Leadership: June 29, 2001

Archives

: China's military leadership is noted not just for corruption, but also for considerable differences in attitudes and dedication from region to region. This is an ancient situation in China. It was last seen during the 1920s, when regional warlords pretty much ran their own little kingdoms. While the communists tried hard to stamp out this regionalism, they have not succeeded. Of late, the South Sea Fleet, one of the three fleets in the Chinese navy, has lived up to it's long time reputation for aggressiveness. The Chinese aircraft that collided with the U.S. EP-3 belonged to the air arm of the South Sea Fleet. Recently, the South Sea Fleet has been active in laying claim to very small islands, outcroppings and shoals off the coast of the Philippines. The South Sea Fleet has been doing this for years, much to the consternation of the Philippines (and other nearby nations like Vietnam and Indonesia.) This sort of aggressive activity has been going on for over a decade. It's not just the commander of the South Sea Fleet that causes this aggressive behavior, it appears to be a fleet tradition. Most worrying is the way the rest of the Chinese military got behind the South Sea Fleet after the EP-3 incident (even though the Chinese fighter clearly caused the collision.) The military then forced the government to come out strongly behind the South Sea Fleet. It's become a case of the tail wagging the dog and it could get more deadly as time goes on.