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Hung-wen, who became a member of the Politburo in 1973, a major exception."

The Military Commission exercises direction of the Ministry of National Defense and of the PLA. According to one specialist in Chinese military affairs, the late Prof. Ralph Powell, the Commission appears to combine most of the functions of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense. The Commission has thus had a key initial role in the formulation of military policy and strategy, designating strategic aims for the PLA, and has probably been the organization tasked with working out command and control arrangements for the nuclear and missile program. Generally, the Military Commission operates through the Ministry of National Defense or through the General Political Department, but occasionally the Commission bypasses these levels and issues important directives to the armed forces in its own name.5

MILITARY FORCES The People's Liberation Army is organizationally a part of the Ministry of National Defense, but its top leaders are all members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. Both the Minister of National Defense (Yeh Chien-ying) and the Chief of Staff of the PLA (Teng Hsiao-ping) are also believed to be vice chairmen of the Military Commission. Operational military responsibilities in the PLA are concentrated in the General Staff Department headed by the Chief of Staff. This post is highly sensitive as indicated by the frequent politically charged turnovers and the difficulty in the 1971-74 period in selecting a suitable candidate. The post was finally filled by Teng Hsiao-ping in January 1975, giving the Mao-Chou group more direct control of the armed forces. Chang Chun-chiao was named political commissar of the PLA in January.

Military units concerned with nuclear testing and missile development seem to have been largely insulated from the Cultural Revolution, but there was some slowdown in advanced weapons programs. The party leadership has apparently been careful in its dispersal of nuclear weapons within the military, and what is known of Peking's nuclear strategy points to the establishment of an independent organization of the strategic forces facilitating the central leadership’s undisputed control over nuclear assets.?


• Other vice chairmen of the Military Commission include Yeh Chien-ying (the Minister of National Defense) and Hsu Hsiang-chien (now 73, a senior military leader, a member of the Central Committee but not of the Politburo). There have been unconfirmed reports that Teng Hsiao-ping is a vice-chairman of the Commission, and his present party, state and military positions would seem to indicate that these reports are accurate.

3 Townsend, op. cit. pp. 98–99. Gittings, John. The Role of the Chinese Army. London: Oxford University Press, 1967. Pp. 282–288. Powell, Ralph L. The Military Affairs Committee and Party Control of the Military in China. Asian Survey. Vol. III. July 1963. Pp. 347–356.

Powell, Ralph. Politico-Military Relationships in Communist China. U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Intelligence and Research. P. 5. A study based on the “Military Papers" (29 issues of the Kung Tso Tung Hsun, or Work Correspondence, dated from January-August 1961, a secret periodical issued by the General Political Department of the PLA).

Central Intelligence Agency. Reference Aid A 73–35 January 1974. Directory of Officials of the People's Republic of China. P. 8.

Chang is also second deputy premier of the PRC and a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. Both Teng and Yeh are also members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo.

? Barnett, A. Doak. A Nuclear China and U.S. Arms Policy. Washington: The Brookings Institution, 1970. Reprint 181. Pp. 427-442 (Reprinted from Foreign Affairs, April 1970. Vol. 48).

Huck, Arthur. The Security of China. New York: Columbia, 1970 (for the Institute of Strategic Studies). Pp. 71-72.

Harding, Harry, Jr. The Making of Chinese Military Policy in Whitson, William W. (ed.) The Military and Political Power in China in the 1970s. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1972. P. 380.

Several specialists on China's nuclear development and policy believe the Second Artillery is China's strategic missile command. The Second Artillery is responsible directly to the Chief of Staff of the PLA in the formal organizational structure, but the actual chain of command and control of its units and weapons is not clear. The central leadership probably maintains direct control over this organization. According to one specialist, as many as 60,000 men might be assigned to the Second Artillery (as of 1972).8

Possession of nuclear weapons has forced Peking to work out a strategic doctrine relating to their employment and procedures to insure tight control on their actual use. We know very little about Peking's criteria for assessing nuclear risks, but the PRC has been careful in its military policies and anxious to avoid confrontation with either the United States or the Soviet Union. Peking does not discuss its nuclear weapons strategy or tactics except in political terms and here declares it will never be the first to use nuclear weapons. There has been little published in China which can be used to chart the PRC's future nuclear strategy, and little has been released regarding the progress of China's missile program.

