Who rules China?
Until recently, the answer has been obvious: the Communist Party. More specifically, a nine-member standing committee of the party’s politburo controls the country, though political power ostensibly resides in the 3,000-member National People’s Congress, which rubber-stamps politburo decisions.
But times–and opinions–change. China’s provocative anti-satellite test in January and comprehensive military expansion–the likes of which the world has not seen since the re-arming of Germany in the 1930s–has led a small number of intelligence experts to question the conventional view of Chinese elite politics. For the first time, analysts are seriously entertaining the notion that China may actually be a military dictatorship posing as a party-ruled, authoritarian (formerly totalitarian) state.
According to this intriguing theory, the People’s Liberation Army allows the party to manage domestic and foreign affairs–up to a point. Should domestic unrest or dangerously democratic tendencies ever get out of hand, analysts speculate, the PLA would intervene–under party cover. In other words, the party has allegedly become the tool of the military, and real power on the Chinese mainland (in contrast with democratic Taiwan) comes from the barrel of the PLA gun, which is no longer controlled by party leaders. [Full Text]