groups nominally oversee a larger nationwide ecosystem of corresponding provincial, county, and municipal groups responsible for disbursing a variety of benefits to discharged PLA personnel, ranging from placement in civilian government-arranged jobs to lump sum pension and buyout payments. Although the exact bifurcation of responsibilities remains unclear, generally speaking the State Council Military Cadre Transfer and Resettlement Work Small Group is responsible for transferring military officers to civilian government jobs, while the National Double Support Work Leading Small Group handles the resettlement of retiring military personnel and civilian cadres [wenzhi ganbu, 文职干部].

Figure. Separation Options for PLA Servicemembers
Figure. Separation Options for PLA Servicemembers
Figure. Separation Options for PLA Servicemembers
Photo By: NDU Press
VIRIN: 190207-D-BD104-008

Resettlement and Transfer Work. The organization primarily responsible for transferring military personnel to civilian government jobs is the State Council Military Cadre Transfer and Resettlement Work Small Group [guowuyuan jundui zhuanye ganbu anzhi gongzuo xiaozu, 国务院军队转业干部安置工作小组]. This group is headed by the director of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security [renli ziyuan shehui baozhang bu, 人力资源社会保障部]56 and has typically been comprised of members from the former General Political Department, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Civil Affairs, and several other government, party, and military organizations.57

The General Office of the Transfer and Resettlement Small Group [guowuyuan jundui zhuanye ganbu anzhi gongzuo xiaozu bangongshi, 国务院军队转业干部安置工作小组办公室], also known as the Military Officer Transfer Resettlement Department [junguan zhuanye anzhisi,军官转业安置司], carries out most of the actual work of resettling transferred officers to civilian government roles at the national level. Specifically, the General Office plans military cadre transfer resettlement, trains and educates on policy and resettlement plans, makes adjustments to the resettlement system, and handles Beijing-area transfer resettlements. The organization is also partly responsible for resolving problems that arise with transfers to industries, and manages independent job-searching services [zizhu zeye, 自主择业].58 The national level small group oversees the work of local provincial, county, and municipal leading small groups that undertake the same transfer resettlement tasks as the General Office.59

Double Support Work System. The administrative system officially responsible for coordinating overall military-locality relations is headed by the National Double Support Work Leading Small Group (NDSWLSG) [quanguo shuangyong gongzuo lingdao xiaozu, 全国双用工作领导小组], operating under the authority of the CCP Central Committee, State Council, and CMC.60 Led by a vice premier, the NDSWLSG is made up of 7 deputy directors and 31 members representing a wide variety of government, party, and military organizations, including the political work departments of the four former PLA general departments and the People’s Armed Police.61

The General Office of the NDSWLSG [quanguo shuangyong gongzuo lingdao xiaozu bangongshi, 全国双用工作领导小组办公室] is charged with disseminating information to and liaising with provincial, county, and municipal Double Support Offices [shuangyongban, 双拥办],62 which are typically situated under the authority of local civil affairs departments.63 The General Office has two subordinate groups: the Secretariat [mishuzu, 秘书组], charged with organizing and coordinating meetings and communication between national and local Double Support Offices, and the Policy Research Group [zhengce yanjiu zu, 政策研究组], responsible for drafting reports and publications of the NDSWLSG.64

The NDSWLSG is responsible for resettling certain types of discharged military personnel. The director of the Special Care Resettlement Bureau [youfu anzhi ju, 优抚安置局] of the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) [minzhengbu, 民政部] is a member of the NDSWLSG,65 and the bureau is responsible for the resettlement of discharged enlisted personnel [tuiyi shibing, 退役士兵] demobilized cadre [fuyuan ganbu, 复员干部], retired military cadre [jundui li tuixiu ganbu, 军队离退休干部], and retired nonmilitary staff [wu junji tuixiu tuizhi zhigong, 无军籍退休退职职工].66 The bureau’s subordinate units include a Comprehensive Office [zonghe chu, 综合处] and a Policy and Law Office [zhengce fagui chu, 政策法规处]. Both are affiliated with the Secretariat and Policy Research Group of the General Office of the NDSWLSG, respectively.67

Overall, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the PLA’s CMC Political Work Department are the primary loci of responsibility for double support work, with a heavy emphasis on resettlement of military personnel. The director and deputy director of the MCA occupied two of the seven NDSWLSG deputy director positions in 2013, and the MCA deputy director was dual-hatted as the head of the General Office of the NDSWLSG. Two of the three deputy directors of the General Office hailed from the CMC Political Work Department Mass Work Office [zong zhengzhi bu qunzhong gongzuo bangongshi, 总政治部群众工作办公室]; the third was the deputy director of the Special Care Resettlement Bureau of the MCA.68

Broader Characteristics. At the national level, the composition of these small groups suggests that a variety of agencies have important equities in managing resettlement and separation of PLA personnel. Several agencies have representatives present as members of both small groups, specifically the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, CCP Central Organization Department, political departments of the various former PLA general departments, and ministries and administrations for national development and reform, finance, education, housing, taxation, and industry and commerce.69

Many of the participating organizations in both the Double Support and Resettlement LSGs have other primary functions, and the rotational nature of LSG membership extends to both national- and local-level LSGs. The overwhelming majority of members in both groups are deputy directors of their respective “home” organizations, serving on the groups as part of a rotational assignment; a few are assistants to directors.70 New rosters with different members are announced every 4 to 5 years.

While the responsibilities at the national level seem clear, the lines of responsibility are not always so at the local level. Both double support work and resettlement work are the responsibilities of local civil affairs departments, but it is not clear if double support work includes resettlement, or if double support work and resettlement are considered separate tasks under separate units. The NDSWLSG considers resettlement to be within its purview, describing resettlement work as a critical part of double support work.71 Some provinces include resettlement and transfer work under the auspices of double support work.72 Several cities, however, direct “double support work” at active military personnel and their dependents, and consider double support work to be distinct from resettlement work.73

Problems with Resettlement

While the codification of preferential treatment and job placement for discharged PLA personnel represented a concerted attempt to formalize a discharge and separation process, the effort has suffered from complications. A lack of standardization in converting military grades to civilian equivalents has led to complaints about resettlement, and restrictive legal measures limit the options of local governments. At a macro level, the localities charged with resettling PLA personnel into civilian jobs face political and economic pressures that profoundly undercut their ability to complete this task quickly and efficiently.


The lack of a standardized conversion between military and civilian grades has spawned widespread complaints that personnel resettlement differs across provinces. While the Provisional Measures for Resettling Transferred Officers stipulates that military officers should be emplaced into positions of equal grade,74 the measures do not specify what the corresponding civilian grades are. According to one PLA officer, the military uses a system based on 15 grades and equivalent civilian systems have 11 or 12 grades.75 Although there is discussion about unifying the two systems, as of 2017, the conversion from military to civilian grades varied from province to province.76 Problems with resettling regiment and division grade officers are particularly acute.77 In the past, many regiment and division grade officers would have readily found arranged employment in local government billets as dictated by the State Council, typically as county mayors [xianzhang, 县长], office heads [chuzhang, 处长], administration heads [juzhang, 局长], or department heads [tingzhang, 厅长].78 As more regiment and division grade officers left the PLA across multiple troop reductions, however, local governments struggled to accommodate all of these personnel at the dictated civilian grade level. Instead, local governments began backsliding on these assignments, sometimes failing to assign discharged personnel to civilian positions or assigning them to lesser sinecures as a way to fulfill their obligation. Discharged regiment and deputy regiment grade officers continue to face this problem: many are currently being forced to accept lower grade positions while working their way up the civilian promotion ladder to positions to which they should have already been legally entitled.79

Local governments, however, do not have full authority to assign discharged PLA personnel to whichever positions they wish; their autonomy is restricted by laws passed to reform China’s civil service. The 2005 Civil Servant Law [gongwu yuanfa, 公务员法] states that all non-leadership positions lower than senior section member [zhuren keyuan, 主任科员] must be filled using open examination, strict testing, and equal competition to select the most qualified candidates.80 Article 25 of the same law states that civil service positions will be “filled within the limits of the authorized size” and when there are “vacancies of corresponding posts to be filled up.”81 Structurally, this means that local government positions at the township [xiang,] level and below are subject to open examination and fair competition practices and cannot be simply assigned to discharged military personnel;82 all billets must be filled according to set, existing vacancies, severely restricting the ability of local governments to create positions for discharged PLA personnel.

