November 29, 2013:
Chinese leaders recently released a long list of reforms. While most of them dealt with issues important to most Chinese (corruption and economic matters) there were some important military reforms that meant little to the general public. These items did not make the headlines but they make a difference in how effective the Chinese military is and how people will hear about that improved performance.
First, China revealed that it will streamline the military by removing many non-combat operations from the direct control of the military. This is unofficially opposed by many generals and admirals, mainly because the combat support operations (construction and the purchase of staples like food, electricity, fuel, and so on) has been notoriously corrupt, with lots of kickbacks and generals sending millions in cash overseas for their retirement (and escape from possible prosecution). The civilian politicians (some of them former officers) don’t want to take on this corruption directly. That would be messy, embarrassing, and might trigger a mutiny. Better to remove a lot of this financial activity from the military. Corrupt civilian managers are easier to deal with and execute (as often happens with the worst cases). In effect, take the big money away so the generals have less to steal. Moreover, there will be fewer generals that are basically doing jobs that can be handled by a civilian bureaucrat.
This “civilianization” of the military is one of many ideas the Chinese have adopted from the West. While the Western media likes to vilify the growing use of “contractors” by the military, this approach makes a lot of sense and the Chinese quickly figured that out.
Another item the Chinese quietly adopted from the West was the use of a combined media organization for all the security services. Currently all the many military and security organizations have their own press offices and often don’t coordinate what everyone is saying about the same issue. This often leads to one branch of the military contradicting another. So the new National Security Commission will eliminate a lot of the past planning and publicity problems.
China is also increasing its official defense budget 10.7 percent (to $120 billion) for the next year. So while the American defense spending shrinks, that of China, Russia, and most other East Asian nations increases.