Sunday 31 May 2009


Defense reform was one of many issues on the agenda of Chinese reformers during the 1980s. Although national security reforms had important policy implications for-the Chinese government, they never seemed to possess the urgency that economic and political reforms did. Among Western analysts, the term Chinese defense modernization frequently has been used interchangeably with defense reform. This practice, in turn, has led to glossing over important changes in China's military. Additionally, a preoccupation with technical information about weaponry has caused analysts to miss the recent emergence of substantive information about the composition of and dynamics within China's defense establishment.

In this study we use the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force (PLAAF) as a case study about Chinese defense reforms. One reason for focusing only on the PLAAF is to illustrate the wealth of information that has become available from Chinese sources.

Our thesis is that the PLA is principally involved in reform as "regularization" rather than reform as modernization . Reform as regularization involves improving the training, organization, strategy, policy, practices and personnel of the PLA. Reform as modernization involves equipment and weapons. The key point is that regularization is an internal activity of the military. Modernization is an external process involving research institutes and factories that are not part of the PLA. The rhetoric of reform has sometimes led to confusion, but the differences are significant. The PLA can do something about regularization; it is at the mercy of its domestic defense industrial base for modernization.
Further propose that the pursuit of regularization in China's military has led to the reappearance of professionalism--a point that is still debated. Although the term "professionalism" seldom appears in PLA defense literature, the phenomenon exists even though there are still extensive political pressures. Aside from any political anxiety about professionalism in the PLA, we conclude that the new nemesis of military professionalism and regularization is the pace of equipment modernization. The problem is that eventually the lack of modern equipment will serve as a frustrating inhibitor of regularization.
Defense Reform: A New Era of Inquiry
Historians will view the 1980s as one of the most important decades of modern China. As early as 1987 Chinese writers began to sum up the achievements and problems of the "decade of reform." Even optimistic reformers acknowledged they sometimes had been too naive and had not recognized the complexity of the problems they set out to redress. In one sense the relative eclipse of the post-Mao reformers in the spring and summer of 1989 was a case of reform fatigue: increasingly, it appeared that perpetual reform was an oxymoron. The Tiananmen Square incident did not mark the cessation of reform, but in a tragically stark manner it brought into focus the waning of political stamina of reformists and the growth of social and economic stress. Changes have continued, but the earlier flavor and heady optimism are no longer evident. Regardless of how compelling reform may be, it is difficult to sustain year after year.
Defense reform was a central element on the agenda of Chinese reformers. Party leaders imposed most reforms on China's social, economic or political systems. It is commonly argued in some analysis that China's military establishment was a reluctant participant in reforms. Because the spectrum of reform programs was broad, the attitudes and responses of military personnel and organizations varied according to specific initiatives. We argue in this analysis that defense reform in general had a surprising number of military supporters. Specific aspects of defense reform naturally provoked equally varied reactions among military members and civilians. Rather than looking at Chinese defense reform in general, we use the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) as a case study.

One of the more widely cited doctrinal justifications for Chinese defense reform is the "three hua's": revolutionization (geminghua), modernization (xiandaihua) and regularization (zhengguihua) . Modernization of the PLA fundamentally applies to equipment. There are rarely references in Chinese analysis to modernized soldiers. The exact meaning of revolutionization of the army remains debatable. In many ways it is a catch-all phrase or process that epitomizes the constant regeneration of communist ideals and traditional military values. Nearly all substantive military reforms were introduced under the rubric of regularization.
Since the founding of the PLAAF, its leadership has frequently and unevenly pursued regularization and modernization. Regularization of the air force has involved people, resources, objectives, processes and institutions that basically are internal to the PLAAF. In short, they are factors over which the air force has some degree of control. Chinese politics; society and the economy, however, also constrain air force leaders in making internal changes. Conversely, modernization of the air force's aircraft and equipment involves external factors. The PLAAF is solely dependent on what China's aviation industry--with or without foreign assistance or technology--designs, develops, researches and produces. Regularization of the air force is not pursued at the expense of equipment modernization. Equipment modernization, which is beyond the control of the PLAAF, does effect regularization. The investment in regularization may begin to atrophy over time because military training cannot effectively incorporate new strategies and tactics without utilizing the requisite modern equipment.

In this study we equate Chinese defense reform with regularization. The history of the PLA after 1949--especially the PLAAF--has been one of repeated efforts to convert guerrilla forces into a conventional state army. The duration of the conversion process and its impediments are particularly informative. On the one hand, they draw attention to the unusually severe political shocks that have impeded the conversion or regularization of the military. On the other hand, they draw attention to regularization as a recurrent PLA effort to recover from the political shocks and revitalize China's military forces. It was therefore not difficult for many senior military leaders to embrace defense reform in the early 1980s. Reform, change, revolutionization, modernization and regularization had long been part of the PLA's lexicon of conversion terms.

An implicit objective of our research is to illustrate the considerable information about the Chinese military that became available during the decade of reform. Previously, the subject of Chinese national security was a "forbidden zone" in China. For the greater part of 30 years there was virtually no public or scholarly discussion of national security in China. Since the early 1980s, however, there has been a proliferation of published Chinese books about defense and security matters. Additionally, Chinese and Western military attaches, representatives of the PLA and scholars from Chinese think tanks that are concerned with national security have provided fresh insights.
Foreign analysis of the PLAAF traditionally has focused on air order of battle enumerations and predictions about equipment procurement. There also were no publications or books from the People's Republic of China (PRC) about the PLAAF. Understandably, the Chinese air force was viewed as an organizational clone of the PLA ground forces. There was no corporate air force history and no revealed organizational culture. The Chinese air force was a classical Sinological shadow. This perception was not so much flawed as it was incomplete. Virtually nothing was written in China to give the air force--or most other military organizations--any detailed identity. In short, China's military was often understood and described in one dimensional contour .

During the decade of reform, the PLAAF and its officers began to reveal glimpses of the air force's corporate identity. Vague contour lines gave way to depth, texture and variation. In the late 1980s several histories of the PLAAF were published in China .

Chinese aviation journals also published periodic vignettes about China's air forces. In general, the decade of reform ushered in an unprecedented proliferation of Chinese scholarship and research about defense and national security matters. What is normally absent in the Chinese literature is research that integrates the diverse Chinese sources of information into a composite analysis of the PLAAF. Notwithstanding the numerous defense books that have appeared in China, the most comprehensive studies about the Chinese military are still published outside China.
Regularization and Irregular Conditions
Regularization has been a longstanding reform objective in China. As a goal and process it predates the decade of reform. The pursuit of regularization of the army has implied the existence of irregular or abnormal conditions and practices. One PI,A analyst compared the problem of irregular practices in the PLA to a wooden bucket in which staves are of uneven height: the bucket can only be filled as high as the lowest stave. [10] The solution to abnormal and arbitrary practices another writer in Liberation Army Daily argued, is a clear set of military rules and regulations. He pointed to conditions within the PLA in which leaders "lose their bearings" because missions and responsibilities are unclear. Drawing upon a civilian metaphor, he observed that many times military leaders "'work hard in a bureaucratic manner and get exhausted like firemen." He advised that "regularity in the work of the military units is not mysterious at all, and we do not need to explore and seek such regularity bit by bit from the very beginning." [11]

The search for regularization in the PLAAF--as in the other services--has been a search for normalcy; established rules and regulations; specified standards of performance; organizational structures that meet policy and mission objectives; standard measurements of leadership; regular systems for managing material, budgets, personnel and facilities; established rank structures and criteria for determining promotions, awards and retirement; commonality in job descriptions and responsibilities; and rational relationships among strategy, force structure and training.

The nadir of regularization in China's military was during the Cultural Revolution. The prevailing ideological values came close to making irregular practices a Maoist virtue. Revolutionary spontaneity and disdain for convention and rules supplanted order and discipline--the normal virtues of military institutions. In the early 1950s, regularization was the process of converting a guerrilla army into a conventional army. During the years of the Sino-Soviet rift it was a reaction to military dependency that prompted a search for "an army with Chinese characteristics." The Cultural Revolution was the antithesis of regularization in which the abolition of military ranks was the most outward manifestation. For China's military, the consequences were demoralizing and destructive. This article is, therefore, a study of how current efforts to reform the PLAAF are part of a longer historical pursuit of regularization.

Three prefatory observations are in order. First, the pursuit of regularization can be a useful indicator of military professionalism. In recent years there has been a renewed debate among western scholars regarding the existence of professionalism in the PLA. [12] Analysts routinely turn to Samuel Huntington, Bengt Abrahamsson and others who have proposed criteria to assess professionalism in military organizations. These include: specialized knowledge, a sense of corporateness, non-involvement in domestic political affairs, and internal codes of conduct or ethics. [13] The highly developed infrastructure of military organizations provides an environment for corporateness and for acquiring specialized training and education. To borrow a term used by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) party workers who are responsible for strengthening grass-roots party groups, the PLA also provides a framework of "organizational life" within which professional values are nurtured. [14]

Second, defense reforms commonly center on administrative changes such as reorganizations, planning, programming, budgeting, training and procurement. Western assessments of China's defense reforms have sometimes concluded that a scarcity of funds and technology has prompted PLA leaders to pursue easy, low cost reforms (i.e., regularization) rather than modernization (i.e., new weapons). In reality, Chinese defense reform initiatives have resembled those pursued in the west. [15] This observation requires that we make an important distinction. PLA modernization is not the same as defense reform. How the PLA efficiently administers its organizations, trains its forces and procures equipment are proper objectives of reform or regularization. Conversely, what weapons the PLA procures and how the defense industries produce them are elements of modernization. [16]

Third, the pursuit of defense regularization in the 1980s did not mean all earlier Chinese efforts at regularization had failed. The PLA was not entirely a reluctant object of reform. In many ways, regularization of the PLA mirrored broader social and economic reforms such as "youthification," higher educational standards, greater separation of party and administrative functions, leaner organizations, greater planning and budgeting oversight and accountability systems. Defense regularization, however, had been a recurring process. The problem was not so much that reforms had failed but that reforms invariably only changed things at the margins. In the United States, for example, there has been a succession of major defense reforms since 1947. In China, as in the United States; the targets of defense reform are resilient; hence reforms seldom can demonstrate clear successes.
The Expansion Years: 1949-1957

The PLAAF was formally established November 11, 1949. Chinese historians trace the origins of aviation activity among CCP members to 1924. Between 1924 and 1949, CCP aviators and technicians came from three sources: the Guangzhou Aviation School (via the Huangpu Military Academy); the Xinjiang Aviation Unit which was started by Chen Yun; and the Northeast Old Aviation School which was the predecessor of the PLAAF Aviation School in Mudanjiang. [17] Two Soviet-trained aviation pioneers, Chang Qiankun and Wang Bi, began shaping communist concepts for the use of air power in the early 1940s at Yan'ari.

