Fight­ing “West­ern­iza­tion”

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

Two of China’s most se­cre­tive mil­i­tary lead­ers in charge of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army’s strate­gic nu­clear and mis­sile forces have called for mis­sile troops to fight against be­com­ing “West­ern­ized.”

Gen. Jing Zhiyuan, com­man­der of China’s 2nd Ar­tillery Forces, which op­er­ate all nu­clear weapons and strate­gic mis­siles, and his po­lit­i­cal com­mis­sar, Gen. Zhang Haiyang, made the com­ments in a jointly signed June 9 ar­ti­cle in the of­fi­cial Com­mu­nist Party news­pa­per Peo­ple’s Daily.

The promi­nently dis­played ar­ti­cle was un­usual be­cause China’s nu­clear forces are the most se­cret el­e­ment of the mil­i­tary.

The two gen­er­als vowed their ab­so­lute re­solve to re­sist any “West­ern­iza­tion” and to guar­an­tee the mis­sile forces’ “to­tal sub­mis­sion to the com­mand of the Party.”

Such state­ments are part of the mil­i­tary’s ri­tual ex­er­cise of swearing loy­alty be­fore next year’s ma­jor 18th Com­mu­nist Party Congress, as oc­curred in the months lead­ing up to con­gresses in 2002 and 2007.

The tim­ing sug­gests some­thing Byzan­tine may well be at play. Gen. Jing is widely re­ported in China as the man De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates most wanted to talk to in per­son in Wash­ing­ton. In­stead, Mr. Gates saw Gen. Zhang, who was given ex­tra at­ten­tion a few weeks ago in Wash­ing­ton when he sur­pris­ingly was in­cluded in the PLA del­e­ga­tion. Such nu­clear gen­er­als are rarely al­lowed to visit the West.

Fre­quently in the past, fa­vor­able at­ten­tion given to Chinese of­fi­cials from for­eign lead­ers has been a deadly trig­ger for po­lit­i­cal purges, as the party re­mains ex­tremely para­noid about for­eign in­fil­tra­tion among its top gen­er­als.

As China’s lead­ing 2nd Ar­tillery Forces blog­ger, Song Zhong­ping (blog name Chief of Staff Hu), wrote in Jan­uary, re­peated in­vi­ta­tions from the United States and es­pe­cially Mr. Gates for Gen. Jing, and his pre­de­ces­sors, to visit the United States are part of a sin­is­ter ob­jec­tive: “to drag Jing Zhiyuan to the U.S. in the name of mil­i­tary ex­change so that the Amer­i­cans could ‘lure and trap’ him for more in­for­ma­tion [about nu­clear forces].”

His­tor­i­cally, this para­noia kills. In 1959, Mao Ze­dong sacked his de­fense min­is­ter, Mar­shal Peng De­huai, for his al­leged col­lu­sion with lead­ers of the Soviet bloc in crit­i­ciz­ing Mao dur­ing his fate­ful visit to Moscow im­me­di­ately prior to the sack­ing. In 1964, Mar­shal He Long and Prime Min­is­ter Zhou En­lai aroused Mao’s deep sus­pi­cion when the two lead­ers were ap­proached at a Moscow re­cep­tion in Novem­ber that year by then-Soviet De­fense Min­is­ter Ro­dion Mali­novsky, who al­legedly said to He and Zhou: “We just got rid of Khrushchev, it’s your turn to get rid of Mao!”

Mao soon sacked He and tor­tured him to death in col­lu­sion with the dou­ble-faced Zhou. How­ever, Zhou’s turn would come soon. In Novem­ber 1973, vis­it­ing Sec­re­tary of State Henry Kissinger talked to Zhou about set­ting up a Wash­ing­ton-Bei­jing tele­phone hot­line. Mao was enor­mously para­noid over Mr. Kissinger’s rap­port with Zhou and seized on this in­ci­dent to launch an in­ter­nal “line strug­gle” against Zhou’s “Right­ist Ca­pit­u­la­tion­ism to Wash­ing­ton” that forced the ail­ing Prime Min­is­ter to go through an­other round of hu­mil­i­at­ing self-con­fes­sions, al­most killing Zhou.

Since Mao’s time, many Chinese mil­i­tary lead­ers rou­tinely and ea­gerly ex­press their ut­ter loy­alty to the party to cover their rears when­ever they are even re- motely con­sid­ered to have been “wooed” by the West. Gen­er­als Jing and Zhang seem to be learn­ing some­thing from his­tor­i­cal lessons. Cas­tro in singing the ultimate com­mu­nist song of China, “The East Is Red.” The song is widely re­garded as the quin­tes­sen­tial sym­bol of Mao’s per­son­al­ity cult. While in Cuba, Mr. Xi also went to see the ail­ing “Com­rade Fidel Cas­tro” for a mo­ment of com­mu­nist sol­i­dar­ity.

Mr. Xi in­spected a Chinese oil ex­ploratory pro­ject site in Cuba man­aged by China’s state-owned Great Wall Drilling Co. China is Cuba’s sec­ond-largest trade part­ner, closely fol­low­ing Venezuela.

Miles Yu can be reached at

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