Tai Ming Cheung on Hu Jintao’s Control of Chinese Army

Hu May Keep Xi Waiting to Take Control of China’s Military

Date: November 13, 2012

Tai Ming Cheung

Xi Jinping may have to wait two years to gain control of the world’s largest army after he takes the Communist Party’s top job this week, a delay that may weaken China’s ability to address tensions with Japan and the U.S.

In China’s past two transitions of power, the departing leader kept hold of the military for about two years. That pattern would keep President Hu Jintao atop the party’s Central Military Commission, which has direct oversight of the armed forces, even after he steps down as party general secretary.

Hu could complicate Xi’s efforts to consolidate power and create new room for political jockeying after China’s leadership transition was roiled by the downfall of former Politburo member Bo Xilai. A confused chain of command may muddle China’s handling of territorial disputes with Japan, at a time when the U.S. is concerned that Chinese leaders are using nationalism to paper over domestic tensions.

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Tai Ming Cheung is an associate research scientist at the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) located at the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla. He directs the Minerva program on Chinese security and technology, a multi-year academic research and training project funded by the U.S. Defense Department to explore China’s technological potential.

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