16 February 2015

Dennis Blasko Offers Long-Sought Insights on PLA Corruption

A hot topic that many ask about—but on which almost no one offers specific answers; let alone solid, systematic analysis to back them up. Enter Dennis Blasko, whose painstaking research always merits close consideration. One of the few whose writings I know I simply can’t afford to miss!

My summation of Dennis’s argument:

1. PLA corruption least where matters most operationally.

2. Other problems worse.

3. Priority = proving Party loyalty.

Dennis J. Blasko, “Corruption in China’s Military: One of Many Problems,” War on the Rocks, 16 February 2015.

…from the evidence available, the vast majority of corruption in the PLA is found within the political officer system (mostly involving promotions and assignments), the logistics and armaments systems (among those who handle official funds and property and are involved in the procurement of supplies and equipment), and potentially in low-level local headquarters responsible for conscription/recruitment (but likely involving relatively small sums of money). There is little indication that the PLA’s frontline operational leaders, those in command of the units tasked to do the fighting, have been smitten by the scourge of corruption to the degree that some rear area personnel have been. …

…while there may be some trouble among operational commanders and staff officers, it has not risen to the level present in the other internal PLA systems.

An unqualified person buying a job as a brigade commander or even political commissar would likely be discovered very quickly as incompetent by professionals in positions above and below. Rather, corruption appears to be much more prevalent among the ranks of those performing rear area personnel and logistics duties than among those who will lead the PLA in any future battles it may fight. …

The PLA’s campaign to fight corruption should be seen as part of the broader military modernization process as well as… part of its commitment to maintaining the Communist Party’s ruling position in China. Corruption’s effect on operational readiness is a secondary consideration; many other factors have a much more direct impact on the PLA’s combat capabilities. Like the problem of corruption, the PLA leadership is well aware of the force’s operational shortcomings and is committed to identifying and solving problems in the PLA’s organizational structure, personnel qualifications, logistics system, and training methods. ….

Dennis J. Blasko, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), served 23 years as a Military Intelligence Officer and Foreign Area Officer specializing in China. Mr. Blasko served as an Army attaché in Beijing and Hong Kong from 1992-1996; in infantry units in Germany, Italy, and Korea; and in Washington at the Defense Intelligence Agency and Headquarters Department of the Army (Office of Special Operations). Mr. Blasko graduated from the United States Military Academy and Naval Postgraduate School and is the author of the book, The Chinese Army Today: Tradition and Transformation for the 21st Century.