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Inside China: PLA says war with U.S. imminent

A Chinese general recently offered an alarming assessment that a future conflict with the United States is coming as a result of U.S. “containment” policies.

The release last week of a transcribed speech by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Maj. Gen. Peng Guangqian revealed the harsh words toward the United States and those in China he regards as muddle-headed peacenik intellectuals.

Gen. Peng, a well-known PLA strategist, has a hawkish reputation and a large following in China. The speech was given in December at an event hosted by Xinhua news agency in Beijing. An abbreviated transcript was published June 21 on the Chinese military website Leiting, or Thunder.

“The United States has been exhausting all its resources to establish a strategic containment system specifically targeting China,” Gen. Peng said.”The contradictions between China and the United States are structural, not to be changed by any individual, whether it is G.H.W. Bush, G.W. Bush or Barack Obama, it will not make a difference to these contradictions.”

The general specifically criticized two views prevalent among some analysts in Beijing and Washington that a U.S.-China military conflict will not happen anytime soon because of mutual economic dependency between the two nations. He also attacked the popular view that the U.S.-China relationship can’t be too good but can’t be too bad, either.

Gen. Peng criticized what he sees as an all-out endeavor by the United States to encircle China. “Some people keep saying that we have friends all over the world. But I have used a magnifying glass trying to find some friendly countries on a world map. And I kept looking and looking, but failed to find any except a containment circle around us longer than the Great Wall of China!” Gen. Peng said.

“The reason why China does not have an especially strong sense of crisis is that we chant ‘peace and harmony’ everywhere in the world, which was originally intended for the world to hear, but such chanting has left us kidding ourselves and paralyzed. Now no one is willing to think about war,” he said.

ORDER TO DISCLOSE ASSETS

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) recently demanded that all PLA senior officials disclose their personal assets, a measure that appears aimed at curbing rampant corruption within the communist military hierarchy, according to the official military newspaper PLA Daily.

The Communist Party’s ultimate regime support comes from the People’s Liberation Army. Founding CCP dictator Mao Zedong famously coined the phrase, “Political power comes from the barrel of a gun.”

Many analysts think this is a key reason why the PLA is notorious for having extraordinary access to privileges and special perks denied to most Chinese and that this necessarily led to rampant corruption within the PLA.

The PLA at one time operated tens of thousands of businesses, easily evading Chinese customs and tax authorities in large-scale smuggling and tax-evasion schemes. Corruption within the PLA was so widespread that in the late 1990s, the ruling Politburo stepped in and banned the PLA from operating any businesses.

But loopholes to operating military-run businesses remain and are growing.

In 2006, the Chinese navy’s second in command, Vice Adm. Wang Shouye, was found to have kept five mistresses and embezzled public funds estimated to be worth millions of dollars.

In February, Lt. Gen. Gu Junshan, deputy chief of the PLA’s general logistics department, was purged after it was discovered he was linked to illicit real estate schemes and for what state media called “self-aggrandizement.”

Yet observers think the latest anti-graft measure targeting the PLA is not fair and most likely is an excuse for CCP leader Hu Jintao and his civilian leadership team to initiate a leadership shakeup within the PLA and force it to follow party orders.

Since March of this year, when the scandal that ousted regional party boss Bo Xilai broke out, the PLA has been sharply impacted by the ongoing power struggle in the months before to the party’s major 18th Congress, set to convene in the fall, when major power realignments will take place in Beijing.

Inside China, rumors of military discontent toward the Hu Jintao core leadership are widespread. At times, there has been word of an impending military coup, indicating divisiveness and unease within the senior ranks of the PLA. Those attitudes are confirmed consistently, although indirectly, by the central political leadership’s repeated calls for resolutely adhering to Hu dictates published in PLA propaganda outlets.

Last week, for example, the PLA Daily published articles condemning “subpar loyalty of military cadres to the CCP leadership headed by Comrade Hu Jintao” and warning that all PLA personnel must be politically savvy and not be affected by “distractions.”

Calls for public disclosure of all high-ranking CCP leaders’ assets have been made in China for many years. No civilian leader, however, openly endorsed the idea, let alone carried out a voluntary disclosure of assets.

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About the Author
Miles Yu

Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.

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