Broader efforts to streamline and reform the administrative elements of local and national governments, along with corresponding efforts to reduce military administrative billets, have also greatly complicated the resettlement and accommodation of discharged PLA personnel. Accelerated reform efforts in both the PLA and in local governments have upset patronage networks and “iron rice bowls” that previously provided for military cadres and government officials.

Breaking Military and Government Iron Rice Bowls

The recent PLA reorganization has focused on slimming down noncombat and administrative organs, upending the PLA’s iron rice bowl and resulting in a surplus of discharged PLA personnel who must be offered civilian positions commensurate to their military grade.83 In the past, unit commanders often extended the military careers of officers who did not win promotion to increasingly competitive command track positions in combat units by transferring them to administrative or noncombat billets. This process was especially common for division and regiment grade officers and helped commanders avoid embarrassing personnel downsizings that would weaken their fiefdoms. These billets are now being reduced en masse, resulting in a large number of less-qualified discharged division and regiment grade officers who must be accommodated by local governments.

In the past, local governments responded to the ballooning number of discharged military personnel by creating civilian billets with little substantial responsibility to accommodate additional troop reductions. Today, however, local governments face a mandate to slim down their administrative organs—the same ones that would ordinarily provide civil service billets for demobilized or discharged PLA personnel.84 Local governments often have little recourse left but to offer lower grade positions, register these veterans and ask them to wait, or hope veterans accept buyouts to participate in independent job-searching.

The pressure to slim down both civilian and military administrative positions has created significant difficulties in finding appropriate positions for field grade officers at the division- and regiment grade levels. The resettlement of these officers is one of the most difficult problems in personnel resettlement and has been amplified by the lack of a standardized conversion between military and civilian grades, leading to widespread complaints that personnel resettlement differs across provinces.85 Regiment and deputy regiment grade officers, among others, have often been forced to accept lower grade positions while working their way up the civilian promotion ladder to positions they may have already been legally entitled to.86

The Effects of Market Reforms and Economic Adjustment

China’s shift toward a market economy has also profoundly reduced the ability and willingness of localities to accommodate discharged PLA personnel. In the past, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were to accommodate discharged personnel into positions in industry and commerce, but increasing privatization and market liberalization have incentivized these companies to shirk their responsibilities to veterans. Some economic reforms, like the 1993 Notice Concerning Problems of Enterprises Canceling Worker Identification Boundaries and Fully Implementing the Labor Contract System [guanyu qiye quxiao gongren shenfen jiexian shixing quan yuan laodong hetong zhi ruogan wenti de yijian de tongzhi, 关于企业取消工人身份界限实行全员劳动合同制若干问题的意见的通知] not only were meant to create more efficient and competitive personnel systems in state-owned industries,87 but also allowed enterprises to cancel the national cadre identity of these former military cadres, freeing the companies from the burden of medical and social insurance.

The ultimate result of this privatization for enterprises was organizational reform, large-scale layoffs, and veteran dissatisfaction. Newly unemployed military veterans were told that the enterprise had already become a private business, so SOEs had no responsibility for their subsidies and medical care promised by the government. Local governments claimed they had fulfilled their obligation to veterans by finding them jobs, and the military viewed these veterans as civilians and ultimately refused to intercede on their behalf.

Economic readjustment and rebalancing are slated to accelerate under Xi Jinping, leaving localities with an even more daunting task ahead of them. The government is embarking on “structural reforms” to reduce overcapacity in the steel and coal sectors, potentially shedding millions of jobs, many in the economically depressed Northeastern rust belt.88 The sweeping pace and scope of the anticipated economic reforms have prompted officials to promise that China can handle the economic adjustments;89 the government quickly announced that it would earmark some 100 billion RMB (roughly $15.7 billion USD in 2018) to offset pending unemployment.90 Nonetheless, local governments will likely be hard pressed to find appropriate jobs for discharged military personnel amid the upheaval caused by the latest tranche of economic reforms.

Overall, local governments are under increasing pressure to accommodate PLA personnel leaving the military, but their viable options for doing so are dwindling. Problems with resettlement policy and restrictive legal measures limit the ability of local governments to handle the most recent troop reduction quickly and without incident. When combined with the effects of accelerating reform in military, civil, and economic sectors, the processes of resettlement and dispensing preferential treatment for PLA veterans look set to significantly increase military-locality tensions and potentially create problems for the regime.


Many of the problems described above have resulted in increasingly visible protests by disenfranchised PLA veterans in the last 15 years. In April 2005, more than 1,600 discharged military personnel came from 20 provinces to hold a peaceful sit-in demonstration in Tiananmen Square, where they protested their unemployment even though they were supposed to receive corresponding jobs after they left the military.91 Protests continued as market reforms deepened after Hu Jintao’s inauguration. In 2007, more than 1,000 discharged military members clashed with the police in Heilongjiang, with several injured and arrested.92 In Hunan, more than 300 discharged personnel protested in front of a provincial government building, prompting the local government to use special police forces to suppress the demonstration.93

The Central Military Commission responded to these protests by increasing subsidies for these former cadres, but the situation did not improve because protestors had already been stripped of their national cadre identities by local SOEs. In March 2008, roughly 6,000 discharged military cadres signed a petition to show their disapproval of the situation. This petition appealed to the central government to recover their cadre identity and associated subsidies, medical, and social insurances.94 Protests continued into 2009, as hundreds of former cadres demonstrated and petitioned members of the local Shandong government assembly and asked the government to recover their cadre identity and to implement the resettlement policy of the central government.95 Although the local government suppressed this demonstration, a larger protest occurred only 6 months later.96

The potential for troop reduction to create social instability is probably the single weightiest concern for the party.97 Authorities appear to have ample reason for wariness: veterans complain that state-owned companies often renege on promised benefits and local officials embezzle funds meant for veterans,98 and reports of protests have increased in the last year. As many as 4,000 veterans assembled at the offices of the CMC in July 2016 to call for the full payment of benefits.99 Another protest in October 2016 brought hundreds of veterans to the CMC headquarters building in Beijing,100 followed by another in early January 2017.101

Troop reduction will inevitably increase tensions between local governments and the central government and the PLA. Official media writings acknowledge these difficulties, noting that local governments will bear the heaviest burden of finding jobs for transferred officers and emphasizing the importance of alleviating this pressure.102 The requirement that downsized personnel return to their home provinces virtually ensures that the troop reduction will impact Chinese provinces unevenly, as local governments in economically depressed regions of China will be charged with finding jobs for discharged personnel who likely joined the military in greater numbers to escape poor economic prospects. This could be harder if the PLA decides to cut large numbers of higher-ranking officers, who are entitled to scarce high-paying jobs.

