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Disquiet in PLA

Sandeep Jain writes: There are reports that the reshuffle of various functionaries in senior positions has been viewed with suspicion and as an effort on part of the President to place his coterie in positions of power.

There is lot of speculation about possible disquiet in PLA on account of the recent reforms which have been carried out by Xi Jinping. There are reports that the reshuffle of various functionaries in senior positions has been viewed with suspicion and as an effort on part of the President to place his coterie in positions of power. This may however be only partially true.

There is no doubt that Xi Jinping would want to rid the PLA of all previous political appointees and place his own protégés instead. However, there is also a concurrent narrative of modernisation, reforms and anti-corruption drive. It would be seen that many senior commanders have been reassigned rather than purged. A mere posting to a new appointment of similar stature should be seen as a common place occurrence in any military setup anywhere in the world.

Like any change the present set of reorganisation is also being resisted – military mind tends to resist change. However, too much should not be read into it, as military minds are also attuned to follow orders. PLA has had a history of absolute obedience to the party and it is unlikely to change anytime soon.

During the regime of Hu Jintao, senior leaders of the PLA may have gotten used to a greater degree of autonomy and non-interference – which has changed now with a more involved and powerful President at the helm. This may partially be the reason for resentment in certain quarters.

While it has not come out in the media, there may have been some curtailment of the perks and privileges of the senior military hierarchy-for example perks arising from the commercial establishments being run by PLA. The anti-corruption drive may have also reduced the incomes of certain officers. This would naturally be resented.

The Prima Donna status of PLAN and PLAAF can only come at the cost of funding to PLA(Army). In China, inter-service turf battles were notably absent, so far. With each service now getting an independent status this may well change. This may also cause reduced promotion prospects to certain Army officers. These can actually be big factors for internal grumblings.

As mentioned above there may be unease and uncertainty in PLA but this disquiet leading to any form of revolt or usurpation of power by the military elite remains a remote possibility. The present reorganisation in PLA has many positives and unhappiness in certain quarters of PLA is unlikely to be of great concern to the present leadership. On the contrary, a much strengthened and professional military setup is likely to emerge in the long run. In the process if Xi Jinping manages to consolidate his hold- view it as a bonus.

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