On the eve of establishing the PLAAF, Chinese communist forces had fewer than 3,000 trained aviation personnel. There were 202 pilots, 30 navigators, 2373 mechanics, three engineers and miscellaneous personnel. There were only 159 foreign-made aircraft (21 different types) but 542 airfields. Airmen from the communist movement constituted 88 percent of the pilots but only 15 percent of the mechanics. Personnel "accepted" from the Kuomintang (i.e., Nationalist) forces represented 85 percent of the mechanics and an even higher percentage of technical personnel. [18] More than 100 Japanese pilots and technically trained ground personnel remained in Manchuria after 1945. They were part of the initial contingent of instructors at the Northeast Old Aviation Schoo1. [19]

In March 1949, the CCP's Military Commission transferred a contingent of 64 personnel from the Northeast Old Aviation School to Beijing. Their mission was to establish a transitional organization prior to the establishment of an air force. It was called the CCP Military Commission's Aviation Bureau (hangkona iu). As more Nationalist units surrendered their troops and equipment, the scope of the bureau's responsibilities quickly increased. The staff nearly tripled in size. In October the bureau became the Air Force Headquarters. In the military regions (MR) that existed in 1949, rudimentary MR aviation offices (junqu hangkong chu) were founded. They subsequently became military region air force (MRAF--junqu kongjun) headquarters. The early MRAF headquarters were not operational commands, rather they were mainly concerned with consolidating the aviation assets left by Nationalist military units and civil aviation companies and organizations.
The headquarters organization of the PLAAF as it existed in 1949 is shown in Figure 1. There were six departments below the commander, political commissar, deputy commanders and deputy political commissars. In the earliest days of the PLAAF, the major stress was placed on organizing effective central leadership. There were simply too few human resources to worry immediately about complete and competent staffing of MRAF headquarters. Initially, moreover, there essentially were no operational units budui . In addition, the Aviation Bureau was not merely concerned with military aviation matters such as air space control and air defense, but it also was responsible for consolidating civilian aviation and salvaging the remnants of an aviation industry. [20] As a result, several matters dominated the PLA aviation agenda in 1949. Some of them' were resolved within a few years, but many of them continued to influence the developmental course of the PLAAF, the defense aviation industry and civil aviation for at least the next four decades.

Air Defense. Until the PLAAF and PLA Air Defense Force (fangkoniziun) merged in 1957, the air force's only air defense assets were its aircraft and a few radar units. The Air Defense Force, which had anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and most of the radar troops, was also responsible for air defense of the large cities. [21] Although the PLAAF took over all of the Air Defense Force's assets and responsibilities in 1957 and formed its surface-to-air missile (SAM) branch in 1958, it appears that the air force has not yet completely integrated the aircraft, AAA, and SAMs in an overall air defense system.

Civil Aviation and Air Space Control. The air force turned over most of its commercial aviation transport responsibilities to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in 1950. [22] Although it was comparatively easy to separate commercial air travel from military operations, the PLAAF still retains operational control of all but a small fraction of Chinese air space. As a result, civilian control of airways is limited to narrow "air corridors" or airways. [23] Meanwhile, the international trend has been toward civilian management of air traffic control while militaries retain responsibility for air defense.

Aviation Industry. A more difficult problem was how to handle the aviation industry which in 1949 was composed mainly of 32 military aircraft maintenance facilities and 4,700 workers. The air force initially proposed that it would transfer to the Ministry of Heavy Industry those factories which had a manufacturing capability. It was soon evident that repair and maintenance functions could not be separated from manufacturing. The PLAAF eventually surrendered most of the factories with the understanding that it could take back some of them once the aviation industry began to develop. It did precisely that between 1955 and 1957 when it resumed control of six factories. [24]

Soviet civilian aeronautical assistance eventually led to the formation of the Third Ministry of Machine Industry sanjibu or 3rd MMI). [25] Its primary task was the manufacture of military aircraft, although in principle the 3rd MMI also proposed to make civilian aircraft. For many years, however, its only client was the PLAAF. The relationship of the PLAAF to the aviation industry never became close, although both sides have avoided drawing public attention to the problems in the relationship. From its beginning, the PLAAF was never comfortable relying on external maintenance for engines or airframes. That concern explains in part why the PLAAF was clearly intent on establishing its own in-house network of repair factories in the late 1950s. For many years the PLAAF often had a senior officer serving as a deputy minister in the aviation industry. The aviation industry did not succeed in clarifying its subordination to the State Council rather than the air force until early 1972.

Human Resources. Manpower was a central issue. [26] There were decidedly different military experiences found in the combat-tested PLA leaders and the technically savvy graduates of the Northeast Old Aviation School. Most strikingly, the latter had not seen much fighting prior to the Korean War. There were even sharper differences between PLA soldiers and Nationalist aviation personnel who were "accepted into the air force." The differences involved not only politics, but fundamental attitudes toward technical training and skills. The red-versus-expert dichotomy had an early manifestation within the air force where technical competence was unavoidable. The immediate emphasis on training was designed not only to fill a technical vacuum, but also to lessen dependence on former Nationalist personnel with questionable loyalties. Much later in PLAAF history this dichotomy between technical and non-technical personnel took a form more similar to that found in Western air forces: aviators or "operators" and support personnel.

Equipment. PLA leaders also faced immediate problems regarding aviation equipment. Virtually none of the "left behind" equipment had been manufactured domestically. Even ground facilities (airfields, hangars, factories, repair depots, fuel dumps) were extensively influenced by foreign engineering. The residue of aviation equipment was so disparate that it would have been impossible to use it as a foundation for a new air force or aviation industry-even if communism had not been a divisive issue for the governments of foreign suppliers. The pursuit of a standardized, modern air force, as well as the indigenous capability to produce aircraft, led to meetings in Moscow even before the PLAAF was founded. The pursuit of standardized air assets and self-sufficiency are therefore deeply grounded in the origins of the PLAAF. These elements of PLAAF institutional memory are frequently underestimated in foreign analysis of Chinese effort to modernize its military equipment.

Political Reliability. Political reliability also was a major concern. It gave rise to an especially visible, long-term dominance of leaders with political commissar backgrounds. "Flying machines" required more technical skills to operate and maintain than were customarily found among guerrilla fighters from the PLA ground forces. Consequently, the early technical core of the PLAAF was not necessarily communist by choice. In the main, they had been the enemy. Political reliability became a less pressing issue over time, but its early urgency provided the entree for nearly three decades of political commissar dominance of senior PLAAF leadership. [27]

Service Autonomy. Core PLA leaders unmistakably rejected any emerging trend toward organizational autonomy or equality for the PLAAF. The PLAAF was a "new service" (xin junzhong), but its roots and future--PLAAF cadres were told--were to be the Liberation Army. [28] In effect the new air force was expected to behave more like a branch (bingzhong) than a service (junzhong). Not only was there apprehension that air force personnel might call for some form of autonomy from the army, but there also were PLA personnel who, like some foreign counterparts, argued that there was no mission in the army for aviation. [29]

Significantly, the PLAAF's first and most senior leaders were not drawn from the ranks of early communist aviators. An autonomous group of aviation leaders was not desired in 1949. Liu Yalou, whose roots were in the 14th bingtuan of the Fourth Field Army, was the first commander. Xiao Hua, the political commissar, was from the 13th bingtuan. [30] Two other senior leaders had some aviation experience. [31] In August and September 1949, 2515 members of Liu Yalou's 14th bingtuan transferred from Wuhan to Beijing to form the core of the PLAAF headquarters in conjunction with the Aviation Bureau. [32] The PLA wanted to prevent any nascent aviation autonomy, but there clearly were problems finding senior leaders with any combat experience. The PLAAF was not formed from any preexisting PLA air arm. Its disparate origins were found among about one hundred CCP and Nationalist pilots, technicians and mechanics. They had defected, were captured or belonged to the CCP underground within the Nationalist army. There also were guerrilla fighters who were transferred to the PLAAF. In its infancy the manpower composition of the PLAAF was far from homogeneous.