Troop Reduction in the Xi Jinping Era

In spite of the organizations and regulations put in place to manage the separation of 300,000 military personnel from the PLA, the 2015 troop reduction has almost certainly encountered political, economic, and legal headwinds. The local governments that would otherwise accept discharged PLA personnel as civil servants face a political mandate to slim down their administrative ranks that has intensified as Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign continues apace. Large SOEs, previously major employers of discharged PLA personnel, face a similar political zeitgeist compounded on two sides by statist pressures for strong economic performance and market pressures wrought by privatization and free market competition. To make matters worse, the organizations responsible for resettlement are typically low on the pecking order, and legal mechanisms ensuring preferential treatment for discharged military personnel conflict with legislation designed to reform government civil service. At first glance, the 2015 troop reduction is likely to seriously disrupt military-locality relations thanks to these political, economic, and legal obstacles—recent suggestions that the deadline for force reductions will be extended until 2020 likely prove as much.103

Nevertheless, the party’s worst fears about a troop reduction gone wrong are unlikely to come to pass in the era of Xi. Though the potential implications for social instability are serious, a number of considerations are likely to mitigate the problems of the ongoing troop reduction. Expertise gained from past troop reductions, general demographic characteristics of the downsizing, and the government’s active efforts to strengthen supervision of veterans’ affairs may help attenuate the difficulties of the current reduction effort. A number of countervailing forces unique to Xi Jinping’s rule may temper objections and force cooperation, including recent initiatives for entrepreneurship, Xi’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign, and the ultimate supremacy of party rule over the rule of law. On balance, the party will likely successfully reduce the size of the PLA without threats to its rule, even at the cost of greater tension in military-locality relations.

Countervailing Considerations

The PLA and Chinese government have extensive experience managing troop downsizing, implementing at least 11 large force reductions since 1949. Past reductions have been much larger and were accomplished in part by transferring personnel to the People’s Armed Police.104 Recent reduction efforts were similar in size, scale, and method to the current downsizing: the 1997 troop reduction cut 500,000 troops in 3 years, and the most recent troop reduction in 2003 downsized 200,000 troops in 2 years.105 Though historical experience is no guarantee that Chinese authorities will successfully navigate the ongoing downsizing, both the PLA and relevant civil authorities have gained substantial insight into the possible problems associated with large troop reductions.

The demographics of the latest reduction may be less problematic than it initially appears. Though dissatisfied veterans might pose a political risk for China’s leaders, they may constitute a relatively small percentage of discharged soldiers. Officers transferred to civilian jobs should be mollified by a position with equivalent pay and benefits, while retired officers can expect extensive benefits and a full pension. The biggest losers of the downsizing will be those officers who choose independent job-searching but subsequently have difficulty finding work on their own. Statistics from 2014, however, indicate that only 22.5 percent of the discharged officers choose independent job-searching,106 amounting to an estimated 11,600 to 13,000 officers per year during the downsizing. This is no small figure, but authorities have already stepped up efforts to help these officers find employment by organizing conferences, giving classes, and teaching entrepreneurship skills.107

The transfer of PLA personnel to state-owned enterprises may also prove less painful than speculated. Statistics from past years suggest that only 1.5 to 2 percent of eligible officers are placed into SOEs,108 roughly equivalent to 1,160 officers per year for the current troop reduction. Past economic reforms split SOEs into public and commercial categories, with several “strategic” industries kept under strict government control that will face a strong mandate to find jobs for eligible discharged PLA personnel.109 Though the percentage of enlisted personnel transferred to SOEs is unknown, the government has reportedly made accommodation for enlisted personnel, announcing that 5 percent of jobs at SOEs would be reserved for discharged soldiers.110

While recent protests by PLA veterans have made for splashy headlines, these protestors are likely less of a threat to regime stability than reports indicate. Many of the demonstrators in these protests were older veterans from past conflicts like the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War, for whom the primary concern is pension and benefits, not employment and resettlement.111 These protesters are more likely to be placated by appropriate disbursement of subsidies and pose a less difficult logistical problem for local governments.

At a higher administrative level, the central government and PLA have undertaken several steps meant to strengthen supervision of veterans’ affairs and eliminate corruption in the system. An October 2015 report indicated the PLA is considering establishing an independent body responsible for veterans’ affairs.112 The PLA’s recent organizational reforms dismantled the four general departments that previously handled veterans’ affairs for themselves113 and placed the newly formed Organ Affairs General Management Bureau [zhongyang junwei jiguan shiwu guanli zongju, 中央军委机关事务管理总局] in charge of veterans’ affairs under direct CMC supervision.114 Changes in resettlement and separation policy have expanded and codified benefits for discharged soldiers, and current policy allows the central government to simply assign officers to jobs outside their home province if necessary.115 Pronouncements from the highest levels of China’s leadership warn against contravention of demobilization and resettlement policy.116

The Chinese government has also demonstrated a tacit willingness to extend deadlines in order to forestall any potential future disruptions brought on by the troop reduction. PLA officers have suggested that the original deadline for reductions will be extended from the end of 2017 until 2020, giving more time for the relevant parties to arrange for the downsizing and subsequent treatment of discharged personnel.117 While the deadline extension is an indicator of the difficulties inherent in trimming the PLA’s end strength, it is also undoubtedly intended to relieve pressure on both PLA commanders charged with making reductions and the local governments tasked with providing benefits to discharged personnel.

Countervailing Factors in the Xi Era

Although the convergence of political, economic, and legal obstacles depicts bleak prospects for a smooth PLA personnel reduction, a variety of countervailing factors suggests that the reduction will nonetheless be successfully implemented. For instance, the various party and government organs charged with accommodating discharged PLA personnel will encourage less burdensome alternative separation paths for them. Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign will punish some military personnel and leave them ineligible for preferential treatment, while cowing others into foregoing aggressive efforts to secure their full benefits. Xi’s recent consolidation of power at the 19th Party Congress is likely to steer governance away from institutionalization and rule of law and further toward party supremacy and personalized rule by Xi himself, making it less likely that legal barriers and local concerns will truly stand in the way of swiftly executing troop reduction and resettlement efforts that have Xi’s backing.

Alternative Separation Options. Higher education, independent job-searching, and entrepreneurship initiatives benefiting discharged soldiers are increasingly attractive for the local governments and SOEs already hard pressed to accommodate former military personnel. Higher education bonuses and reduced pensions for independent job-searchers are ultimately much less expensive and easier to arrange than retirement with full pensions or transfer to civilian billets.118 Chinese authorities are placing a stronger emphasis on these separation options. Military authorities have already stepped up efforts to help officers find employment by organizing conferences, giving classes, and teaching entrepreneurship skills;119 provincial human resources offices have added more classes to improve entrepreneurship ability for discharged soldiers.120 Provincial civilian and military organizations responsible for the troop reduction have begun holding ceremonies for soldiers who leave the PLA to obtain higher education.121

These separation options benefit multiple stakeholders in the discharge and resettlement processes and may alleviate the burden on localities charged with accommodating discharged soldiers. The military is able to jettison the personnel it no longer wants, and discharged PLA personnel are able to secure some benefits while pursuing futures in the private sector. Hard-pressed local authorities are absolved of resettlement obligations beyond a buyout payment for veterans who chose independent job-searching; they are similarly absolved of further obligations for personnel who choose to pursue higher education. Neither of these options are as expensive as retirement or civilian transfer, and nominally, neither option explicitly excludes PLA personnel that may have been charged with corruption. At scale, these alternative separation options could have benefits for the central government’s effort to rebalance the economy; each veteran who starts a business is one less veteran on the payroll of a local government or state-owned enterprise.