It would seem that some formal, if not legal, procedure would be instituted, with adequate safeguards, to insure that the authority to order the initial use of nuclear weapons would be held tightly. It would also seem likely that the Chinese have formulated contingency plans to consider alternative uses of nuclear weapons in case of crisis. These problems and the dispersal of such weapons to avoid their being destroyed by surprise attack would seem to present difficult problems of command and control.10

China is not likely in the foreseeable future to approach nuclear parity with either the United States or the Soviet Union, but continues to progress in its efforts to achieve a credible nuclear deterrent. The PRC's strategic forces program has lost some momentum, partly because of technical difficulties. Peking already has a modest number of MRMB's and IRMB's, but development of a limited range ICBM (able to reach European Russia) and full range ICBM (to have range of 7,000 nm) has been slower than expected. A number of the fullrange ICBM's, according to the Department of Defense, may possibly be ready by mid-1980. The PRC is expected to need at least 4 years to achieve even a "token operational” SLBM capability. 11

8 Murphy, Charles H. Mainland China's Evolving Nuclear Deterrent. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. January 1972. P. 31.

Horner, Charles. The Production of Nuclear Weapons in Whitson, William W. (ed.) The Military and
Political Power in China in the 1970's. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1972. P. 246.
The Military Balance 1974-75. London. The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1974. P. 48.

China is not the center of a military alliance system and her one major military alliance, the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance signed in 1950, may no longer be in force. China's major security

concern today is the Soviet Union and thus the value or even validity of the treaty today is questionable. The treaty, however, has not been publicly repudiated. The 30-year treaty provided that the parties would "undertake jointly' all the necessary measures to prevent aggression by Japan or states allied with Japan, and that in case one party was thus involved in a state of war, “the other High Contracting Party will immediately render military and other assistance with all the means at its disposal.” The Soviet Union has claimed that the treaty had a major deterrent effect in the 1950's, protecting China from attack by the United States during the Korean war and during the off-shore islands crisis in 1958. Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Yi, however, in 1963 declared Soviet promises of support to be worthless. Huck, op. cit. pp. 68-69. The Military Balance 1974–75. London. The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1974. P. 48. 10 Horner, op. cit. pp. 244-246. 11 Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger. Report to Congress. Annual Defense Department Report. Fiscal year 1976 and fiscal year 1977. Feb. 5, 1975, pp. 11-17. The International Institute for Strategic Studies. The Military Balance 1974–75. London, 1974. Pp. 48-50.


We do not know whether the PRC has tactical nuclear weapons, but China's strategy in case of war and the indications of China's weapon development program point in that direction. Underground nuclear tests and the use of plutonium could indicate an effort to develop weapons for battlefield use. The PRC clearly has the knowhow to develop such weapons. Tactical nuclear weapons could be used as a deterrent against massing of Soviet troops on the frontier or against possible Soviet attack. Any aircraft capable of carrying conventional bombs could also carry nuclear weapons; even transports could be modified to carry such weapons, and a new interceptor being developed by China could be used as a nuclear delivery system for tactical operations. The Chinese have operational large-caliber artillery (M-55 203 mm gun-howitzers received from the Soviet Union before the break) and conceivably could have developed (or be developing) nuclear ammunition for them.12

Information on a command and control system for tactical nuclear weapons is not available, but the Politburo and its standing committee (through the Military Commission) would probably retain control except in carefully prescribed circumstances under which authority might be delegated to the military command. THE POLITICAL ROLE OF THE PEOPLE'S LIBERATION ARMY (PLA)

The People's Liberation Army has had a special position in the national political structure in China. It has maintained an organizational visibility within the Communist movement in China equal to that of the party and greater than that of other state institutions. The 1975 constitution of the PRC clearly points out the multiple roles and functions of the PLA as not only a fighting force but "simultaneously" a working force and a production force.13

