Willy Lam: The Military Maneuvers of Xi Jinping

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Mr. Lam is a professor of China studies at Akita International University, Japan, and an adjunct professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.]

As Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao visited Washington last week pledging friendship and cooperation, back in China the generals were having a field day bashing America. Popular media commentator Major General Peng Guangqian, for example, called the U.S. a "trouble maker in the Asia-Pacific." He alleged that "the U.S., fearing the loss of its hegemonic status, is speeding up its activities in Asia to impede China's development."

This split in attitudes toward the U.S. is especially significant because Mr. Hu is retiring next year. The future of China-U.S. relations will be determined by Xi Jinping, the man destined, barring a major upset, to become general secretary at the 18th Party Congress in October 2012. Mr. Xi will also likely take over as chairman of the Central Military Commission, putting him directly in charge of military policy.

And unlike his predecessor, Mr. Xi's primary power base is the defense establishment. He will likely give senior military officers an even bigger say in diplomatic and security policies. Mr. Xi, who has assertive views on the subject, is losing no time in bolstering his authority among the generals.

On the same day that the Hu-Obama summit was held, the PLA announced the appointment of General Liu Yuan as political commissar of the General Logistics Department. As the son of late President Liu Shaoqi, Gen. Liu is a member of the "princeling" faction, which Mr. Xi—as the son of Xi Zhongxun, a former vice-premier—leads. Mr. Liu previously held the much less sensitive post of political commissar of the Academy of Military Sciences....

comments powered by Disqus