Accession Number:



The Military & Political Succession in China: Leadership, Institutions, Beliefs

Descriptive Note:

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



After forty years of supposed civilian party rule and extensive functional specialization of elites, the military remains the ultimate foundation for and arbiter of power among contending factions atop the Chinese leadership system. This is especially true today given the highly unstable and unprecedented conditions confronting China, marked by widespread social discontent and extremely low party prestige, a weak, divided, and unpopular leadership, and the imminent passing of the original revolutionary generation of elder Chinese powerholders. All these factors, when combined with the historical centrality of Chinese military power and the legacy of communist rule by a fused party-army political structure, suggest that it is virtually impossible to assess the dynamics of Chinas coming succession struggle and Chinas future political evolution without fully analyzing the role of the Peoples Liberation Army PLA in elite politics. This Report does not claim to provide a definitive analysis of this topic. Rather, it constitutes a first step toward improving our understanding of the PLAs potential role in leadership conflict. The intent is to delineate more clearly those features of the Chinese politico-military system most relevant to military involvement in elite politics, to gain a better understanding of the variables influencing such involvement and the range and manner of their interaction, and thus to provide a basis for evaluating the general likelihood of different scenarios of possible military intervention in a future succession struggle. The Report systematically examines three major components of Chinas politico-military system - Party-military leadership - Military organizations - Military beliefs and attitudes toward political involvement On the basis of this analysis, the Report delineates twenty-three general and specific features of the Chinese politico-military system relevant to military involvement in elite politics

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Forces and Organizations

Distribution Statement: