Right around August 1, which is official PLA Day, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) newspaper People’s Daily announced the launch of an anti-bribery campaign inside the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
On August 2, 2006, People’s Daily reported, "To crack down on commercial bribery will become a major task for the army’s supervision work this year and next year."
Preceding the official campaign, the Party fired a deputy commander of the navy for committing a financial crime. According to news released by the regime-run Xinhua News Agency at the end of June, the Central Military Commission dismissed Wang Shouye, a Vice-Admiral, from the post of Deputy Chief of the PLA Navy and expelled him from the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC). Other sources reported that the Central Military Tribunal had sentenced Wang to death, with a stay of execution order (a death sentence with a two-year reprieve).
In July, the Central Military Commission approved the establishment of the Leading Group for Auditing Economic Responsibility of PLA Officials. The new Leading Group aims to strengthen supervision of middle- and senior-level PLA officers, and it plans to audit about 1,000 top military officers this year. Wang Shouye is an example to those who cannot show that they have a clean slate.
At the same time, the Party also handed "carrots" to the PLA. Starting from July 1, 2006, PLA salaries were again increased—the average salary for all PLA members was nearly doubled.
The 2.3-million-strong PLA has been the ultimate source of power for the CCP ever since its Red Army formed in 1923. (The name changed to the People’s Liberation Army in 1946.) The CCP charter states that the Party exercises leadership over the People’s Liberation Army and over all other people’s armed forces. The Party’s General Secretary is also Chairman of the Central Military Commission, so it makes sure that "the Party commands the gun." However, the CCP is now facing some challenges to its absolute control over the PLA.
Fan Wu, Chief Editor of China Affairs website, recently analyzed the instability inside the PLA based on PLA publications. Wu referred to an article written by Li Jinai, Director-General of the PLA General Political Department and member of the Central Military Commission. Li’s article "Study the Party’s Charter, Push on Building the Party’s Organization in the Army" was published in the Party’s Qiushi magazine in April. From Li Jinai’s repeated rhetoric of "We must always persist in the Party’s absolute leadership over the Army," to the PLA’s "additional regulations for the Army to implement the ‘CCP’s discipline codes,’" Wu figured out that there have been activities of a serious nature going on inside the PLA:
• Some soldiers and officers privately joined other organizations, participated in religious activities, converted to Christianity, or participated in Falun Gong activities.
• Some soldiers and officers privately possessed serious political materials, including the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, and reports on "Quitting the Party."
• Some soldiers and officers published articles or made speeches that were against the Party’s absolute leadership and demanded the Army’s nationalization (that it be loyal to the state not to the Party).
• Some soldiers and officers participated in demonstrations; some were organizing shang fang (appeals to higher-level officials).
Besides the political dissatisfaction, corruption inside the PLA also threatens the Party’s absolute control. In the case of Wang Shouye, the 62-year-old navy Vice-Admiral, he appeared to be a true loyal Party member. He was awarded "Excellent Party Member" and "Excellent Cadre" for four consecutive years in the late 1990s when he was the head of the camp construction unit of the PLA General Logistics Department. However, in private, this married man had five mistresses—all PLA actresses or secretary officers—and he took huge amounts of money from the camp construction fund to finance his corrupt luxurious life. One of his mistresses, Ms. Jiang, even had a son with him. When Wang was promoted to Deputy Chief of the Navy in 2001, he decided to part with Jiang and wanted custody of their son. Ms. Jiang asked for five million yuan (US$0.63 million) from him, but he gave her only one million. After a few years of bitter dispute, Ms. Jiang started reporting Wang’s illegal activities to the Central Military Commission and Navy Headquarters. For about two years nobody in the PLA wanted to listen to Ms. Jiang’s reports. It is said that Ms. Jiang wrote a total of 58 letters before the PLA finally opened a case to investigate Wang.
Wang Shouye was arrested on December 23, 2005, at a routine meeting of navy commanders. He had two loaded handguns in his briefcase and attempted to commit suicide at the time of his arrest. In his two homes in Beijing and Nanjing, the authorities discovered 52 million yuan (US$6.5 million) in cash in a refrigerator and in a microwave, and they found US$2.5 million in U.S. currency in a washing machine. At trial, he was charged with graft and the embezzlement of a total of 160 million yuan (US$20 million).
Of all those ever charged, Wang is the highest ranking PLA official and the amount he stole is the largest ever embezzled. His case reflects the degree of corruption among senior PLA officers.
Another source of instability in the PLA involves leadership succession history. When Jiang Zemin stepped down from the Party’s Central Military Commission Chair in 2005, he assigned his confidants to key positions in the PLA, and left Hu Jintao an empty Chairmanship. To this day, many are still in doubt as to whether Hu has truly grasped control of the PLA.
Hu and Jiang have one thing in common: They are both technocrats and lack a military background. To gain control of the army, they both need to buy favors and build up loyalties. When Jiang was Chairman of the Central Military Commission, he conferred the rank of general to a total 79 P LA commanders. The excessive promotions to the highest rank were widely regarded as Jiang’s effort to buy PLA loyalty. The day after Hu Jintao assumed control of the Central Military Commission, he immediately conferred the rank of general to two senior PLA commanders to show his power.
On June 24, 2006, Hu Jintao personally awarded certificates of command to 10 senior PLA commanders to whom he conferred the rank of general. Those 10 new generals are believed to be Hu’s supporters and will therefore likely be appointed to some key positions in the next Central Military Commission.
According to an article in the July issue of Chinese News Monthly, sacking Wang Shouye was also part of the internal struggle between Hu and Jiang. According to anonymous sources in that article, Wang Shouye had a close relationship with Jia Tingan, director of the General Office of the Central Military Commission. Jia was known as Jiang Zemin’s most trusted confidant. The Central Committee found evidence to show Wang Shouye and Jia Tingan were together in their bribery schemes. To sack Wang Shouye was to threaten Jia Tingan. Hu Jintao’s purpose was to make Jiang Zemin completely hand over his control of the PLA.
To reward those who show loyalty with the rank of general. and to send those who show disobedience to prison, appears to be the simple tactic that Hu Jintao is using on the PLA.