On August 1, 2005, The PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Daily of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) published an editorial calling people "to continue to be highly in sync with the Central Committee of the Communist Party; to strictly follow the guidelines laid out by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the Central Military Committee (CMC), and Chairman Hu; and to ensure the smooth execution of both political and military orders." For those familiar with China’s politics, the mere publication of such a statement is an admission that the implementation of "political and military orders" has met with some resistance.
Different from countries in the West, where the army serves the state, the Chinese army is an instrument solely of the CCP. Adhering to the philosophy of "power comes from the gun," China emphasizes the absolute control of the army by the CCP. Therefore, the top leader of the country must also hold the position of Chairman of the CMC.
Not surprisingly, a few days later, the CMC issued "Supplemental Stipulations for Carrying Out ‘the Disciplinary Action Articles of the CCP’ in the Army" and published the document in The PLA Daily and on Xinhuanet. Other major newspapers and websites subsequently quoted it in their publications.
The "Supplemental Stipulations" comprise 30 articles, so it is also called the "30 New Articles." The contents of the "30 New Articles" are not necessarily new. Rather, it’s merely a way to once again stress the CCP’s absolute leadership and power over the army. For instance, the "30 New Articles" "prohibit military personnel from having private memberships in any unofficial organizations," "prohibit participating in or organizing any religious activities," and "prohibit privately possessing any informational materials of a sensitive political nature." They also state that any military personnel who organize or participate in any demonstrations or group appeals will be severely punished.
What Do the "30 New Articles" Reveal About the Chinese Military?
Mr. Wu Baozhang, a senior journalist who once worked for the Xinhua News Agency, comments that the "30 New Articles" have revealed more about the situation in today’s Chinese military than any other document. According to Mr. Wu,
• "There are individuals in the CCP’s military who privately join various organizations and participate in religious activities.
• "Some military personnel secretly possess politically sensitive information.
• "Some people in the military have published articles and given speeches that oppose the absolute leadership of the CCP.
• "Some people affiliated with the PLA have been involved in demonstrations and organized group appeals."
Evaluated against the points above, the CCP’s "30 New Articles" simply reflect the situation in today’s Chinese military. Thanks is due to the authors of these documents, who clearly reveal that unofficial organizations and activities do exist in the army and that theism wields significant influence. In addition, possession of information deemed "politically problematic" is a sensitive issue. Apparently the "problematic information" refers to banned materials such as the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, published by The Epoch Times, and the historical truth of the Anti-Japanese War, as well as to other politically sensitive materials downloaded from various websites. The "30 New Articles" also imply that there are those in the PLA whose opinions are in opposition to the absolute leadership by the Communist Party and whose actions have challenged the current political system.
With the information available from the Internet and various other sources, more and more soldiers have been able to ferret out the real history of the CCP, a far different version from the one taught by the army. The CCP has constantly revised its history, including its part in the Anti-Japanese War and in the so-called "Anti-American War to Aid Korea," which was started by North Korea. Just imagine their shock when these soldiers learn the true stories. Obviously, the authorities are afraid that the spread of this knowledge will shake the foundations of the CCP’s absolute leadership of the army.
The "30 New Articles" Target the Officers And Soldiers Who Defy CCP Orders
The "30 New Articles" once again stress that the army must follow the instructions of the Communist Party. This is to ensure, first of all, that officers and soldiers alike strictly follow orders in case China declares war against other countries such as Taiwan, the United States, or Japan. The emphasis on the CCP’s absolute leadership of and power over the army certainly has other implications as well. For example, in case of any social turbulence, the army is required to stand behind the CCP. It is also a warning to the middle to high-level officers, especially the younger officers, not to make trouble.
The CCP is particular about seniority. With regard to that preoccupation with rank, there are quite a few officers in the army who are older and have more seniority than the current Secretary of the CCP. At the same time, it is not easy to convince the younger generations in the army to listen to the current CCP leader, who is simply a 1960s graduate of Qinghua University and lacks the political authority of the older generations of the CCP.
Increasing Number of Appeals by Army Veterans Worries the Authorities
The "30 New Articles" vow to punish those who organize or participate in any demonstrations or organized appeals. "Those who organize, participate in, and support parades, demonstrations, silent sit-ins, petitions, or group appeals, must be harshly punished," reads one article.
With the surge in the number of appeals by retired army veterans this year and the sheer volume of such appeals, each of which commonly involves hundreds or thousands of people, the CCP is seriously alarmed because demonstrations by army veterans have a much greater impact on society than any other group. On August 1 when the CCP was celebrating "Army Day," over a hundred PLA veterans came to Beijing to hold a protest in front of the General Political Department of the PLA. In the face of hardships due to the lack of social security, these veterans demanded that the government improve their welfare. A witness estimated that there were over a thousand people present, including the protesters and the onlookers. According to a report by the South China Morning Press, the police carried many people away.
On May 1, 2005, before the "Appeals Stipulations" were implemented, over 2,000 veterans went to Beijing to appeal in front of the National Appeals Office. The authorities carried them away in buses, and no one knows their present whereabouts. The veterans, who reportedly came from all over China, had been discharged from their PLA service and had to find civilian jobs. They were later subject to "forced management" (dismissal from their jobs) and lost their life-supporting incomes.
On July 19, 2005, hundreds of veterans went to appeal in front of the National Appeals Office in Beijing. Most of them were carried away in buses to Majialou, where officers from their local governments took them home.
After the "30 New Articles" were publicized, one Chinese veteran told Voice of America that not only would the new rules not resolve the issues of appeals by veterans, but they would also become counter-effective. He warned that if the issues that veterans are appealing are not resolved, more and more veterans will continue to appeal. In addition, servicemen will likely unite and stage appeals in ever greater groups.
Lily Qu is a correspondent for Chinascope.