CHINA MILITARY UNREST
President-elect Donald Trump’s recent comments about U.S.-China relations are not the only worry facing China’s Communist rulers. Leaders in Beijing are increasingly worried about growing military unrest from tens of thousands of disgruntled former soldiers who can’t find work, according to Pentagon officials.
Beijing criticized Mr. Trump for remarks Sunday questioning China’s policy of having sovereignty over Taiwan.
The anger in the ranks of ousted People’s Liberation Army soldiers surfaced in a two recent protest demonstrations by tens of thousands of
former military personnel who gathered near the Central Military Commission (CMC) headquarters in Beijing in October and November.
“There are real security concerns in Beijing about these demobilized soldiers,” said a U.S. intelligence official. “They are kind of being pushed over the edge by the government.”
The first protest involved between 20,000 and 30,000 former soldiers on Oct. 11 at the CMC headquarters — the ultimate power center in China whose chairman is President Xi Jinping.
The military protesters included older veterans and recently demobilized troops. They came from a dozen cities around the country and were demanding the CMC provide promised pension, medical and social security benefits.
A second protest took place Nov. 1 but details of the number of protesters could not be learned. The November protest received far less news coverage as Chinese authorities took steps to prevent reporting, both in China and abroad.
The veterans’ anger highlights what U.S. intelligence has estimated is one of China’s most politically dangerous protest movements. The former soldiers have been mistreated by the government and more are being demobilized as part of plans to streamline the Chinese military.
The disgruntled soldiers represent a new kind of opposition to the ruling Communist Party and the party-controlled People’s Liberation Army.
Chinese internal security troops and police were called out during the protests, and police tried to prevent news reporters from covering the protests. Prior to the November demonstration, barricades were erected near the CMC to keep protesters away from the military headquarters,
Radio Free Asia reported from Beijing.
“I signed up to the army in 1976 in Beijing, and was demobilized in 1988,” said one veteran who identified himself only as Gao. “It wasn’t too bad to start with, but then they started laying people off in the factories, and we were just given [$58] and told to leave. That was never going to be enough. We have been unfairly treated. I gave my best years to the army, and I have nothing to show for it.”
The protesters included both former enlisted soldiers, and officers as well as soldiers who took part in Chinese nuclear tests, and China’s 1979 border war with Vietnam. Chinese internal security forces also have started cracking down on the protesters after they returned to their home districts. Detention facilities have been set up in hotels where former military members are interrogated, beaten and harassed.
The protests also have continued on China’s vibrant social media platforms, prompting tighter censorship.
The ruling Communist Party leadership regards the military protests as a major threat to stability.
“Neither the high-pressure stability maintenance strategy, nor President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign have been able to address the huge inequalities within the system for the distribution of economic benefits,” political analyst Liang Jing Liang stated in a recent commentary for Radio Free Asia. “This will leave more and more people angry and dissatisfied, and eventually all of that dissatisfaction is going to be directed at the government.”
China has deploy guns on islands throughout the Spratlys, including Cuarteron Reef.