Leadership: The China Purge



January 19, 2024: China recently purged or removed from their positions over a dozen senior officers of the army, navy, and air force. The government conducted an inspection of the forces the purged officers commanded and found numerous deficiencies. Ships, combat vehicles, aircraft and ballistic missiles listed as available for use, were not. Maintenance was neglected to the point that systems became ineffective. For example, liquid fuel ballistic missiles had their fuel replaced with water. Missile silos were poorly constructed and unusable. Aircraft were grounded because maintenance was neglected. Warships were similarly unable to leave port because they lacked sufficient maintenance to operate at sea. Army units had similar problems with combat vehicles and artillery systems.

There were exceptions, but not enough to provide the number of operable ships, heavy weapons, and aircraft the military thought were available. Corruption in the Chinese military is an ancient tradition, going back thousands of years and based on the belief that no one would attack such a large state as China. At the same time, China rarely undertook major military campaigns because China was already huge and there were no areas worth having that needed conquering. The most common conflicts were civil wars between factions that were equally unprepared. In the 1930s Japan attacked a disorganized and divided China but were only able to capture and hold onto portions of China. At the end of World War II most of the Japanese army was still in China, kept busy occupying and policing portions of China they had taken control of. Most of these troops were captured by Russian forces at the end of the war, and most of the rest voluntarily moved to ports to be repatriated to Japan, although American troops occupied southern Korea and added those Japanese garrison troops to their relatively small number of Japanese prisoners of war. Most Japanese troops the Americans encountered in the Pacific died making suicidal attacks against the heavily armed and resolute Americans forces. Few Japanese soldiers surrendered because that was seen as disgraceful.

Both China and Japan reformed their armed forces after World War II. Japan adopted a new constitution that prohibited armed forces capable of offensive operations. China demobilized most of their huge army and sought to modernize the remaining soldiers. This modernization is still underway because of the many wrong turns the modernization effort took. Some of the problems were related to corruption, which increased as the Chinese economy finally began to rapidly grow in the 1980s and produced enough government income for more money to spend on, or steal from, the military. Every Chinese leader since has tried somewhat to a fair amount to deal with than, and current leader Xi Jinping is trying more than most. So far he has encountered more problems than he can deal with effectively. Xi is not giving up and moving forward to do what has rarely been done in peacetime China.




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