China’s democratic military

I’m going to pull out little nuggets from the White Paper over the next couple of days, before returning to a broad view. The first one: in April last year “instituionalized” – I don’t know if they existed before – servicemen’s committees in every unit of the PLA. These have no decision making power, but get to make recommendations on things like NCO selection. Most surprisingly – they are chosen by soldiers by secret ballot.

Now, we shouldn’t be naive about this. These committees are composed of soldiers, so I doubt they’d raise too much fuss, or they’d get disciplined. In fact, they work “under the leadership of the unit Party branch (or grass-roots Party committee) and the guidance of the unit commanders”. And I wonder how “secret” those ballots are.

Still. This is very interesting – one wonders why they felt the need to do it. Ground-level pressure? A general principle of creating co-opted structures before they can come into being on their own? My guess is a combination of both.

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