The problem of pinpointing the officials or the individuals controlling the use of nuclear weapons is illustrated by the unique position of the PLA and its leadership during and after the Cultural Revolution. Party authority collapsed during the Cultural Revolution, and the army emerged as the only viable organizational link between the elite and the populace. By the time of the Ninth Party Congress in 1969, Mao and Chou En-lai had begun the move toward moderation and stability, with a restored party scheduled to play the leading role. Lin Piao, the Minister of Defense and Mao's "chosen successor, resisted the effort to return the army to a military role. Mao then set about to undermine Lin's base of power in the PLA, was successful and then thwarted a coup attempt by Lin and his subordinates. The PLA's top leadership then underwent the most extensive purge since the Communists came to power. Most of the regional commanders retained their positions of power in the immediate post-Lin period until a shift of several of these commanders took place at the end of 1973.14

11 Horner, op. cit. pp. 246-51.
Jane's Weapon Systems, 1974–75 (Jane's Yearbooks London:). Pp. 35, 54, 63.

Hsieh, Alice Langley. China's Nuclear-Missile Programme: Regional or Intercontinental? The China
Quarterly. No. 45. January/March 1971. Pp. 85–99.

Fraser, Angus M. The Utility of Alternative Strategic Postures to the People's Republic of China in U.S. Congress. Joint Economic Committee. China: A Reassessment of the Economy. A Compendium of Papers. July 10, 1975 Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975. P. 456.

13 The Party organization and control in the PLA indicate the considerable involvement of the armed forces in the political system. Political departments and their commissars are not subordinate to the military commanders in their units, but receive their orders from the Military Commission and the General Political Department-one of the three major departments of the PLA—through political departments down the chain of command. Townsend, pp. 98–99.



The difficulties in understanding developments inside China are enormous, with China remaining basically a close and tightly controlled society. The availability of reliable data is limited. What information we do have indicates that the central party leadership in Peking has tightened control over the military and over regional power centers since the September 1971 military purge.15 But despite the reduction in the political role of the military, the PLA remains a major factor in the post-Mao succession process. Jockeying for position in the coming post-Mao, post-Chou period is already underway. Best estimates are that over the short run no single figure is likely to emerge possessing the dominant position of Mao or even Chou. Chou En-lai apparently hopes gradually, to transfer power during a transition period, now underway, to individuals and groups basically in agreement with present domestic and foreign policies. Concentration of leadership in the CCP elite would seem to insure organizational continuity in the political process. If the system remains intact, the national leadership is likely to continue to be chosen through internal party processes. But with the old leadership gradually being replaced, it becomes increasingly difficult to pinpoint just which individuals or groups of individuals may have the authority, or take the authority, to initiate the use of nuclear weapons. The present transitional period has been described as one of unstable stability.




Both the constitution of the Chinese Communist Party (adopted by the 10th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on August 28, 1973) and that of the People's Republic of China (adopted by the 4th National People's Congress at its first session on January 17, 1975), specify that the Communist Party directs all state organs and the armed forces. The PRC constitution contains the following provisions:


14 Bridgham, Philip. The Fall of Lin Piao. The China Quarterly. No. 55. July/September 1973. Pp. 427– 449.

Wich, Richard. The Tenth Party Congress: The Power Structure and the Succession Question. The China Quarterly. No. 58. April/June 1974. Pp. 231-248.

Secret documents which have become available give some of the details of the Mao-Lin struggle, of the plan for a coup of the Lin-led military leadership, but there is no reference in a recent published collection of these documents to control or use of nuclear weapons. See Kau, Michael Y. M. The Lin Piao Affair. White Plains, N.Y.: International Arts and Sciences Press, Inc. 1975.

15 Differences between moderates and radicals within the party leadership have not been eliminated, but the moderates, led by Premier Chou En-lai, have dominated recent party meetings and the National People's Congress held in January. Some factional strife has continued in China, most recently in Chekiang province, but it is not clear if it is isolated or whether it might be related to new political campaigns which could increase reports of unrest.