The Anti-Corruption Campaign. Should education bonuses and entrepreneurship classes fail to satisfy the demands of PLA veterans, Xi’s anti-corruption campaign adds a powerful coercive tool to the central government’s toolkit for implementing the troop reduction on Xi’s terms. The anti-corruption campaign has accelerated at an extraordinary pace since 2013, with 4,024 officers above lieutenant colonel punished since 2013122 and 4,885 officers punished in 2016 alone.123 At least 13,000 military officers have been punished since the campaign began in 2012.124 According to article 13, section 2, of the Provisional Measures for Resettling Transferred Officers, regiment grade officers and below who have committed a crime are not eligible for resettlement benefits; anyone convicted of a crime is likewise ineligible for civil service jobs of any kind.125 While some of these officers may remain in PLA service and are not part of the latest troop reduction, those who leave the PLA will not enjoy preferential treatment from the party.

The anti-corruption campaign also has a strong coercive and deterrent effect on military personnel and local government officials who have not officially been convicted of corruption. Many of the administrative and noncombat military organizations facing personnel reductions were hotbeds of corruption given their frequent interaction with commercial industry and civilian business. The specter of guilt and criminal charges withheld is likely to be compelling enough to force corrupt military personnel to leave the PLA without claiming the veterans’ resettlement and benefits owed by the government. Even the hint of prosecution for corruption may have cowed Xi’s political opposition into compliance before the 19th Party Congress; a similar dynamic will likely hold true for both the military personnel leaving the PLA and the local governments and SOEs charged with accommodating the discharged personnel. PLA veterans may be more willing to accept less than they are due rather than make complaints that risk triggering a corruption investigation.

Coercion and silencing effects aside, the national scope of the anti-corruption campaign may also free up civilian billets for discharged PLA personnel who do not have the black mark of corruption charges on their records. Local government officials and SOE leaders are not immune from the anti-corruption campaign; indeed, the campaign has thus far ensnared nearly 100,000 higher officials since it began in 2012, and the “tigers and flies” nature of the effort has targeted local officials as well.126 Some of these recently vacated positions may be open for discharged PLA personnel.

Xi Ascendant: A More Compliant Governing Apparatus? Xi’s consolidation of power at the top of the CCP will lead to a party that is more compliant and more likely to override legal mechanisms of resettlement should the need arise. Most agree that China is a country under “ruled by law” rather than “rule of law,” despite attempts to portray China as the latter.127 In other words, China’s highest governing authorities, namely Xi and the CCP, may be more inclined than ever to adjust, override, contravene, or outright ignore existing law if the troop reduction threatens their rule.

Xi’s anti-corruption campaign and subsequent coronation as core leader of the CCP hint at an increasing unity of command throughout the party that controls all aspects of the Chinese state and government. Given the party’s longstanding emphasis on its control of the military and the military’s continued allegiance to protecting the party,128 central party leaders will not look kindly upon laws or local officials that restrict their ability to extend preferential treatment to PLA veterans. Military-locality relations will undoubtedly be strained by the troop reduction, but the well-worn maxim that the party comes before all else in China is likely even more true under Xi’s consolidated rule than in years past. This centralization of power and emphasis on party rule will likely override local difficulties in accommodating PLA veterans.


The People’s Liberation Army and relevant civilian agencies were well aware of the potential negative impact the force reduction could have on morale and social stability and have worked hard to anticipate and ameliorate problems from past force reductions. Expanding and increasing benefits to demobilized conscripts, providing more exit opportunities to NCOs in the form of education stipends, and clarifying the civilian transfer process for officers all represent calculated efforts by the Chinese government to soften the negative impact of force reductions on discharged soldiers. The government announced in March 2018 that the force reduction was “basically complete,” although some PLA officers have privately suggested that the force reduction process could extend beyond the originally announced 2017 deadline until 2020.129

Nonetheless, the troop reduction significantly strained military-locality relations. Tensions were likely most aggravated in the localities hit hardest by the economic downturn that face underfunded mandates to find jobs for discharged PLA personnel. Still, the success of the force reduction indicates that challenges such as increased costs are serious but solvable: the government would likely find the monetary resources needed to make separation and pension payments if serious threats to social stability emerged. Furthermore, recent veteran protests appear to be aimed at eliciting central government pressure to rectify local injustices and protect veterans’ rights, rather than directing dissatisfaction at the CCP and central government.130 If social instability rises to a level that requires suppression, the Chinese internal security apparatus has amply demonstrated its ability to stifle any substantial disruption of social stability, applying its expertise most recently against veteran protesters in 2015.131 The party’s ability to control, co-opt, coerce, or otherwise suppress dissent is well documented by past incidents and verified by the party’s continued rule.

The biggest challenge in any force reduction lies in finding civilian positions for discharged soldiers in poorer parts of China. Failure on this front could exacerbate tensions between the PLA and local governments, and more importantly, between the PLA and a party obliged to care for its military. However, this challenge does not seem to have posed a severe threat to party rule since the PLA and Chinese government were well positioned to mitigate the difficulties that arose from the force reduction. The claim that the force reduction is basically complete suggests that the challenges were manageable.

In March 2018, the Chinese government responded to the issues that emerged in the force reduction by establishing a new Ministry of Veterans Affairs to “to maintain the legitimate rights and interests of the military personnel and their families, strengthen the building of the service and support system for veterans, build and optimize a concentrated, integrated, and well-defined service and support system for veterans, so as to make the military a better respected career in China.”132 The ministry is intended partly to serve as an advocate for veterans and to press local governments to meet their responsibilities. However, it is unclear whether this new organization will be successful in overcoming the inherent conflicts in interest between the military and local governments.

This chapter is based on a conference paper prepared for the 2016 CAPS-RAND-National Defense University People’s Liberation Army Conference and a two-part article published by the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief. See Ma Chengkun, “Xi Jinping’s Military Reform and Military Locality Relations,” November 18–19, 2016; John Chen, “Downsizing the PLA, Part 1: Military Discharge and Resettlement Policy, Past and Present,” China Brief 16, no. 16, October 26, 2016, available at <>; and John Chen, “Downsizing the PLA, Part 2: The Potential for Social Instability,” China Brief 16, no. 17, November 11, 2016, available at <>.


1 Shen Mengzhe and Liu Shaohua [申孟哲, 刘少华], “Chinese Military Reduction of 300,000 Personnel Draws Worldwide Praise” [中国裁军30万迎来世界点赞], People’s Daily Overseas Edition, September 11, 2015, available at <>.

2 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Political Department, “Resolutely Win the Tough Battle of Deepening Reform of National Defense and the Armed Forces—Thoroughly Study and Implement Xi Jinping’s Important Expositions on Deepening the Reform of National Defense and Armed Forces” [坚决打赢深化国防和军队改革这场攻坚战一一深入学习贯彻习主席关于深化国防和军队改革重要论述], China Military Science, no. 6 (2015), 1–6.

3 Liu Xiaopeng [刘晓朋], ed., “CMC Opinions on Deepening National Defense and Military Reforms” [中央军委关于深化国防和军队改革的意见], Xinhua, January 1, 2016, available at <>.

4 Sun Yanxin, Wang Jingguo, and Li Xuanliang [孙彦新, 王经国, 李宣良], “Ministry of National Defense Holds News Conference to Explain Military Parade and Troop Reduction Questions” [国防部举行新闻发布会详解阅兵和 裁军等问题], Xinhua, September 3, 2015, available at <>.

