With China’s once-a-decade leadership transition only a few months away, the Communist Party of China is becoming wary of the military.
“Party authorities have come to realise that the military is encroaching on political affairs,” said one political scientist with high-level party ties. “Although the party controls the gun, the expression of viewpoints from within the military on political issues has aroused alarm.”
Some generals and admirals have loudly called for the government to assert control over the South China Sea. And earlier this year, leaders in Beijing became alarmed over ties between generals and the disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai.
The party’s need to maintain stable rule over a vocal military is one reason Hu, its top civilian leader, is expected to hold on to his position as chairman of the Central Military Commission for up to two years after he gives up his party chief title. His successor, Xi Jinping, would take over as head of the party and state, but would have to wait to become the military boss.
Hu’s two predecessors both exercised control of the military after they gave up their other civilian titles. But some party insiders have argued that a staggered handover can lead to rival centres of power, splitting generals’ loyalties.