A number of factors helped bring focus to the PLA's emergent air forces. First, there was the need to organize an air defense of Beijing (then called Beiping). Nationalist B-24 bombers attacked the city on May 4, 1949. Second, Nationalist air forces also frequently attacked Shanghai. The most serious attack was in February 1950 when 1,400 peopled were killed. [33] Air defense had become a pressing issue. Third, CCP leaders soon became occupied with what was to become the long-term objective of liberating Taiwan. [34] Fourth, the lack of access to western aircraft parts hastened a shift toward a future aircraft inventory based on Soviet technology. Finally, the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 became the most important galvanizing force in spurring the development of the PLAAF. The Korean War was to the PLAAF what WW II and the War of Liberation were to the PLA's ground forces. [35]

Three important outcomes of these factors were: an integrated inventory of aircraft of Soviet origin; the acquisition of a foundation for an indigenous aircraft production capability; and a sense of combat maturation for the PLAAF's first generation of aviators--and future commanders.

Notwithstanding the many difficulties the PLAAF faced, they had reason to be heartened by the early growth of the air force. By 1954 they had acquired 3,000 aircraft which were organized in 2$ air divisions and 70 regiments. At least 12 academies or schools had been founded. The institutions trained 5,945 pilots, 24,000 technicians, 396 cadres, 690 political cadres, and 310 logistics cadres. PLAAF histories are unclear as to whether or not their goal of 290,000 airmen was realized by 1954. [36]
The Sino-Soviet split 1959-1961

The 1950s were the PLAAF's expansion years during which there was substantial Soviet influence. PLAAF historians recall this period with a certain degree of affection and appreciation. [37] Soviet advisors were assigned to the seven aviation schools that were founded in October 1949. Direct Soviet involvement in flight training began to decrease in 1951. The Sino-Soviet split was probably more traumatic for the PLAAF than it was for PLA ground forces because the efforts to modernize China's air. force were especially dependent on technology. The rift also prompted an unanticipated institutional maturation for the PLAAF. Self-reliance became more than a political slogan for the PLAAF. PLAAF leaders quickly recognized the need to address air power and the aviation industry in terms of China's independent defense needs rather than rely solely on the Soviet model. It proved to be a torturous and lengthy process. [38]

PLAAF staffs began a multi-year project to compile rational regulations, rules, manuals and guidance that reflected the PLAAF's needs. The education and training system was reformed and there was a new emphasis on advanced scientific skills and education for PLAAF officers and technicians. The PLAAF's sudden independence from direct Soviet influence came at a time when PLAAF personnel were still heady from their own combat experiences against the United States in the Korean War. There was an emergent atmosphere of professionalism--at least as understood in the West--that lasted until the mid-1960s. China's newly established aviation industry was on its way to being nearer world standards than it would be any time in the next three decades. It was a time when the air force also acquired the new mission of air defense. It included anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), surface-to-air missile (SAM), and radar forces. On the negative side, the Sino-Soviet split also signaled the beginning of two decades of domestic political and economic oscillations that enervated China's air forces and aviation industry.
Frustration and Optimism: 1962-1966

Throughout China recovery from the Sino-Soviet split and the Great Leap Forward was slow. There was a general need to consolidate the incomplete Soviet scientific and technological projects. The problems were especially pressing for the PLAAF. Due to a lack of engines and engine parts, flying hours fell by 41 percent in 1960. They continued to be low through at least 1963. In 1961 quality control in the manufacture of aircraft became a serious problem. The scarcity of aviation equipment and parts also compelled the PLAAF to adopt new flight training measures. These were summarized as "train harder on the ground; fly with precision through the air. [39] Perhaps only briefly between 1963 and 1966--before the chaos of the Cultural Revolution began--did the PLAAF feel it was finally on the threshold of regularization and modernization. These were years during which there were efforts to imbue all services with a sense of professionalism, refine the education curricula, improve the training schools, take advantage of relatively modern aircraft that started to emerge from Chinese factories, and create an underpinning of doctrine and regulations that could give direction to the air force.
The Cultural Revolution: 1966-1976

From the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966 until the mid-1970s, the PLAAF stagnated. In matters involving flight safety, education, training, strategy and tactics, PLAAF historians claim there was actually atrophy. [40] Civilian units, under the guise of making revolution, often occupied military bases. In many cases the military property was never returned to its units even by the late 1980s. In other instances, military school compounds were destroyed as well as teaching materials, books and equipment. Instructors, researchers and staff were often scattered throughout China. In the worst cases, they died or were killed.

Ironically, the war in Vietnam, plus Lin Biao's paranoia about China facing an imminent large war, led to more flying hours than in the past. However, the training was haphazard, maintenance was poor and the "serious accident rate" for aircraft soared to 0.6 per 10,000 sorties from 0.249 in 1964. [41] Non-flying or ground training (dimian xunlian) virtually stopped because almost all PLAAF schools were closed for nearly six years. This was the "lost generation" for China's youth and it was no less true for the PLAAF. PLAAF historians refer to pervasive stagnation or deterioration.

For the air force the cessation of education was more complicated than it was for society as a whole. The disruptions resulting from the "stop classes, make revolution" activities were disruptive but did not pose the most harmful consequences. The major problem was Lin Biao's advocacy of an imminent war doctrine. An emphasis on war preparations and political activism led to far reaching changes. In November 1969 this view led to the elimination of 13 of approximately 16 technical schools and academies in the PLAAF. The expected training goal for the Cultural Revolution years was 21,900 students, but only 5,650 graduated. In 1967 and 1968 the achievement levels of graduates were so low they could not be used in their gaining units. At the PLAAF Second Aviation School authorities claimed the elimination of aviation theory courses between 1967 and June 1970 "resulted in an increase of aircraft accidents at the school and operational bases. [42] There were similar results in 1970 when some technical courses resumed for periods of only three to eight months. [43]

The reason for this devastating cutback in non-flying education was a major expansion of flight training in preparation for imminent war. Four flying schools were added in 1967 and 1968. Annual flying hours for flight schools increased dramatically: 1966 (180,000), 1968 (260,000), 1970 (310,000) and 1972 (400,000). [44]

There were also extensive difficulties in the aviation industries. Between 1969 and 1971, disruptions led to severe quality control problems. As one history of the aviation industry notes, it was a time of industrial "anarchy or semi-anarchy .... the whole industry was in the difficult position of trying to preserve order. [45] The aviation industry places the blame on the direct interference of PLAAF commander Wu Faxian and the "military." They claim, for example, that in 1971 alone there were 27 types of aircraft authorized to be developed. Even though there were no blueprints for any of them, the industry was expected to bring them to the production stage in two to three years. Development time for aircraft stretched out to 10-15 years or more because production decisions were constantly delayed due to protracted development problems or mere indecision. Between 1969 and 1971, 46 projects went into operation without the necessary materials or designs: 36 of the projects had not even been approved. [46]

Interestingly, biographies of PLA and PLAAF leaders are often glaringly silent about these years. Although a number of books have been published in the West about the difficulties of the Cultural Revolution years, there have been no similar books that specifically focus on the consequences for the Chinese military. Recent military histories are guarded in their assessments. While not understating the problems that arose, they have not "hung out the wash" as has been the case in some of the personal accounts. [47]
Regeneration: 1972-1978

The PLAAF emerged from the Cultural Revolution--including the residual years of leftist influence in the early 1970s--as an organizational shell. The operational forces were intact but their efficiency had been degraded. Although the basic administrative infrastructure was still in place, the routine functions, operating procedures, training, education, tactical and strategic planning, and the corporate identity of the air force were nearly moribund. Discipline had seriously eroded and standards of competency (e.g., leadership, flying, technical support, administration) were also low. [48]

The PLAAF decidedly needed to pursue again a course of regularization, but no military service in China had ever unilaterally undertaken reform or regularization. In September 1971, PLAAF commander Wu Faxian was implicated in the Lin Biao Affair and was sentenced in 1981 to 17 years of imprisonment. For almost two years the air force did not have a commander. Ma Ning, a former deputy commander of the Lanzhou MRAF and politically active figure in Jilin during the Cultural Revolution, finally became PLAAF commander (1973-1977). He was, however, largely a transitional figure. Although Ma Ning had been a commander, his rise to prominence in the PLAAF seems linked more to his political views than his aviation skills. In neither the PLA nor PLAAF were pressing problems seriously addressed during the early 1970s.

1975 to 1977 was a critical period for the PLA as Deng Xiaoping consolidated his political and military power. [49] In addition, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai passed from the scene and the Gang of Four fell in 1976. Amid these profound leadership changes, the PLAAF took its initial steps toward regularization: Zhang Tingfa became the new PLAAF commander (1977-1985); the PLAAF succeeded in establishing the Aero-Engineering Department in 1976 as one of the four first-level departments to address aviation maintenance problems; and in 1977 all military services embarked on a five-year program to reestablish and regularize military training and education. [50]

China's civilian defense aviation industry, which once had the potential to become a technologically competitive manufacturer of military aircraft in the mid-1960s, emerged in the late 1970s further behind world standards than it had been in the late 1950s. [51] The aviation industry cites December 1971--three months after the deaths of Lin Biao and Wu Faxianas its turning point. Zhou Enlai and Ye Jianying called for a conference on the continuing problem of quality control in the aviation industry. The Central Military Commission (CMC) subsequently addressed deeper, underlying problems and within three months it "adjusted" the leadership of the industry. [52] The point that aviation industry historians subsequently have emphasized is that in March 1972 the CMC abolished the "air force relationship with the aviation industry and restored direct subordination [of the aviation industry] to the State Council. [53]
Reform Begins: 1978-1985

No matter how operationally compelling regularization was for any of the PLA services, it was virtually impossible to initiate without the explicit support of a figure such as Deng Xiaoping. The pursuit of regularization--efficiency and necessity aside--was, in reality, a rejection of an extensive structure of military strategy, philosophy and doctrine. The Third Plenum of the Eleventh CCP Congress (December 1978) officially sanctioned a departure from past practices. Regeneration- was not enough; reform was expected and encouraged.