5 Liu, “CMC Opinions.”

6 Huang Zijuan [黄子娟], “Major General: Troop Reduction Will Focus on ‘Joint Warfare’; Navy and Air Force Troop Ratios Could Increase” [少将: 裁军将围绕联合作战的核心; 海空军比例或增加], People’s Daily (Beijing), September 7, 2015, available at <>.

7 Wang Jingguo [王经国], “Xi Jinping: Care and Show Concern for Resettling Military Cadre—Innovate Resettlement Work System” [习近平: 关心关爱军转干部 创新安置工作机制], Xinhua, June 7, 2016, available at <>.

8 “Defense Ministry’s Regular Press Conference on March 29,” China Military Online, March 30, 2018, available at <>.

9 “Double support work” is a contraction of a Chinese phrase that roughly means “Locals support the troops and their dependents, troops support governments and love the people” [地方拥军优属, 军队拥政爱民]. See Hao Sijia [郝思嘉], ed., “How Much Do You Understand about Double Support Common Knowledge?” [这些双拥常识,你了解多少?], Nantong Double Support Network [南通双拥网], July 5, 2017, available at <>.

10 For one examination of early preferential treatment reserved for Red Army troops, see Dong Guangcun [董广存], “Early Era Military Personnel Stipends of the People’s Liberation Army” [中国人民解放军建军早期的军人津贴], China Files [中国档案], January 26, 2009, available at <>.

11 “Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Chinese Soviet Republic People’s Committee Decision Regarding Preferential Treatment for Red Army Dependents” [中国共产党中央委员会、中华苏维埃共和国人民委员会关于优待红军家属的决定], Selected Documents of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, vol. 10 (1934–1935), available at <>.

12 Li Tao [李涛], “Ten Historical Troop Reductions of the People’s Liberation Army” [人民解放军历史上的10次大裁军], PLA Daily [解放军报], November 18, 2015, available at <>.

13 For a discussion of this decision in historical context, see Bai Li [白黎], “People and Military United as One, Try and See Who Could Resist! Recollections of the Development of China’s Double Support Work” [军民团结如一人,试看天下谁能敌: 忆我国双拥工作的发展], Qiushi Network [求是网], July 30, 2016, available at <>.

14 “A Brief History of the Development of Double Support Work” [双拥工作发展简史], China Double Support Magazine [《中国双拥》杂志], available at <>.

15 Li, “Ten Historical Troop Reductions of the People’s Liberation Army.”

16 “Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, State Council Notice on Respecting the Military and Actively Supporting Military Reform and Construction” [关于尊重, 爱护军队积极支持军队改革和建设的通知], Selected Important Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, available at <>. The actual Chinese text is jieshou anzhi hao zhuanye ganbu, shi dangqian difang dui jundui gaige he jianshe de zuida zhichi, 接收安置好转业干部,是当前地方对军队改革和建设的最大支持.

17 For the text of the notice circulated to Shenzhen, see “Labor Department General Office Transmits to Shenzhen City Notice on Opinions Concerning Problems of Enterprises Canceling Worker Identification Boundaries and Fully Implementing the Labor Contract System” [劳动部办公厅转发深圳市《关于企业取消干部工人身份界限实行全员劳动合同制若干问题的意见》的通知], Shenzhen City Labor Bureau, July 5, 1993, available at <>.

18 Ministry of Civil Affairs [民政部], “A Brief Description of Double Support Work” [双拥工作简介], China Double Support Network [中国双拥网], available at <>.

19 Fang Yongzhi [房永智], “Media: Demobilization Ceremonies Should Be Held for the Nearly Half of the 300,000-Personnel Troop Cut That Will Be Officers” [媒体: 裁军30万近半是军官应举行退役仪式], China Youth Daily [中国青年报], June 13, 2016, available at <>.

20 Zhang Xiangyi, ed., “PLA Daily Editors’ Department Essay: Military Reforms Have Entered the Era of ‘New Organization’” [军报编制部文章: 改革强军进入新体制时间’], PLA Daily [解放军报], April 8, 2016, available at <>; and Li Dongxing, Li Liang, and Wang Pei [李东星, 李亮, 王沛], “Organizational Reconstruction: How to Lead ‘Large Armed Forces’ with ‘Small Organizations’” [体制重塑, ‘小机关如何指导大部队’],” PLA Daily [解放军报], July 29, 2016, available at <>.

21 Chinese laws do not appear to specify transfer to the People’s Armed Police (PAP) as a regularly available option for soldiers leaving the PLA, although some past reductions have transferred entire PLA units to the PAP. Considering the amount of state media attention surrounding other demobilization methods and goals, such wholesale transfers are unlikely to represent a significant portion of the ongoing force reduction.

22 For a seminal treatment of Chinese demobilization policies in the open literature, see Maryanne Kivlehan-Wise, “Demobilization and Resettlement: The Challenge of Downsizing the People’s Liberation Army,” in Civil-Military Relations in Today’s China, ed. David M. Finkelstein and Kristen Gunness (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2007).

23 Ibid., 260–261.

24 Ibid.

25 “What Is Living Expenses Policy Like for Demobilized Conscripts? A Group of Questions and Answers in Reply” [退伍义务兵生活待遇政策怎么样? 一组问答告诉你], Financial Affairs Section of the Nanjing Military Region Joint Logistics Department, People’s Frontline News Weixin [人民前线报微信], August 8, 2015, available at <>.

26 Huang Yanghai [黄杨海], ed., “Demobilized Soldiers, Don’t Miss Out on These Benefits If You Want to Start Your Own Business” [退伍了, 如果你想创业, 这些优惠不要错过], PLA Daily Reporter’s Weixin [军报记者微信], September 7, 2015, available at <>.

27 Kivlehan-Wise, “Demobilization and Resettlement,” 262.

28 “People’s Republic of China Military Service Law” [中华人民共和国兵役法], National People’s Congress, revised October 29, 2011, available at <>.

29 See articles 18 and 19, “Enlisted Personnel Resettlement Regulations” [退役士兵安置条例], State Council of the People’s Republic of China and Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China, November 1, 2011, available at <>.

30 See article 29, “Enlisted Personnel Resettlement Regulations.”

31 Ibid., article 41.

32 The term ganbu, 干部, is actually best translated as cadre, and includes both military officers and PLA civilians [wenzhi ganbu, 文职干部]. The more specific Chinese term for officer is junguan, 军官, but PLA demobilization regulations tend to use ganbu in reference to officers. This chapter uses officers to refer to both uniformed military officers and PLA civilians.

33 Provisional Measures for Resettling Transferred Officers [军队转业干部安置暂行办法] (Beijing: State Council of the People’s Republic of China and Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China, January 19, 2001), chapter 4, article 22, available at <>. See also Kivlehan-Wise, “Demobilization and Resettlement,” 263–266.

34 Provisional Measures, chapter 5, article 34.

35 Ibid., chapter 5, article 37.

36 See table for details, which summarizes information from “Two Hundred Questions on Living Expenses Policy for Officers and Men” [官兵生活待遇政策200], Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China, March 11, 2015, available at <>.

37 “Opinions Regarding Problems Managing the Resettlement of Officers Selecting Independent Job-Search” [关于自主择业的军队转业干部安置管理若干问题的意见], State Council of the People’s Republic of China, August 24, 2001, available at <>.

