Winter 2020 Issue 66, Dec 1, 2020
The PLA’s Evolving Role in China’s South China Sea Strategy
by Oriana Skylar Mastro
During the past eight months of the global COVID pandemic, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been active in promoting China’s claims in the South China Sea. This essay evaluates PLA statements, military exercises and operations, and deployment of relevant platforms and weapons in the South China Sea during this period. I leverage Chinese-language sources in addition to my own operational knowledge from over a decade of military experience to provide greater context for these activities. I argue that the greatest change in the PLA’s role in the South China Sea has not been operational. Instead, the most interesting development has been the fact that the PLA has taken on a more significant signaling role. Specifically, the Chinese military seems to be purposefully using, and perhaps even exaggerating, its capabilities and activities to enhance deterrence against the United States. This may be seen as necessary as the US increases its own efforts to push back on China’s militarization of the South China Sea. In other words, the PLA has taken a more active role in China’s South China Sea strategy, but not necessarily a more aggressive one
Continuous Purges: Xi’s Control of the Public Security Apparatus and the Changing Dynamics of CCP Elite Politics
by Wu Guoguang
This essay identifies three waves of purges in the Ministry of Public Security under the Xi Jinping leadership, and then focuses on the third wave, which, corresponding to similar measures beyond the public security system, featured the cleansing of those who rose to prominence due to their support of Xi’s earlier anti-corruption campaign. Such a development whereby Xi turns his sword against his previous political allies indicates that continuous purges are becoming a new political dynamic in CCP elite politics. The essay finds that Xi’s prolonged tenure in power and the governance challenges he confronts are the two leading factors that have helped to shape China’s current proto-Maoist power struggles and elite politics. According to this line of reasoning, Xi’s ongoing efforts to control the public security apparatus indicates that CCP elite politics is becoming increasingly dominated by internal repression and coercive means.
Will China Eliminate Poverty in 2020?
by Terry Sicular
In 2015 China announced the ambitious target of eliminating poverty by 2020. Since then China has launched an all-out, campaign-style push to meet this goal, using a “Precision Poverty Alleviation” strategy that targets individual households and monitors their progress using a nationwide poverty database. Investments of financial and human resources in this program have been considerable. Although the poverty reduction target is ambitious, it is also pragmatic. It applies only to the rural population and it is based on a low poverty line. Funding for the program, while large in absolute terms, is a small percentage of government revenue. Thus, the target is achievable. Reaching the target, however, will not mean that China has won the war on poverty. Many households will remain vulnerable to poverty, and the government’s current definition of poverty does not adequately reflect what it means to be poor in China going forward.
From ‘China Inc.,’ to “CCP Inc.’: A New Paradigm for Chinese State Capitalism
by Jude Blanchette
CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping has overseen a significant transformation of China’s domestic economic system, undergirded by important new reforms that have drastically expanded the reach of the Chinese state into the economy and Chinese firms. This has included the integration of CCP organizations into public and private firms, the regulatory shift of SASAC from “managing enterprises” to “managing capital,” and the role of government guidance funds in driving industrial policy. The overall change in China’s economic and regulatory structure – and the political control wielded by the CCP – combined with the Xi era blending of the public and private, and market and planning, is of such a proportion that it marks a new paradigm in China’s development trajectory.
Interview with David Shambaugh on his recent book: Where Great Powers Meet: America and China in Southeast Asia (Oxford University Press, 2021).