Beginning in 1978, the PLAAF embarked on numerous reforms and changes in its operating style. The first step was an overall rectification of organizations, practices and procedures. Air force leaders recurrently held conferences where they addressed the need to improve maintenance standards and practices. PLAAF leaders began to focus more intently on substantive issues such as specific missions for aircraft in the inventory, strategic research and safety guidance. A renewed emphasis was placed on drafting operating regulations. Air Force units also participated in joint service exercises. Budget planning was undertaken in three-year plans. The CMC authorized the restoration of flying grades and flight pay. Finally, PLAAF personnel began to attend international conferences. The commander, Zhang Tingfa, alone made approximately ten trips to foreign countries. [54] As PLAAF officers began traveling abroad, the air force became more transparent as a military service and organization. Transparency brought fresh insights about how elements of the PLA operate. Much of this new information came as China's air force was engaging in an extensive regularization of its institutions, forces and people.

The study of military organizations is often a tedious endeavor, but it can be informative. The following section describes the four administrative and operating levels of the PLAAF, and the nature of interaction between the PLAAF headquarters and the PLA's "three general departments" (san zongbu): General Staff Department (GSD), General Political Department (GPD) and General Logistics Department (GLD).
PLAAF-PLA General Departments Interaction

There is considerable symmetry between the functional second-level departments of the PLA's three general departments (Figure 2) and the headquarters organization of the PLAAF (Figure 3). All PLAAF procurement programs, budgets, capital construction plans, manpower issues and training programs are coordinated with or determined by the relevant departments within the PLA's three general departments.
The organizational relationships are complex and diverse. While the three general departments are dominated by PLA ground forces officers, there are also air force and navy personnel who serve there. There are jointly staffed offices as well as specialized offices such as the Air Force Offices (kongjunchu) that are subordinate to the GSD Operations and Equipment Departments. Political officers often switch back and forth between the GPD and the PLAAF Political Department. Air force and navy officers wear army uniforms while serving on the joint staff. Service representation ensures a measure of equitable representation and technical expertise.
Headquarters Air Force

The internal organization of Headquarters Air Force (HqAF) is mirrored or replicated at each of the three lower administrative/operational levels.

[55] As such, the functional elements of the headquarters are an accurate reflection of the range of air force missions, responsibilities and tasks. At the apex is the senior leadership: commander (general), political commissar (lieutenant general), four deputy commanders (lieutenant generals), two deputy political commissars (lieutenant generals), chief of staff (major general), plus the directors (major general) of the Political, Logistics, and Aeronautical Engineering Departments. These twelve officers comprise the air force's Party Standing Committee. Party standing committees at each lower PLAAF echelon consist of similar sets of commanding officers. The Party Committee itself consists of the Standing Committee plus the commanders and political commissars of the seven MRAFs.

The general organization of the PLAAF Headquarters is reasonably defined. What is unclear is the command relationship between the functional offices and the senior leaders.
For example, the four deputy commanders are not concurrently the directors of the four first-level departments. Each deputy commander has oversight responsibility for one of four permanent oversight areas: training, operations, air defense, and logistics/equipment/ R&D. Only the logistics oversight area is not a subordinate department of the Headquarters Department. Additionally, they have secondary oversight responsibility for other second-level functional areas. The division of responsibility clearly is not synonymous with the "big four" departments. In selecting deputy commanders, some consideration is usually given to requiring expertise in one of the four areas of permanent oversight.

The chief of staff is not a coordinator of the "big four" departments, rather he only directs the Headquarters Department. His four deputy chiefs of staff, who are not lower level counterparts of the four deputy commanders, oversee clusters of second-level departments within the Headquarters Department. They have no lateral responsibilities in the three other first-level departments.

In the U.S. military the terms "rank" and "grade" are effectively synonymous. In the PLA they are quite distinct. Military ranks (junxian) were reintroduced in 1988 with some difficulty. Perhaps the key obstacle was accurately aligning rank with functional responsibilities and status based on length of service. Grade (zhiwu dengji) or army equivalent position (AEP) currently is a more accurate reflection of authority and responsibility across service, branch and organizational lines. Grade reflects asymmetries of authority among organizations and individuals who seemingly have equal status.

Thus, while rank is a key indicator for foreigners, AEP is still the key indicator within the PLA. For example, the PLAAF commander and political commissar have different ranks but they have the same grade--each has the AEP of an MR commander. A more striking case is found in the PLA Navy (PLAN) where the commander has a lower rank than the political commissar, but each one has the same grade or AEP. The relative importance of departments cannot necessarily be determined by first or second level-status, or by the military rank of the department directors. For example, the Political and Logistics Department directors and the chief of staff all have the AEP of a MR deputy commander; however, the Aero-Engineering Department director only has the AEP of an army (jun) commander--the same as the deputy chiefs of staff and deputy directors in the other "big four" departments. [56]

PLAAF officers routinely refer to two levels of departmental organization within the HqAF. The first level departments (yijibu) consist of the "big four" (si da bu): the Headquarters, Political, Logistics and Aero-engineering Departments (bu) which are directed by major generals. [57] Second-level departments (erjibu), whose directors are senior colonels or colonels, consist of offices (shi), departments (bu) or bureaus (ju), plus specialized elements such as the PLAAF Procuratorate and Court. [58] Most second-level departments have various subordinate divisions/offices (chu/ke). Each of the 20 major elements in the Headquarters Department has about 30 personnel.

The PLAAF's internal operational chain of command is fairly straight forward.
Broadly speaking, the internal air force operational and administrative hierarchy is organized into four distinct levels (see Figure 4): Headquarters Air Force (HqAF) (kongjun); Military Region Air Force Headquarters (MRAF Hq) (junqu kongjun); Command Posts (zhihuisuo) and Air Corps (kongjun jun); and Operational units (budui) . Operating units may be directly subordinate to any of the top three levels.
Military Region Air Forces (MRAF)

Presently, the number of MRAFs corresponds to the seven PLA military regions: Shenyang, Beijing, Lanzhou, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Jinan and Chengdu. The total number of MRAF headquarters changed several times since 1949. Recent changes have corresponded to new military region boundaries, but air regions were not always coterminous with the military regions. The concept of military regions is closely tied to the CCP's field armies that fought against the Japanese and Nationalist forces. Regardless of specific historical influences, the military regions have come to represent more than convenient administrative demarcations. For planning and operational purposes, they are now viewed as theaters or distinct campaign arenas. Primary emphasis is placed on regional defense. MRAF Hqs, per se, may have some operational assets that are directly controlled by it. In the main, however, the operational air units within a MR are separate from and subordinate to the MRAF Hqs which exists primarily as an administrative echelon. Each MRAF Hqs nonetheless has an operations center that is part of the air force's overall operational chain of command; and the MRAF commander is the MR commander's advisor regarding aviation matters.

MRAF commanders are lieutenant generals. The position of MRAF commander is a key step for promotion to one of the five senior positions in the PLAAF. MRAF commanders normally have served as a deputy MRAF commander, but not necessarily in the same region. The next step for a promotable MRAF commander is PLAAF deputy commander. General officers on the HqAF staff--including the chief of staff--normally must have their "tickets punched" in the senior MRAF Hq positions before they can become a PLAAF deputy commander. A premium is now placed on having command experience at the regional level of military operations. It may be premature to conclude that the Chinese have embraced "joint operations" in the same spirit that exists in the West. Nevertheless, the PLA and the PLAAF are moving toward more integrated defense.

An MRAF Hqs commander literally "wears two hats" or--in the Chinese case--two uniforms. When General Larry Welch, a former Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, visited the Guangzhou MR in April 1989, PLAAF Lieutenant General Liu Heqiao met the Welch delegation wearing a green PLA uniform in his capacity as a Guangzhou MR deputy commander. At the PLAAF-hosted dinner Liu wore the blue PLAAF uniform of the MRAF commander.
Command Posts and Air Corps

The PLAAF .currently has eight Command Posts and four Air Corps. [59] These are intermediate level elements that are responsible for the air defense of specific cities. Practically speaking, there are no functional differences between the two organizations, although an Air Corps is viewed as having slightly less stature than a Command Post. The number of Air Corps and Command Posts has changed frequently over the years with some Command Posts replacing Air Corps in the 1980s. The trend during the 1990s presumably will be for Command Posts to replace the remaining Air Corps. PLAAF officers generally state that the Air Corps and MRAF Hqs are structured almost identically as operational and administrative organizations. Command Posts are structured primarily as operational organizations with their administrative functions performed by an MRAF Hqs.
Operational/Functional Units

The budui or military unit is a functional, non-administrative unit. It may be a fighter division, radar unit, combined brigade or zhishu budui (directly subordinate unit) such as a research institute, hospital, sanitorium, transportation unit or logistics organization. The term budui is routinely used among service members to convey the flavor of a functional unit rather than an administrative headquarters (jiguan) or political/party element of the military.
Chain of Command

The internal air force chain of command is reasonably clear in terms of policy, military operations and administration. PLAAF officers, however, have often added two important caveats. First, decisionmaking regarding many operational matters is decentralized. Local commanders have latitude to make on-the-spot decisions when circumstances require an immediate response, yet other operational decisions are made as high as the CMC. [60] Second, the formal chain of command does not preclude a MRAF commander from directly calling the PLAAF commander. [61] Some PLAAF officers further claim that the directors of the first-level departments do not necessarily have to go through the deputy commanders or commissars before reporting to the air force commander or political commissar. Regarding staff matters, the functional offices within the "big four" departments must pass all actions through their second level General Office or Headquarters Department (in the case of the Logistics Department) before they are sent to a higher level. Operational matters are coordinated among small operations centers within the headquarters of each level of the PLAAF. The PLAAF claims that these operations are now semi-automated.