38 See table for details.

39 “Two Hundred Questions on Living Expenses Policy for Officers and Men” [官兵生活待遇政策200].

40 Kivlehan-Wise, “Demobilization and Resettlement,” 260.

41 Provisional Measures, chapter 3, article 16.

42 Ibid., chapter 3, article 19.

43 Ibid., chapter 3, article 21.

44 Zhang Tao, ed., “Troop Cuts to Boost PLA Capability and Efficiency,” China Military Online, September 9, 2015, available at <>.

45 “Ministry of Civil Affairs and General Staff Department Explains 2014 Demobilized Enlisted Personnel Resettlement Policy” [民政部总参谋部解答2014年度退役士兵安置政], Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, March 10, 2015, available at <>.

46 Kivlehan-Wise cites anecdotal evidence documenting this trend, which likely applies to rural conscripts more than those from the cities. See Kivlehan-Wise, “Demobilization and Resettlement,” 268.

47 Dennis J. Blasko writes that new recruits are “drawn mostly from a pool of over 10 million males that reach conscription age annually,” suggesting that conscript supply still outnumbers demand. See Dennis J. Blasko, The Chinese Army Today (New York: Routledge, 2012), 59.

48 Zhao Lei and Cang Wei, “PLA Eases Standards for Recruitment,” China Daily (Beijing), June 17, 2014, available at <>.

49 “Opinions Regarding Implementation of Financial Subsidization Policy for the Education of Demobilized Enlisted Personnel” [关于实施退役士兵教育资助政策的意见], Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Education, October 25, 2011, available at <>.

50 “Notification Regarding the Adjustment and Perfection of National Educational Debt Subsidization Policy Measures” [关于调整完善国家助学贷款相关政策措施的通知], Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, People’s Bank of China, and China Banking Regulatory Commission of the People’s Republic of China, July 18, 2014, available at <>.

51 Niu Chenfei [牛晨斐], “Ministry of Civil Affairs General Staff Department Interprets 2014 Enlisted Personnel Demobilization and Resettlement Policy” [民政部总参谋部解答2014年度退役士兵安置政策], China Military Online [中国军网], November 6, 2014, available at <>.

52 Provisional Measures, chapter 1, article 8.

53 Yuan Jing, “Beijing Officer Resettlement Work Conference Requests That No Unit Refuse Transferring Officers” [本市转业干部安置工作会要求任何单位不得拒收军转干部], Beijing Daily [北京日报], July 15, 2016, available at <>. See also Liu Jianjun [刘建军], “An Advisor Replies to A Young Officer’s Concerns about Civilian Transfer” [年轻军官的转业烦恼, 谢顾问为你解答], PLA Daily [解放军报], July 5, 2016, available at <>.

54 “Opinions Regarding the Problems and Improvement of Measures for Civilian Transfer for Demobilized Officers” [关于改进计划分配军转业干部安置办法若干问题的意见], Communist Party of China Organization Department et al., Inner Mongolia Ministry of Human Resources and Social Stability, January 21, 2012, available at <>.

55 Liu, “An Advisor Replies.”

56 Jun Zhuanxuan, “State Council Military Cadre Transfer and Resettlement Work Small Group Meets in Beijing” [国务院军队转业干部安置工作小组会议在京召开], China Organization and Human Resources Report [中国组织人事报], May 8, 2017, available at <>.

57 The last complete roster of the Transfer and Resettlement Small Group was released in 2008; the 2013 and 2017 press releases do not mention the actual composition of the groups. See “Personnel Adjustment for State Council Military Cadre Transfer and Resettlement Work Small Group” [国务院军队转业干部安置工作小组组成人员调整], State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Liaoning Provincial People’s Government Report, 2008, available at <>.

58 “Military Officer Transfer Resettlement Department” [军官转业安置司], Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, People’s Republic of China, January 31, 2013, available at < >.

59 For an example, see “Military Cadre Transfer Resettlement Department” [军官转业安置处], Fujian Provincial Department of Human Resources and Social Security, available at <>.

60 Hao Sijia [郝思嘉], ed., “A Description of the National Double Support Work Leading Group” [全国双拥工作领导小组介绍], China Double Support Network [中国双拥网], July 31, 2015, available at <>.

61 For a full list of organizations with high-level equities in double support work, see the roster of the national leading small group at Cui Xiaosu and Yao Yi [崔小粟, 姚奕], eds., “Adjustment of the National Double Support Work Leading Small Group Roster” [全国双拥工作领导小组组成人员名单调整], News of the Chinese Communist Party, November 11, 2013, available at <>.

62 Hao, “A Description of the National Double Support Work Leading Group.”

63 General Office of Hebei Province Double Support Work Leading Small Group, “Double Support Work Responsibilities and Work System” [职责和工作制度], Hebei Province Department of Civil Affairs, available at <>

64 Hao, “A Description of the National Double Support Work Leading Group.”

65 Cui and Yao, “Adjustment of the National Double Support Work Leading Small Group Roster.”

66 “Special Care Resettlement Bureau” [优抚安置局], Ministry of Civil Affairs, People’s Republic of China, July 2015, available at <>.

67 Ibid.

68 Cui and Yao, “Adjustment of the National Double Support Work Leading Small Group Roster.”

69 See appendix for a comparison of the 2008 rosters for both working groups.

70 Cui and Yao, “Adjustment of the National Double Support Work Leading Small Group Roster.”

71 “Demonstrate Superiority in Double Support Work, Strongly Support the Deepening of National Defense and Military Reform” [全国双拥工作领导小组:发挥双拥工作优势,大力支持深化国防和军队改革], National Double Support Work Leading Small Group, Ministry of Civil Affairs, People’s Republic of China, May 23, 2016, available at <>.

72 “Double Support Work Responsibilities and Work System” [职责和工作制度], General Office of Hebei Province Double Support Work Leading Small Group, Department of Civil Affairs, available at <>.

73 “Guidance on Executing Double Support Work” [双拥工作办事指南], Tai’an City Department of Civil Affairs, available at <>.

74 Provisional Measures.

75 Interview of PLA officer by authors, November 2017.

76 Xu Jingjing, “How to Understand ‘Arranging Corresponding Duty Grades’ in Military Transfer and Resettlement” [军转安置中安排相应职务咋理解], National Defense News [国防报], February 14, 2017, available at <>.

77 Ibid.

78 One document from 1985 detailed civilian grade equivalents for military personnel transferring out of the PLA. Division grade leaders [zheng shi zhi, 正师职] were to be assigned as local administration or department heads [ju, ting zhang, 局,厅长], deputy division grade leaders [fu shi zhi, 副师职] to vice administration or department heads [fu ju, ting zhang, 副局,厅长], regiment leaders [zheng tuan zhi, 正团职] to office heads [chu zhang, 处长] or county mayors [xian zhang, 县长], and deputy regiment leaders [fu tuan zhi, 副团职] to vice county mayors [fu xian zhang, 副县长] or deputy office heads [fu chu zhang, 副处长]. See State Council and Central Military Commission, “Notice on the Problem of Salaries and Treatment of Transferred Military Cadre” [军队转业干部工资待遇问题的通知], November 19, 1985, available at <>.

79 Meng Leilei [孟磊磊], “What Did This Transferred Military Cadre Rely upon to Become a Deputy County Mayor in Sixteen Months?” [一年零四个月,这名军转干部靠什么成为副县长?], China Military Online [中国军网], May 10, 2017, available at <>.

80 See article 21 of “Civil Servant Law of the People’s Republic of China” [中华人民共和国公务员法], Central Organization Department of the Chinese Communist Party, available at <>.

