Rise of China’s Military-Industrial Leaders Will Heat Up Race Against the U.S.
South China Morning Post
The following is an excerpt from an op-ed by Senior Fellow Guoguang Wu and Executive Director Bates Gill at the Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis originally published by South China Morning Post.
The surveillance balloon incident raises serious concerns about China’s military intentions towards the United States. But it raises equally troubling issues about the competence of China’s military intelligence services and their apparent lack of coordination with other elements of the Chinese party-state.
In that light, it is intriguing that an unusual and important new “faction” has emerged at the top of China’s political system: military-industrial technocrats.
As research by the Asia Society Policy Institute’s Centre for China Analysis shows, their ascent provides important clues to the leadership qualities and policy priorities that paramount leader Xi Jinping has uppermost in mind.
Moreover, their success or failure as leaders over the next 10-15 years will have major implications for China’s economic development, technological advancement and foreign relations, especially as rivalry with the U.S. intensifies. They might also have a role in improving China’s defense intelligence capacities, both technically and bureaucratically.
With the closing of 20th party congress last October, 13 new members joined the 24-man Politburo, the Communist Party’s top leadership body. Among them are five rising stars: Zhang Guoqing, Yuan Jiajun, Li Ganjie, Ma Xingrui and Liu Guozhong.
This group — accounting for nearly 40 percent of the Politburo’s newly appointed seats — share similarities including educational training in military-industrial engineering in fields such as aerospace, nuclear energy and ordinance.
Most possess high-level managerial experience in China’s vast military-industrial sector. And all have transformed from engineer-managers to local, then national political leaders.
They are also relatively young. With an average age of just under 60 at the time of the 20th party congress — nearly five years younger than the average age of all other Politburo members — they represent a new generation of leadership. Li Ganjie, who recently turned 59, is the youngest member.