Although the normal chain of command is clear, that condition does not necessarily mean the infrastructure of the PLAAF is optimally efficient or always functions as it is planned. In China, as in other countries, defense reforms repeatedly address the problems of dysfunctionality or routinized departures from hierarchical control. The following examples illustrate some of the complexities the PLAAF faces in exercising centralized control over all facets of air force administration and activities.

The air force finance department (caiwubu) --second level--is located within the HqAF Logistics Department. It is responsible for overall budget and finance matters. At each of the three administrative levels below HqAF there also is a finance office (chu/ke) within each logistics department. That office coordinates budget and finance matters with lateral organizations at each administrative level--HqAF down to individual units. Within the lateral organizations there are combined planning/finance offices (jihua/caiwu chu/ke).

Air force budgets are now based on 5-year plans and annual budget submissions. From 1978 to 1986 the PLAAF relied on 3-year budget plans. [62] Although there is a central air force budget, PLAAF officers often imply that the budget process is not rigidly fixed. The PLAAF did not have a financial accounting system of its own until mid-1989. [63] Once the GSD establishes its total budget requirements, centralized funding for the PLAAF comes from the State Council through the GLD finance department. Monies are normally dispersed between March and June.

In general, the PLAAF receives three kinds of central budgetary allocations. The first is "fenced" or specifically earmarked money (i.e., to buy a specific number of aircraft). The PLAAF can only spend this money as specified by the GLD. The second allocation is "constrained funds." These funds are also earmarked by categories, but the PLAAF has some latitude in how it expends this money. The third category is discretionary funds which have no attached strings: Based upon the allocation constraints, these funds trickle down to the basic level units of the PLAAF based on budgets and plans. [64]

There is a second source of funds that is not centrally controlled. In effect, it is an off-budget source of income for all four PLAAF administrative levels. This source consists of commercial enterprises, hotels, hospitals, factories, farms, mines and even airline services. Profits from these activities are substantially discretionary in nature. Unlike centrally apportioned funds that trickle down, the profits of military enterprises are carefully husbanded. In theory there is supposed to be a "trickle up" flow to the next highest administrative level where portions of the profits are redistributed down to poorer units. [65]

The net effect is that HqAF has budgetary control of big ticket items, major capital construction and expenditure categories that central government planners endeavor to control through the state budget allocation process. It has much less control over the daily operating expenses of the budui's, housing, care of dependents, and morale, welfare and recreation activities. Regularization has meant the compilation of regulations to prevent economic crimes and misuse of government property as well as improve economic efficiency.

In 1990 the PLAAF had 500,000 officers, non-commissioned officers (NCO) and conscripted airmen. One PLAAF officer further indicated that the air force currently has about 170,000 military and civilian officers and 330,000 conscripts. [66] There is a centralized personnel system in which personnel assignments come under the purview of two HqAF elements: the Political Department's Cadre Department (ganbubu) and the Headquarters Department's Military Affairs Department (junwubu). The Cadre Department is specifically concerned with officer assignments while the Military Affairs Department determines manning requirements and authorizations for all PLAAF organizations. Together these two organizations try to link qualified people with authorized billets. [67] As late as 1988, however, the PLAAF personnel system was not computerized. One aspect of regularization has been efforts to ensure that personnel authorizations for organizations are rational and justified.

In reality the PLAAF has a de facto two-tier system of personnel management. The first tier is at the MRAF level and below, where the majority of personnel matters are handled. Most operational units--hence most junior officers and conscripts--are below this level. The second tier of personnel management involves senior officers at the army or air corps (jun) level and above. Centralized control is necessary for several reasons. First, all appointments in the second tier require CMC approval. Next, officers in the second tier have "fast track" potential and may have general officer mentors. Third, some of these officers have exceptional educational qualifications (i.e., technical, foreign language, advanced degrees). There are comparatively few air force or "joint" (i.e., GSD, GPD, GLD and COSTIND) billets in Beijing, although total PLAAF personnel in the Beijing area may be as high as 50,000--nearly a tenth of the air force. Until 1990 the PLAAF was able to recruit aviation cadets directly from participants in the national college entrance examination. Beginning in 1990--apparently as a result of events at Tiananmen--the PLA's General Political Department assumed the responsibility for selecting aviation cadets.

The majority of PLAAF personnel--officers, NCOs and conscripts--serve their entire careers in the same military region and perhaps even in their native province. Pilots, for example, normally spend their entire careers in the division to which they are assigned after transition flight training. This situation strikes U.S. military manpower managers as unusual because American servicemen are frequently transferred. In reality, the infrequent transfer of troops is a fairly common practice throughout the world. In the case of the PLAAF the prevalence of regional service and normally ample manpower distributions among the military regions has meant that stringent centralized control of all air force personnel is not viewed as especially necessary.

There is no assurance this practice will always satisfy regional manpower requirements, especially in times of war. Chinese defense planners have recently given more attention to the problem of war mobilization: They have concluded, for example, that in times of general war, some local urban-rural population distributions may not adequately meet the requirements of both the armed forces and civilian industries that also require technically trained manpower to support the war effort. Some Chinese defense analysts believe that as the PLA begins to rely on more sophisticated weaponry, it will have to turn to better educated urban rather than rural youths. [68]

Although PLA and PLAAF personnel do not routinely serve great distances from the area where they joined the military, extended family separations are an ongoing source of dissatisfaction within all the services. Except for pilots, whose dependents (i.e., wife and child) can live with them almost immediately, other PLAAF officers must be 35 years old, have 15 years of service, and have battalion commander AEP status before family members may join them. Some cities also require that the spouse have a job, the officer already has quarters, and the child already has a guaranteed place at a school. [69]
Training and Education

The HqAF Training Department (xunlianbul was established as a first-level department in 1949. It split into separate first-level training 'unxunbu and schools (iunxiaobu) departments in 1953. Today, they are second-level departments within the Headquarters Department and are responsible for the 26 PLAAF officer/NCO schools and academies, plus all specialized and unit training for conscripts. The Training Department oversees all conscript basic and technical training at the unit level, aviation cadet flying academies and the officer flight training portion of the Test Flight and Flying Training Center at Cangzhou Airfield, Hebei. The Schools Department is responsible for education and training at all other schools and academies, and focuses primarily on officer education. HqAF is responsible for education and training policies, mission, curriculum, organization and plans--as well as control of student assignments. The MRAF's are responsible for local party work, school administration, logistical support and maintenance of the schools and academies. The PLAAF currently has 10 flight training academies and seven transition flight training bases (i.e., one in each military region). The HqAF directly controls only one school--the Air Force Command College in Beijing--and various research institutes.

The military and technical training for conscripts, which is called "unit training" (budui xunlian) is even more decentralized. The training of technicians known as zhuanye bing (technical soldiers) is divided into three categories: "important specialized technicians" (zhuyao zhuanye jishu bing) who are trained in special training groups (dui or dadui) or regiments (tuan); "general technical soldiers" (yiban jishu bite); and "general soldiers" (putong bing) who are trained in special organizations (zhuanmen jigou) or local units. [70] In some instances, conscripts may receive training (i.e., aircraft maintenance) at the PLAAF technical training schools in Changchun and Xianyang. NCO's are offered training courses at several places: the Changchun and Xianyang technical schools; special short classes at PLAAF schools that normally train and educate officers; and the newly established Air Force Dalian NCO School (Kongjun Dalian Shiguan Xuexiao). Intentionally, unit training emphasizes local geographical conditions, the theater threat and the kinds of equipment available to the unit. Implicit in this approach to training is the assumption that the units are unlikely to be deployed to theaters (i.e., military regions) with clearly different conditions.

The organization of PLAAF training and education is currently based on the PLA's "5-3" tier system. This system consists of five tiers of specialized/technical training and education for officers: secondary specialized; specialized college or equivalent; university or equivalent; masters degree program; and doctorate program. There also is a three-tier system of professional military education for officers (i.e., primary command/leadership training; intermediate command/leadership training; and higher command education). The PLAAF trains conscripts and volunteers in training units.

The total number of PLAAF schools and academies has changed considerably over the years. Expansion and contraction routinely have reflected policy changes regarding training objectives or war preparations. For example, when there wer6 as many as 17 aviation schools (hang xiao), Lin Biao and Wu Faxian were advocating a doctrine of imminent war. Presently, there are only ten flying academies and 16 other PLAAF schools and academies totaling 26. Throughout the PLA there are slightly more than 100 education and training institutions-down about 12 percent from the early 1980s and a high of nearly 160 in the early 1960s. [71]

The first assigned operational mission of the PLAAF was the air defense of Beijing in 1949. During the late 1980s, air force officials routinely described the PLAAF's primary mission as the "air and land defense of China." [72] By referring to the five branches of the air force, it is possible to more fully understand the scope of that primary mission. These branches (bingzhon) are aviation, anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), surface-to-air missiles (SAM), radar, and communications. The aviation branch, which includes fighters, ground attack aircraft, bombers, transports and reconnaissance aircraft, is the air force's main arm. The PLAAF also has airborne troops (kongjiang bing), logistics units, research institutes, hospitals and sanitoriums. [73] The air force's Logistics Department has its own water transport craft to ship fuel to units along the Yangzi River and coast. Published PLAAF sources also refer to informal, secondary missions such as assisting socialist construction, providing air services for disaster relief and air rescues, and artificial rainmaking support for farmers.