81 Ibid., article 25.

82 For a conversion between the number of civil service grades and administrative (county, township, and so forth) grades, see “Regulations on Managing Civil Servant Grades and Levels” [公务员职务与级别管理规定], Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, People’s Republic of China, April 9, 2006, available at <>.

83 Zhang, “PLA Daily Editors’ Department Essay”; Li, Li, and Wang, “Organizational Reconstruction.”

84 Many of these downsizing mandates are motivated by concerns about mounting local government debt. For a discussion of past downsizing efforts, see John P. Burns, “‘Downsizing’ the Chinese State: Government Retrenchment in the 1990s,” China Quarterly, vol. 175 (September 2003), 775–802. See also Frank Tang, “China’s Spiraling Local Government Debt Still Out of Control, Says Outspoken Lawmaker,” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), March 9, 2017, available at <>.

85 Xu, “How to Understand ‘Arranging Corresponding Duty Grades’ in Military Transfer and Resettlement.”

86 Meng, “What Did This Transferred Military Cadre Rely upon to Become a Deputy County Mayor in Sixteen Months?”

87 For the text of the notice circulated to Shenzhen, see “Labor Department General Office Transmits to Shenzhen City Notice on Opinions Concerning Problems of Enterprises Canceling Worker Identification Boundaries and Fully Implementing the Labor Contract System” [劳动部办公厅转发深圳市《关于企业取消干部工人身份界限实行全员劳动合同制若干问题的意见》的通知], Shenzhen City Labor Bureau, July 5, 1993, available at <>.

88 Jane Perlez and Yufan Huang, “Mass Layoffs in China’s Coal Country Threaten Unrest,” New York Times, December 16, 2015, available at <>.

89 See Tian Shaohui, ed., “China Can Deal with Economic Challenges: Official,” Xinhua, February 3, 2016.

90 Zhao Xiaohui [赵晓辉], “China Initiates Fight Against Production Overcapacity; Government Allocates 100 Billion Yuan for Worker Resettlement” [中国打响去产能攻坚战 政府斥资千亿元用于职工安置], Xinhua, February 25, 2016, available at <

91 See Benjamin Lim, “China Veterans Stage 2,000-Strong Protest,” Reuters, April 16, 2005; and Edward Cody, “China Grows More Wary Over Rash of Protests,” Washington Post, August 10, 2005, available at <>.

92 Lu Jianwei, “A Thousand Demobilized Military Personnel Clash Bloodily with Hundreds of Special Police in Heilongjiang” [黑龍江千名退伍軍人 與數百特警流血衝突], Central News Agency, September 9, 2007.

93 Zhang Qian [張謙], “China’s Demobilized Military Personnel Hit the Streets for Their Rights; Hunan Government Deploys Special Police as a Precaution” [中國退伍軍人上街爭權 湖南派特警戒備], Central News Agency, April 20, 2007, available at <>.

94 “Nearly 6,000 Demobilized Chinese Military Cadres Publicize Petition Appealing for Equal Treatment” [中国近6千军转干部发表要求同等待遇请示书], Radio Free Asia [自由亞洲電台], March 26, 2008, available at <>.

95 Guo Meilan [郭玫兰], “Large-Scale Demonstration by Demobilized Military Cadres Explodes in Yantai” [煙台爆發軍轉幹部大規模抗議行動], Central News Agency, December 16, 2009, available at <>.

96 Guo Meilan [郭玫兰], “Over 400 Demobilized Military Personnel Petition the Yantai Government” [400多名退伍軍人到煙台市政府請願], Central News Agency, May 20, 2010, available at <>.

97 Kivlehan-Wise, “Demobilization and Resettlement,” 257.

98 Jeremy Page, “As China’s Economy Slows, Unrest Among Veterans Rises,” Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2016, available at <>.

99 These protests are, unsurprisingly, not covered by official state media. See Qu Ming, ed., “More Than 4,000 Demobilized Soldiers Gather at the Central Military Commission Holding Banners to Protect Their Rights” [4000余退役军人聚中军委拉横幅维权], New Tang News, July 18, 2016, available at <>.

100 “China Blockades Streets Around Military Building as Hundreds Protest in Capital,” Reuters, October 11, 2016, available at <>.

101 Chi-yuk Choi, “PLA Veterans Stage Another Protest in Beijing over Unpaid Benefits,” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), January 4, 2017, available at <>.

102 Fang Yan, “Demobilization Bugle Call Sounds: The Pressures of Civilian Transfer and Resettlement Will Not Be Small” [裁军号角吹响: 转业安置压力不会小], China Youth Daily [中国青年报], March 3, 2016, available at <>.

103 Information from PLA officers, November and December 2017.

104 Li Tao [李涛], “The 10 Large Troop Reductions in People’s Liberation Army History” [人民解放军历史上10次大裁军], PLA Daily, November 18, 2015, available at <>.

105 Ibid.

106 Huang Fuyou, ed., “Media: Where Can Downsized Officers Go?” [媒体: 被裁的军官们都能去哪儿?], Beijing Daily [北京日报], September 4, 2015, available at <>.

107 Chen Guoquan and Li Youtao [陈国全, 黎友陶], “Navy and Ministry of Human Resources Hold Joint Training Class on Independent Job Selection, Job Searching, and Entrepreneurship” [海军与人社部联合举办自主择业军转干部就业创业培训班], PLA Daily [解放军报], August 9, 2016, available at <>.

108 Huang, “Media: Where Can Downsized Officers Go?”

109 “Opinions Regarding the Guidance of Delineation and Categorization of State-Owned Enterprise Capabilities” [关于国有企业功能界定与分类的指导意见], Ministry of Finance, People’s Republic of China, December 30, 2015, available at <>.

110 Song Yu, ed., “British Media: China Requests State-Owned Enterprises Reserve 5% of Jobs for Demobilized Enlisted Soldiers” [英媒: 中国要求国企按招新5% 比例聘用退役士兵], Reference News, December 30, 2015.

111 See Minnie Chan, “Why Former Chinese Soldiers Are Skeptical about Xi Jinping’s Promise of Better Treatment,” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), November 5, 2017, available at < >; and Christopher Bodeen, “China Veterans’ Protests for Pensions Pose Test for Leaders,” Associated Press, October 17, 2016.

112 Zhao Lei, “Veterans to Receive Better Income, Pensions Package,” China Daily, October 9, 2015.

113 Mark A. Stokes and Ian Easton, “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department: Evolving Organizations and Missions,” in The PLA as Organization v2.0, ed. Kevin Pollpeter and Kenneth W. Allen (Vienna, VA: DGI, Inc., 2015), 160–161.

114 Liu Zhiming [刘志明], “Adhere to the ‘Four Iron’ Demands to Build a First-Rate Support Organization” [按照四铁要求打造一流服务保障机构], PLA Daily [解放军报], April 20, 2016, available at <>.

115 See Provisional Measures, chapter 3, article 21.

116 See Yin Shen and Tong Zongli [尹深, 仝宗莉], eds., “Two Departments: No State-Owned Enterprises Are Allowed to Reject Demobilized Enlisted Personnel” [两部委: 任何国有企业不得拒绝接收退役士兵], People’s Daily [人民网], December 28, 2015, available at <>; and Yuan Jing [袁京], “Beijing Officer Resettlement Work Conference Requests That No Unit Refuse Transferring Officers” [本市转业干部安置工作会要求任何单位不得拒收军转干部], Beijing Daily [北京日报], July 15, 2016, available at <>.

