China: Corruption in Military Poses Test

BEIJING — An insider critique of corruption in China’s military, circulating just as new leadership is about to take over the armed forces, warns that graft and wide-scale abuses pose as much of a threat to the nation’s security as the United States.

Col. Liu Mingfu, the author of the book, “Why the Liberation Army Can Win,” is not a lone voice.

Earlier this year, a powerful army official gave an emotional speech describing corruption as a “do-or-die struggle,” and days later, according to widely published accounts, a prominent general, Gu Junshan, a deputy director of the logistics department, was arrested on suspicion of corruption. He now awaits trial. The general is reported to have made huge profits on illicit land deals and given more than 400 houses intended for retired officers to friends.

Those excesses may be mere trifles compared with the depth of the overall corruption, the speech by Gen. Liu Yuan, an associate of the new party leader, Xi Jinping, suggested.

For Mr. Xi, who boasts a military pedigree from his father — a guerrilla leader who helped bring Mao Zedong to power in 1949 — China’s fast modernizing army will be a bulwark of his standing at home and influence abroad.

But the depth of graft and brazen profiteering in the People’s Liberation Army poses a delicate problem for the new leader, one that Colonel Liu and others have warned could undermine the status of the Communist Party.

As part of the nation’s once-a-decade handover of power, Mr. Xi assumed the chairmanship of the 12-member Central Military Commission immediately. Hu Jintao, the departing party leader, broke precedent and did not retain his position atop the body, which oversees the armed forces, for an extended period after his retirement, unlike previous leaders.

Recent territorial disputes with Japan and Southeast Asian neighbors have raised nationalist sentiment in China, and the popular desire for a strong military could make it politically dangerous for Mr. Xi to embark on a campaign that unmasks squandering of public funds.

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Article written by Jane Perlez, courtesy of The New York Times.

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