The PLAAF's brief description of its mission is informative. On the one hand, the terseness may be symptomatic of the "forbidden zone" mentality ("It's classified!"). On the other hand, it may also reflect a longer term problem involving the as yet nascent formulation of Chinese air power doctrine and concepts. There was little in the doctrine of People's War that compelled a serious definition of the uses of air power. In the absence of broader air force statements about the PLAAF's missions, the only real clue to the range of air force responsibilities must be deduced from the functions of its operational branches. In the case of the PLAAF, the goal of air defense includes not only aerial combat but also responsibility for the ground-based air defense of China (i.e., SAMs and AAA). Many Western militaries regard airborne forces as being part. of the ground forces because the air force only provides transportation. This is not the case in the PLAAF, which has all of these missions.

The PLAAF is also silent about the different ways air power can be employed within the framework of China's active defense (liji fangyu) strategy. How air power is employed in almost any country is far from a settled matter. In many Western countries mission statements and doctrine represent institutional and operational efforts to contain the debate within acceptable parameters. In some respects, mission statements are descriptions of jobs or responsibilities. By defining the scope of operations, military services concurrently limit and protect their "turf."

Until quite recently, the PLAAF did not have specific mission statements regarding different air combat missions (i.e., strategic air defense, chose-air-support, interdiction, strategic bombing, tactical or strategic airlift). [74] The PLAAF, for example, did not formally define its ground support doctrine until 1982. Moreover, as late as 1988 there still was not a formal doctrine for strategic air defense. [75] The issue of military airlift was not addressed in regulations until 1989.

The PLAAF never faced most of the pressures and issues that led to the writing of mission statements in foreign air forces. For example, there was no existing PLA air arm before 1949; hence there were none of the doctrinal and operational disputes that existed during the early years of U.S. military aviation. There were no air assets to be divided between the PLA and PLAAF. [76] Even existing air bases and equipment in 1949 belonged to the defeated Nationalist and Japanese armies. Equally important was the defensive nature of the doctrine of People's War: there was no need for a strategic projection of air or sea power. For .nearly four decades the dominance of this doctrine effectively dampened any internal air force pressure to more fully define the role of air power. Finally, there have been no emergent aviation technologies in China since the early 1960s that have compelled a broader consideration of air power options.

In short, the PLAAF never had any competitors for air-related resources or missions. If anything, the "air defense" charter of the PLAAF was so broad that it was able to expand the scope of its functions to areas not universally associated with air power. Thus, the Air Defense Force (Jiefangjun Fangkongjun) was merged into the air force in 1957. The responsibility for SAM defenses was added the following year. The PLAAF also had the charter for airborne forces (paratroops) since 1950. The extent to which PLAAF officers sought to define specific air power missions during the 1950s and 1960s is unknown, although the air force did launch a prodigious effort during those years to consolidate and compile extensive publications that represented China's specific aviation experience. By all PLAAF accounts the Cultural Revolution years were doctrinally sterile.

Given the air force's accretion of diverse air defense roles, it is surprising that the PLAAF did not become responsible for ground-based strategic missiles with nuclear warheads. That mission was assigned to an independent fourth service (junzhong) --the Second Artillery. At least one of the early PLAAF deputy commanders became the minister of the 7th MMI which was responsible for producing China's strategic missiles. The Second Artillery nomenclature nonetheless still had some of its roots in the PLAAF. [77]

The PLAAF began to emphasize the formal compilation of mission statements in the early 1980s for several reasons. First, military reform in general stressed regularization although regularization was not a new dimension of defense reform. Since the early 1950s the PLA had struggled with the process of converting the guerrilla forces of a political party into a regular army of the state. PLA writers have acknowledged that the armed forces has long operated without clearly defined responsibilities. In this regard, the PLA was much like other large Chinese ministries. Military mission statements have become the PLA's equivalent of the written responsibility codes or contracts that reformers promoted in the civilian sector. Second, PLA ground forces began to acquire, their own air assets. [78] Turf questions have become a more common part of the fabric of China's defense establishment. Mission statements have helped define responsibilities and justify resources. [79] Third, the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese border conflict compelled PLA and PLAAF commanders to address questions regarding joint operations and the appropriate role of air power. Finally, during the 1980s China's military faced unprecedented economic constraints. This situation resulted not so much from unanticipated budget shortages as it did from conscious CCP policy decisions. Initial PLA efforts to develop the equivalent of a policy, planning and budgeting system (PPBS) visibly revealed the effort to link strategy, resources and missions. [80]

By the mid-1980s the interrelated processes of domestic and defense reform were well underway. It was during the high tide of reform that Wang Hai replaced Zhang Tingfa as PLAAF commander (July 31, 1985). Wang assumed his responsibilities with a charter to further implement regularization (i.e., reform) in the PLAAF. The personal leadership he brought to the air force was perhaps as important as the prevailing expectation of change among senior CCP leaders. Wang, who was a military hero from the Korean conflict, also was the PLAAF's first commander to be an aviator. Not insignificantly, he further possessed the charisma often associated with successful military commanders. Under the leadership of Wang Hai and a senior staff that represented a new emphasis on aviation and technical experience, the PLAAF continued to pursue a reform agenda that included more than pro forma changes.

Three PLA-wide structural changes broadly affected the personnel structure of the air force after 1985. These were the CMC's mandated reduction of personnel by one million persons beginning in 1985; the introduction of a military civil service system in August 1988; and the reinstitution of military ranks in October 1988.

By late 1989 the PLAAF reduced its total active duty force by one-fourth. [81] Any reduction in forces is complex. The "salami slicing" technique can emasculate operational units especially if they are already "lean." Common alternatives include reducing administrative and support staffs and eliminating non-essential missions. The PLAAF decided to eliminate organizational "fat" and non-essential levels of administration. Additionally, it transferred some missions to ground force units.

Some solutions represented responses to unique Chinese conditions. Most important was the strategic policy decision to abandon the imminent war doctrine for one of "extended peace. [82] In effect, the political leadership radically restated the threat assessment which had two important consequences. First, program and manpower directors were effectively allowed to propose cuts in the operational force structure. Second, the demise of the imminent war doctrine opened the door for new defense strategies as alternatives to People's War. Although the Chinese debate has not ended regarding a new defense strategy, the beginning of a shift nonetheless allowed force planners to look at new' ways to organize the PLA.

Some of the largest reductions were realized by a personnel slight of hand. For the first time the Chinese armed forces created a civilian support bureaucracy. Large numbers of officers from the support units--especially schools, academies, hospitals, research institutes and service units--were required to become civilian defense employees (wenzhiyuan). An implicit objective was to raise the ratio of officers to conscripts from 1:2.4 to 1:3.3. For the PLAAF the greatest impact was felt in the logistics department which controlled most support organizations. At HqAF approximately 20 percent of its personnel became civil servants. Most instructors in the.air force schools and academies also became civilians. The change provoked concerns about the emergence of a "second class" corps of officers. Apologists for the change stressed that it gave these officers stability and opportunities that otherwise were often unavailable due to operational military requirements. One clear advantage for officers who became civil servants was that they were not subject to the mandatory retirement ages for military officers. For example, a military officer serving at a research institute who is not promoted beyond the AEP of regiment commander by age 45 must retire and leave the institute. As a civil servant, however, he does not have to retire and may therefore retain his post. Most significantly, the change resulted in at least the appearance of a smaller uniformed PLAAF.

The new rank system was both welcomed and feared. After more than 20 years without ranks, it was difficult to establish criteria that took into account seniority, different job responsibilities, and rational organizational structures. Within the air force, rank determinations were easiest to make in operational units. Problems arose, however, when assigning appropriate ranks to people working in technical, administration and political fields. Consistency among the military services was an additional concern. The solution in part was to create a dual-track officer corps: command (i.e., line officers or "operators") and technical personnel (jishuyuan) in support positions. [83] The number of uniformed PLAAF personnel has been reduced on paper, but the total number of air force people (military and civilian) has not changed dramatically. Even reductions resulting from retirement still represent a financial cost for the PLAAF which, in turn, has reduced the desired cost-savings. [84]
AAA and SAMs

The PLAAF made significant changes in some operational units. For example, the air force began to restructure its AAA and SAM forces by abolishing the division shi level and turning over most of its lower caliber AAA units (i.e., 37mm and 57mm) to PLA ground. forces. Of the AAA forces still under PLAAF control, the air force has linked many of them with SAM regiments to form "combined brigades" (huncheng lu). The air force has . eliminated the regiment level completely within the combined brigades thereby effecting a direct chain of command between brigades and the battalion. Each combined brigade has five to six battalions consisting of two to three AAA and two to three SAM battalions. As of late 1990, the Jinan MRAF was the only MRAF without any announced combined brigades. Changes in these ground air defense units were not complete in early 1991. There are, however, exceptions to the rule. For example, some SAM brigades have been formed without any AAA battalions. Still other SAM and AAA regiments have not been combined into brigades. Some AAA units that have not been combined with SAM regiments or turned over to PLA ground forces may possibly be used for deployment purposes.
Joint Operations

A dominant objective of regularization throughout the PLA has been a greater emphasis on the development of combined and joint forces. This emphasis was more a result of the lessons learned from the 1979 border conflict with Vietnam than inspiration born of the CCP's stress on reforms. By 1986 the PLA began referring to the military regions as war or campaign zones. The PLAAF provided a written doctrine in 1982 regarding the air force's support role during group army (jituanjun) defensive campaigns. [85] Under this concept, the CMC and PLAAF are responsible for establishing a unified and comprehensive air defense plan for China's strategic points.