16 Peking Review, No. 35–36, Sept. 7, 1973, pp. 26–28. For an analysis of the new state constitution, see Tao-Tai Hsia and Kathryn Haun. The 1975 Revised Constitution of the People's Republic of China. Far Eastern Law Division. Law Library, Library of Congress. July 1975. Pp. 8, 20, 38, and 65. Authority over the armed forces was given to the Chairman of the Republic in the 1954 constitution. The title of Chairman of the Republic was eliminated in the 1975 constitution. But, in both cases, the commander of the armed forces was Mao Tse-tung.


Article 2: The Communist Party of China is the core of leadership of the whole Chinese people.

Article 15: The Chinese People's Liberation Army and the people's militia are the workers' and peasants' own armed forces led by the Communist Party of China * * *. The chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China commands the country's armed forces.

The party constitution points out the various party groups which have authority in the field of military policies:

Article 6: The highest leading body of the party is the National Party Congress and when it is not in session, the Central Committee elected by it.

Article 7: State organs, the People's Liberation Army and the Militia * * * must all accept the centralized leadership of the party. Article 8: The National Party Congress shall be convened every 5

years. Under special circumstances, it may be convened before its due date or postponed.

Article 9: The plenary session of the Central Committee of the party elects the political bureau of the Central Committee, the standing committee of the political bureau of the Central Committee and the chairman and vice-chairman of the Central Committee. The plenary session of the Central Committee of the party is convened by the political bureau of the Central Committee. When the Central Committee is not in plenary session, the political bureau of the Central Committee and its standing committee exercise the functions and powers of the Central Committee. Under the leadership of the chairman, vice-chairman and the standing committee of the political bureau of the Central Committee, a number of necessary organs, which are compact and efficient, shall be set up to attend to the day-to-day work of the party, the government and the army in a centralized way.

The first plenary session of the Tenth Central Committee of the CCP on August 30, 1973 elected: 18

(1) Mao Tse-tung as chairman of the Central Committee;

(2) Vice chairman of the Central Committee: 19 Chou En-lai, Wang Hung-wen, Kang Sheng, Yeh Chien-ying, Li Teh-sheng.

(3) Members of the political bureau of the Central Committee: 19 (listed in the order of number of strokes in their surnames) Mao Tse-tung, Wang Hung-wen, Wei Kuo-ching, Yeh Chien-ying, Liu Po-cheng, Chiang Ching, Chu Teh, Hsu Shih-yu, Hua Kuo-feng, Chi Teng-kuei, Wu Teh, Wang Tung-hsing, Chen Yungkuei, Chen Hsi-lien, Li Hsien-nien, Li Teh-sheng, Chang Chun-chiao, Chou En-lai, Yao Wen-yuan, Kang Sheng, Tung Pi-wu.

(4) Members of the standing committee of the political bureau of the Central Committee (listed in the order of the number of strokes in their surnames) 19 Mao Tse-tung, Wang Hung-wen, Yeh Chien-ying, Chu Teh, Lit Teh-sheng, Chang Chun-chiao, Chou En-lai, Kang Sheng, Tung Pi-wu.20

17 Peking Review, No. 4, Jan. 24, 1975, pp. 12–16. 18 Peking Review, No. 35–36, Sept. 7, 1973, p. 10.

19 Teng Hsiao-ping was made a member of the Politburo in January 1974, and was named in January 1975 to be a vice chairman of the Central Committee and to the standing committee of the Politburo.

20 It should be noted that only a few of these men are major participants in the policymaking process. Mao Tse-tung (age 81) and Chou En-lai (age 76) remain the two major political figures in China, but neither is in good health. Only Teng Hsiao-ping (age 70), Wang Hung-wen (age 40), and Chang Chun-chiao (age 64 or 65) are in good health. Chu Teh is 89 and frail. Both Yeh Chien-ying (age 76) and Kang Sheng (age 72) have been ill within the past year. Li Teh-sheng has been downgraded since

the 10th Party Congress. Tung Pi-wu (age 89) died in April.

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