PLA has to win the anti-graft war first

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

One after another, many cor­rupt mil­i­tary of­fi­cers have been ex­posed. From Xu Cai­hou, for­mer vice-chair­man of the Cen­tralMil­i­tary Com­mis­sion, to lower-rank­ing of­fi­cers, the list if cor­rupt of­fi­cers is long.

But some peo­ple say the cam­paign to hunt down cor­rupt of­fi­cers may hurt the im­age of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, with­out re­al­iz­ing that the move is aimed at pro­tect­ing the in­tegrity of the mil­i­tary. Just imag­ine what would hap­pen if the cor­rupt gen­er­als re­main in their posts. Wouldn’t their cor­rupt ways en­dan­ger the PLA?

Me­dia re­ports say the amounts of money which the cor­rupt of­fi­cers have em­bez­zled are un­prece­dented, mak­ing them the big “tigers”. And the cor­rupt meth­ods they have adopted range from auc­tion­ing off key posts to em­bez­zle­ment in con­struc­tion projects and the open trade of power for money. The coun­try’s top lead­er­ship has vowed to root out cor­rup­tion from all walks of life, but it is nec­es­sary to re­move the black sheep from the mil­i­tary first.

Cor­rup­tion in the PLA is par­tic­u­larly harm­ful be­cause it can de­stroy mil­i­tary per­son­nel’s sense of unity and ruin their faith in their ca­reer. If gen­er­als fill their pock­ets with em­bez­zled money while or­di­nary sol­diers sleep in ill-con­structed camps, who will fight for the coun­try when needed? And if of­fi­cers pay­ing bribes get pro­moted and the hard-work­ing ones are side­lined, how many sol­diers will re­main de­voted and loyal to the PLA?

Many times in his­tory mil­i­taries have been de­feated, not by the en­emy, but be­cause of in­ter­nal cor­rup­tion. In the 1991 GulfWar, Iraq was de­feated in a short time not only be­cause of su­pe­ri­orUS fire­power and strat­egy, but also be­cause se­nior Iraqi mil­i­tary of­fi­cers aban­doned their posts after be­ing bribed.

China’s lead­er­ship cer­tainly can­not al­low the PLA to suf­fer that fate.

Chi­nese me­dia and schol­ars of­ten say the PLA is a “great wall made of iron and steel”. With the on­go­ing anti-cor­rup­tion drive re­mov­ing the rust from the sur­face of this “great wall”, the lead­er­ship is likely to take mea­sures to en­sure that it re­mains rust-free for­ever. Pre­dictably, the PLA will strengthen su­per­vi­sion over power, es­tab­lish mech­a­nisms to pre­vent of­fi­cers oc­cu­py­ing key posts from en­gag­ing in cor­rup­tion, and ed­u­cate of­fi­cers to ad­here to hon­esty.

The mea­sures to be taken and the new anti-cor­rup­tion reg­u­la­tions for the mil­i­tary are ex­pected to fo­cus on ar­eas that most eas­ily breed cor­rup­tion. For ex­am­ple, the majority of cor­rupt of­fi­cers em­bez­zled money from camp con­struc­tion and daily sup­ply funds, and many took bribes to clear the way for their ju­niors’ pro­mo­tion.

Su­per­vi­sion in th­ese two— and some other— ar­eas has to be tight­ened to trap the “tigers” and swat the “flies”, and de­ter oth­ers from fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of their cor­rupt se­niors or fel­low of­fi­cers. This will win back pub­lic trust for the mil­i­tary, whose rep­u­ta­tion has suf­fered a blow be­cause of ram­pant cases of cor­rup­tion.

Th­ese are pre­req­ui­sites for the suc­cess of the on­go­ing mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion, as ad­vo­cated by the coun­try’s top lead­erXi Jin­ping. Only a clean mil­i­tary can get over­whelm­ing­pub­lic support, which is nec­es­sary for pro­pel­ling its mod­ern­iza­tion, an­den­sure themoney paid by tax­pay­ers is prop­erly used for the de­fense of the coun­try.

The ef­forts needed to com­bat cor­rup­tion are com­pa­ra­ble to those re­quired to fight an ac­tual war. And the anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign is a war that the PLA has to win.

De­spite the cor­rup­tion, how­ever, we should not be pes­simistic about the­PLA, be­cause mil­i­taries of all coun­tries are plagued by cor­rup­tion to dif­fer­ent de­grees. The fact that tigers and­flies are be­ing hunted­down­show­sthe PLAis cleans­ing it­self, andthat cor­rupt of­fi­cers can­not curb the healthy de­vel­op­ment of the mil­i­tary. ThePLAwill con­tin­ueon­the path of mod­ern­iza­tio­nan­dremain ready to pro­tect the na­tio­nandthe peo­ple. The au­thor is a se­nior ad­vi­sor to China Arms Con­trol and Dis­ar­ma­ment As­so­ci­a­tion.

LI MIN / CHINA DAILY

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