At the military region level, the MR commander or Front Army (fangmian jun) commander, who exercises unified control, is responsible for directing group armies and the PLAAF to prepare a Coordinated Action Plan. A group army and assigned PLAAF units establish an operations team (zuozhan xiaozu) that coordinates requests for aerial support. At the lowest levels are target control teams (mubiao yindao zu)--much like ground-based forward air controllers--who control air attacks in conjunctions with ground force divisions. It logically followed in 1987 that MRAF commanders also became MR deputy commanders. [86]

The PLAAF still did not have a strategic air defense policy by late 1988. Additionally, regulations about army-wide airlift support and practices were not introduced until mid-1989. Finally, during late 1988, the PLAAF's SAM and AAA Applied Research Center addressed the need for a policy or doctrine about air defense strategy.

In response to these new operational concepts, the senior PLAAF leadership joined other services in placing a greater emphasis on officer training and education which the Chinese called "knowledgefication" (zhishihua). Qualitative improvements were introduced for academic education, flight training, and joint exercise training. Academic excellence was stressed in the PLAAF as it was throughout the military. Apart from technical competence, one secondary objective was to build esprit de corps and pride. To support this objective the PLAAF closed some schools to consolidate resources and upgraded many schools to academies. The air force was thereby able to begin awarding college degrees at many of the academies. For the first time new pilots were expected to graduate from PLAAF academies with college degrees. Seven PLAAF academies also began in 1985 to confer masters degrees in technical fields. [87]

Important changes were introduced for pilot training. Fighter and ground attack pilot training was traditionally a three-phase process: basic flight school (20 months), flying academy (28 months), and operational unit training (4-5 years). [88] Beginning in 1986, the PLAAF began to experiment with an additional fourth phase. For graduates of fighter and ground attack flying programs, phase three became a one-year aircraft "conversion program" at newly organized "transition training bases." Phase four, or proficiency development, became a slightly truncated version of the old operational training in units (now three to four years). The program was formalized in July 1988 when the CMC authorized each MRAF to establish a transition training base. The goal is to eventually eliminate the need for operational fighter divisions to dedicate one of the three regiments to training. [89] This measure also fosters greater standardization of advanced flying skills. Regularization of flight training allowed the PLAAF to further abolish three flight training schools after July 1986.

The increasing emphasis on joint and combined operations led to additional training changes. One initiative was the creation of greater combat reality in flight training. Since 1982 each MRAF has formed one to three "blue force units" (laniun fendui) that serve as enemy or aggressor squadrons. The PLAAF Flight Test and Training Center, located in Cangzhou, Hebei province, also formed a blue force unit to fly as enemy aircraft during air defense exercises.

PLAAF histories often refer retrospectively to "mixed" or "combined" military actions even in the 1950s. In reality it is doubtful that joint or combined operations were ever raised to a doctrinal or conceptual level until perhaps the early 1980s. Combined arms training for the PLA more often than not involves combining the arms (bingzhong) within a service (junzhong). In the case of the air force, each of the seven MRAFs has begun since 1985 to establish a tactical training area. These training areas are specifically designed for the five PLAAF branches to train together. In 1986 the different services also addressed joint training (i.e., involving different services [junzhong]). Some MRAFs and Air Corps formed joint tactical training areas in conjunction with military region ground forces.
Esprit de Corps

Along with the other services, the PLAAF sought to rebuild pride and--to use a common Western military term--professionalism. These measures were an extension of regularization. In many ways the PLA had become organizationally and behaviorally irregular since the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. Several actions were initiated. First, the education of officers was substantially upgraded. A college degree or equivalent became a requirement for promotion. More important was the fact that the PLAAF would provide much of this education. Additionally, a college degree provided social status. [90] Second, advanced education for masters and doctoral degrees provided further opportunities to attain distinction. Third, the reintroduction of ranks provided easily discernible status, achievement and responsibility. Fourth, the creation of stylish new uniforms with service insignia went far in portraying service members as competent and polished specialists rather than rural rustics. Fifth, professional communication was reestablished through aviation journals, publications and books.

Finally, a special step was taken to foster pride among PLAAF pilots and aircrews. The air force began awarding one of four aeronautical ratings to all aircraft crew members in 1986. [91] Among the PLAAF's 10,000 pilots, only seven percent received the highest or "special grade" award. Given the PLAAF's force structure, it was not surprising that 15-20 percent of the fighter pilots won the "special grade" rating. According to one senior air force official, it takes about four to five years of flying experience at an operational unit for a pilot to simply become proficient. [92]

The PLA's political commissar system has always been a puzzling institution to foreigners. Chinese analysis of the functions of CCP organizations within the PLA are also far from clear. Recent PLA publications, for example, do little to clarify the relationships among the "party committee system" (dangwei zhidu) within the PLA, the "system of division of leadership responsibility" (shouzhang fengong fuze zhidu) within the PLA, and the political commissar system (zhengzhi weiyuan zhidu) [93] Foreign analysis often refers to the entire political structure within the PLA as the political commissar system. In theory, there is only one "party system" within the PLA. In practice there appears to be considerable redundancy which, in turn, leads to Chinese references to different systems.

The "commissar system" exists at the regiment level and above. The evolution of nomenclature indicates that it is explicitly intended to be an instrument of party control over the military. The party committee system is actually a membership infrastructure. Thus even though there could be considerable atrophy of party organizational life within the PLA-especially below the regiment level--the commissar system could continue to flourish. The two systems ostensibly converge when political commissars lead local party committees as well as provide political oversight. [94]

During the earliest professional exchanges between USAF and PLAAF delegations, both sides grappled awkwardly with the existence or absence of this "system" in the other's service. Western analysts tend to regard it as a Leninist artifact that is intrusive and obstructs the pursuit of military efficiency. The attitudes of PLA officers are opaque. One military official metaphorically described the system as follows: "Every child needs a mother and a father to grow up correctly. Within the Chinese military, the commander is like the father, the political commissar is like the mother, and the soldiers are like the children. [95]

During the 1980s some party reformists argued strongly for a clearer separation of party policy functions and the routine operations of organizations (e.g., factories, government offices, schools, local governments). The proposal spilled over into the military.

Conservative critics alleged that "foreign militaries" under the guise of "peaceful evolution" tried inappropriately to influence PLA officers regarding the separation of army and party. [96] Apart from the allegation of foreign influence directed at the PLA, the military's political commissar system has always been a sensitive subject.

PLA officers were generally willing to respond to questions about military matters, but the army's commissar system regularly appears to remain a "forbidden zone." When talking about this topic with the authors, PLA officers were consistently circumspect in their comments. The intensity and breadth of their feelings were never clearly revealed. Generally speaking, however, several "mainstream" attitudes were deducible. First, officers--they concurrently were party membeTS--seem to want to be seen as apolitical but ardently patriotic. Second, they are keenly attuned to and philosophically uncritical of policy. It is important to them to know what the correct policy position is. In American parlance they are "good soldiers who will do what they are told" and regard "those issues [i.e., policy matters] as being well above their pay-grades." Third, because political policymaking is not within their spheres of responsibility, they do not seem to be outwardly concerned about how policy is made in the highest realms of politics. Finally, among officers there does not seem to be an uneasiness about the party-military relationship. There is, however, a muted feeling that political oversight of routine personnel actions is unnecessary. [97] What appears to outsiders as needless redundancy in the political apparatus, may in fact be a source of irritation within the PLA.

Senior military officials stated on several occasions that developing a sense of patriotism among airmen was a primary objective of the political commissar system. These . leaders asked American officers how patriotism is taught in the U.S. military. Further discussions indicated that PLA and PLAAF leaders feel they are coping with an . underdeveloped sense of patriotism. At the heart of the problem, some officers said, is the parochial isolation of new conscripts and cadets: they are proud to be Chinese but have difficulty identifying with the larger, abstract concept of the Chinese state and national objectives.

Apart from the strictly political dimension of the commissar system, it nonetheless is responsible for a variety of services that are almost nonpolitical in nature. These services include routine personnel administration, education, security, information dissemination, welfare and recreation activities, sponsoring cultural events, counseling soldiers and dependents with problems, and maintaining the general morale of soldiers. In foreign militaries many of these missions fall within the purview of personnel affairs or a chaplin's office.

Six percent of the PLAAF--about 30,000 people--work within the commissar oT military political system. Given the relatively small number of PLAAF personnel working at the MRAF level or above, it is clear that most of the air force's full-time political workers are in operational units and support organizations. Organizationally, the party component consists primarily of party committees and branches which are led by party secretaries. Party committees and their standing committees, which handle day-to-day affairs, exist at the regiment level and above. The "grassroots level," as it is called, is found in organizations below the regiment level. On the military side, the party operates through the political departments which are administrative organizations. At the regiment level and above there is a political commissar who is a counterpart to the commander. There are "political instructors" at the grassroots levels who interact with servicemen--party and nonparty members. Virtually every new air force political officer receives training at the PLAAF Political Academy (Shanghai). Political commissars receive mid-level training at the Air Force Command College (Beijing).