117 Information from PLA officers, November and December 2017.

118 See table for details.

119 For examples, see Chen and Li, “Navy and Ministry of Human Resources Hold Joint Training Class on Independent Job Selection, Job Searching, and Entrepreneurship”; and Leng Xinggao and Li Bingfeng [冷兴高, 李兵峰], “Rocket Force Organization Job Search and Entrepreneurship Classes Help Independent Job Search and Civilian Transfer Military Cadre Enter the ‘Sea of Commerce’” [火箭军组织就业创业培训为自主择业军转干部融入商海搭桥], Xinhua, August 31, 2017, available at <>.

120 See Yunnan Provincial Office of Human Resources and Social Security, “Notice Regarding Holding Entrepreneurship Training Courses for Independent Job-Searching Military Cadre” [关于举办自主择业军转干部创新创业能力提高培训班的通知], Yunnan Human Resources and Social Security Network, December 14, 2016, available at <>.

121 Guangdong Provincial Office of Human Resources and Social Security, “Guangdong Province Holds First Ceremony for Transferring Military Cadre Entering Higher Education and Special Training Schools” [广东省举办首批军转干部进高校专项培训开学典礼], September 20, 2017, available at <>.

122 Zhao Lei, “Scores of PLA Officers Punished,” China Daily (Beijing), January 30, 3015, available at <>.

123 Liu Mengjiao, ed., “PLA Daily Vows Strict Discipline for Chinese Army,” Xinhua, March 27, 2017, available at <>.

124 Minnie Chan, “Xi Jinping Clears Decks for Top-Level Changes to China’s Military,” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), October 3, 2017, available at <>.

125 For the relevant prohibition in the Provisional Measures, see chap. 2, art. 13, sec. 2. For the corresponding prohibitions in civil servant law, see art. 24 of “Civil Servant Law of the People’s Republic of China.”

126 “Robber Barons, Beware: A Crackdown on Corruption Has Spread Anxiety among China’s Business Elite,” The Economist, October 22, 2015, available at <>.

127 Josh Chin, “‘Rule of Law’ or ‘Rule by Law’? In China, a Preposition Makes All the Difference,” Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2014, available at <>.

128 For a discussion of the relationship between the party and PLA, see James C. Mulvenon, “China: Conditional Compliance” in Coercion and Governance: The Declining Political Role of the Military in Asia, ed. Muthiah Alagappa (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001).

129 “Defense Ministry’s Regular Press Conference on March 29,” China Military Online, March 30, 2018, available at <>.

130 Qu, “More Than 4,000 Demobilized Soldiers Gather at the Central Military Commission Holding Banners to Protect Their Rights.”

131 More recent reports have indicated that some veteran activists have been taken away by security services. See Chan, “Why Former Chinese Soldiers Are Skeptical about Xi Jinping’s Promise of Better Treatment.”

132 “Defense Ministry’s Regular Press Conference on March 29.”


Comparison of National-Level Working Groups Responsible for
Military-Locality and Demobilization, 2008

Military Cadre Transfer and Resettlement Work Small Group

National Double Support Work Leading Small Group

State Council

Director, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security [人力资源社会保障部部长]*

Vice Premier, State Council

State Council

State Council

Deputy Director, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security [人力资源社会保障部副部长]**

Director, Ministry of Civil Affairs

State Council


Assistant to Director of General Political Department

Deputy Director, CCP General Office [中央办公厅副主任]**



Deputy Director,
Central Organization Department


Deputy Director, Central Organization Department [中央组织部副部长]**



Deputy Director,
Propaganda Department


Assistant Secretary General, State Council [国务院副秘书长]**

State Council


Deputy Director, State Commission Office for Public Sector Reform [中央编办副主任]

Deputy Director,
Propaganda Department



State Council

Assistant Secretary General,
State Council


Deputy Director, Ministry of Civil Affairs [民政部副部长]**

State Council

State Council

Deputy Director,
National Development and
Reform Commission

Deputy Director, National
Development and Reform
Commission [

State Council

State Council

Deputy Director, Ministry of Education

Deputy Director, Ministry of
Education [

State Council

State Council

Deputy Director,
Ministry of Public Security

Deputy Director, Ministry of Science and Technology [科技部副部长]

State Council

State Council

Deputy Director, Ministry of Civil Affairs [民政部副部长]

Deputy Director, Ministry of
Industry and Information Technology [工业和信息化部副部长]

State Council

State Council

Deputy Director, Ministry of Finance [财政部副部长]

Deputy Director, Ethnic Affairs Commission [国家民委副主任]

State Council

State Council

Deputy Director,
Ministry of Housing and
Urban-Rural Development

Director, Political Department, Ministry of Public Security

State Council

State Council

Assistant to Director,
People’s Bank of China

Deputy Director, Ministry of Justice

State Council

State Council

Deputy Director,
Administration of Taxation

Deputy Director, Ministry of Finance [财政部副部长]

State Council

State Council

Deputy Director,
Administration for
Industry and Commerce

Deputy Director, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security

State Council

State Council

Deputy Director, Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film,
and Television [

Member, Party Committee,
Ministry of Land and Resources

State Council


Political Commissar, General Logistics Department [总后勤部政治委员]

Deputy Director,
Ministry of Housing and
Urban-Rural Development

State Council


Director, Political Department [武警部队政治部主任]

Deputy Director,
Ministry of Transport

State Council


Deputy Director, General Political Department Cadre Department [总政治部干部部副部长]

Deputy Director,
Ministry of Railways

State Council

State Council

Deputy Director-General, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security [人力资源社会保障部副司长]

Deputy Director, Ministry of Water Resources [水利部副部长]

State Council

Deputy Director, Ministry of
Agriculture [农业部副部长]

State Council

Deputy Director, Ministry of
Commerce [商务部部长助理]

State Council

Deputy Director, Ministry of
Culture [文化部副部长]

State Council

Deputy Director, Ministry of Health

State Council

Deputy Director, State-Owned Assets Supervision and
Administration Commission

State Council

Deputy Director, Administration of Taxation [税务总局副局长]

State Council

Deputy Director, Administration for Industry and Commerce

State Council

Deputy Director, Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film,
and Television [

State Council

Director, General Staff
Department Political Department


Director, General Political
Department Mass Work Office


Director, General Logistics
Department Political Department


Director, General Armaments Department Political Department


Deputy Political Commissar,
People’s Armed Police


Vice Chairman, All-China
Federation of Trade Unions


Secretary, Central Secretariat,
Communist Youth League


Vice Chairman, All-China
Women’s Federation


Vice Chairman, All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce


Director, Ministry of Civil Affairs Special Care and Resettlement Bureau [民政部优抚安置局局长]

State Council

Notes: Heads [zu zhang, 组长] of these two groups are denoted with one asterisk; deputy heads [fu zu zhang, 副组长] have two asterisks. Positions in red are common to both groups, but few of the actual personnel are dual-hatted with positions in both groups. All information is sourced from the 2008 rosters, which is the last year both rosters could be found. See State Council of the People’s Republic of China, “Personnel Adjustment for State Council Military Cadre Transfer and Resettlement Work Small Group” [国务院军队转业干部安置工作小组组成人员调整], Liaoning Provincial People’s Government Report, available at <>; and Duan Hongjie, ed., “State Council General Office and CMC General Office Notice on Adjustment of Personnel in National Double Support Work Leading Small Group” [国务院办公厅中央军委办公厅关于调整全国拥军优属拥政爱民工作领导小组组成人员的通知], Jilin Provincial People’s Government, available at <>.