At each level of the air force major issues are decided by the party committee although there is a division of responsibilities. If an issue concerns military affairs, the commander or line military officer carries out the decision. If the issue concerns political matters, political officers are responsible. For example, a commander decides how many sorties will be flown on a given day, but the political commissar participates in deciding who flies those sorties because that decision involves both military and political matters (i.e., reliability, attitude). [98] In a commander's absence, the political commissar is responsible for carrying out the unit's mission in conjunction with the deputy commanders. In theory, a commander and political commissar are coequal; in practice the relationship may be quite variable. Personality and leadership style play an important role that is largely invisible to foreigners who try to understand the meld of commander and commissar.

An important consequence of the PLA's policy of "opening up to the outside" is that even the political commissars have been directly exposed to foreign cultures and military systems. In October 1988, for example, the director of HqAF's Political Department, Major General Ding Wenchang, accompanied the. director of the PLA General Political Department, General Yang Baibing, on a visit to Eastern Europe. Soon thereafter the PLAAF Political Commissar, Lieutenant General Zhu Guang, visited the United States as a guest of the Secretary of the Air Force.

Since the founding of the PLAAF in 1949, its leadership has continually pursued two main objectives: regularization and modernization. As argued earlier in this analysis, regularization is mainly an internal PLAAF task, but it is substantially complicated by social, economic and political forces outside the air force. Force modernization, conversely, is largely an external problem. Since the early 1960s, the PLAAF has had to rely solely on what China's civilian defense aviation industry could research, develop and manufacture. For many years a senior PLAAF officer was concurrently a deputy minister of the aviation industry. During the Cultural Revolution the air force interfered quite directly in aviation research and manufacturing. For more than two decades there has been an expectation inside-and sometimes outside--China that its aviation industry had matured to the point that it could serially produce modern, Chinese-designed aircraft. Even in 1968, when Richard M. Bueschel drew attention to "the problem of creeping obsolescence" in Communist Chinese Air Power he added that "there are signs that this cancer has been blocked and that the PLAAF has turned the corner toward a modern air arm. [99] The PLAAF has muted its public disappointment about the unfulfilled expectations. [100]

When Wang Hai became PLAAF commander in 1985, the aviation industry still had not solved its aircraft development problems. Virtually every aircraft in the inventory was still based on 1950s Soviet technology. There were no mobile SAMs and--more importantly--no new weapon systems were ready for deployment in the near future. [101] Equally important, virtually all of China's neighbors were upgrading their forces with the latest Soviet or Western equipment. The PLAAF was impatient. The aviation industry, in turn, attributed a fair portion of the blame to air force meddling during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Following the Soviet cessation of technical assistance in 1960, the Chinese aviation industry proceeded along two tracks. First, it copied and modified various Soviet aircraft, such as the MIG-19 and MIG-21 fighters, the TU-16 bomber, and the MI-4 helicopter. [102] Second, it began indigenously developing aircraft, such as the A-5 ground attack aircraft and F-12 light interceptor at Nanchang, the F-8 interceptor at Shenyang, and the F-9 interceptor at Chengdu. [103] The Cultural Revolution seriously impeded the progress of these and other programs. For example, quality control measures for the F-6-3, Zhi-5 helicopter, and A-5 completely broke down during their development. Numerous quality control problems forced the CMC to order factory recalls for all of these aircraft in November 1975. [104] Even in the early 1980s, PLAAF A-5, F-6 and F-7 aircraft continued to have serious problems with hydraulic system contamination. This problem alone contributed to an average of 30-40 percent of all aircraft malfunctions. It was as high as 70 percent in one F-7 unit. [105]
The F-8 and Peace Pearl

The Shenyang Aircraft Corporation's F-8 and F-8B interceptor development programs were among China's most ambitious. The F-8, whose development lasted from 1964 to 1979, was first flight tested in June 1969. Although the PLAAF began deploying the F-8 in the early-1980s, it was unsatisfied with the aircraft. Therefore, in 1980 the PLAAF established requirements to modify the F-8 as the F-8II. The requirements which were given to the Ministry of Aviation Industry emphasized two primary needs: a new fire control system-including a larger radar antenna for an increased search and track capability--and a more powerful engine. The first F-81I prototype flew in June 1984; design flight testing was completed in October 1987. [106]

China's aviation industry was still unable to fully satisfy the PLAAF's requirements. What ensued was a remarkable breakthrough in cooperation involving the United States government, the PLAAF and the Chinese Ministry of Aviation Industry. After long negotiations the parties concluded a foreign military sales agreement to upgrade the F-811's fire control system. [107] Following the June 1989 events in Tiananmen Square, the United States suspended arms sales to China. Chinese technicians were allowed to resume work on the program a few months later, but Beijing decided in May 1990 not to proceed beyond the development stage. [108]

Chinese aviation industry officials have continued development of their F-8B variant with anew domestic fire control system. PLAAF and PLA naval aviation maintenance personnel conducted three month's training on the F-8II at the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation from April to June 1990. The visit of CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin to the F-8II production facility in late October 1990 virtually confirms that the aircraft is destined to become part of the navy and air force inventories in the near future. [109]

The PLAAF thus continues to struggle with one of its two longstanding problems: aircraft modernization. The solutions are not simple. China's .aviation industry is determined to establish its own production base by acquiring foreign technology. This will be a long term process. There is a lack of hard currency to purchase large numbers of foreign-made military aircraft. [110] Even if the currency were available to the PLAAF, this course of action is opposed by China's aviation industry. Additionally, domestic critics in China stress the dangers of dependence on foreign suppliers for defense equipment--a concern that is expressed in many Western nations as well. The events of June 1989, which further complicated or halted the flow of Western technology to China, lent support to the dependency critics. Finally, radical changes in the Soviet Union's military posture vis-a-vis Europe, the United States, Japan and China have eliminated many of the threat justifications for large investments in new high technology aircraft.

There are frequent rumors that China's aviation industry is developing new fighter aircraft. [111] It is unlikely, however, that any of these aircraft can be ready for deployment during the 1990s: the development time for new aircraft is simply too long. [112] There also is frequent speculation that China may turn back to the Soviet Union for aviation industry assistance. In July 1990, CMC Vice-Chairman Liu Huaqing led a delegation to Moscow to discuss the possible purchase of MIG-29 interceptors and SU-27 light bombers. The delegation, which included Minister Lin Zongtang of the Ministry of Aero-Space Industry (MAS), visited a MIG-29 production facility. In early 1991 there was further speculation that the Chinese were discussing detailed terms for 24 SU-27s. [113] There are compelling reasons why the Chinese and Soviets might reach some agreement. Such an agreement, however, would have little to do with threats, politics or socialist friendship. Both sides are looking for bargains in an international market where foreign sales--equipment or technology--may be the only way to rescue some defense industries. MAS faces the same problem with the Soviets that it does in the West: aircraft manufacturers do not want to sell technology that will create a new competitor. Meanwhile, the Chinese have reportedly equipped four of its combat aircraft for the first time with air refuelling kits purchased from Iran, but is still looking for a suitable tanker. [114] It is not clear, however, what kind of aircraft were equipped, whether it is a Ministry of Aerospace, PLAAF, or Naval Aviation program, or whether the aircraft were new production models or modifed existing aircraft.

The PLAAF has had five commanders and eight political commissars since 1949. General Wang Hai, the present commander, and Lieutenant General Zhu Guang, the political commissar, assumed their positions together in July 1985. They have further. promoted the regularization process that began with Zhang Tingfa. Foreign observers who have been close to the PLAAF have given high marks to the cooperative spirit of the Wang Hai-Zhu Guang team. Although there was considerable political soul-searching within China's military after June 1989, the senior leadership of the PLAAF seems to have weathered it well. One reason is that the air force leadership concentrated on the tasks assigned by the CMC and found little time to become involved in the controversial aspects of reform.

PLAAF leadership changes have become more stable and predictable. There have been no surprises since June 1989. There is considerable reason to conclude that Wang Hai and Zhu Guang have been successful in mapping out a long-term plan for a regularized leadership transition for the next generation of senior--but younger--air force leaders. The CMC and three PLA general departments approve all senior level PLAAF personnel changes, but none of the changes that were anticipated in early 1989 were altered after June 1989. In other words, despite the upsurge in political themes and rhetoric by the PLA General Political Department, the regularization of the PLAAF promotion process has led to stability.

Leadership stability has been easier to predict because a number of career and experience indicators have become evident. First, future PLAAF commanders are henceforth likely to be aviators; non-aviators will be the exception. General Wang Hai is the first commander to have been a pilot and the only one who did not begin his career in the ground forces.

Second, antecedent assignments for the air force commander and deputy commanders will be jobs as an MRAF deputy commander and commander. Wang Hai had been the Guangzhou MRAF commander and PLAAF deputy commander. Career progression to political commissar position may involve variations. Zhu Guang, whose previous air force command experience was as the Shenyang MRAF deputy political commissar, came directly to HqAF from jobs in the General Political Department and CMC.

Third, Korean war experience will be important in the near-term but transitory. Three of the current HqAF deputy commanders, three of the seven MRAF commanders, and at least two MRAF deputy commanders in 1989 flew with Wang Hai during the Korean War. [115]

Fourth, Wang Hai and Zhu Guang have moved younger officers into key HqAF and MRAF command positions. The. reinstitution of ranks in October 1988 made this task easier since retirement ages were linked to the AEPs. It became possible, for example, to put talented younger officers in command positions with lower ranks than an older deputy because the AEP was the real reflection of responsibility. [116] Overall, the new officers are better educated than their predecessors. Many of them have been given the opportunity to travel abroad with Wang Hai or other PLAAF and PLA delegations.

Wang Hai's heir apparent is PLAAF deputy commander Lieutenant General Yu Zhenwu. Although Yu is the youngest deputy, he is first in the protocol order among the four deputy .commanders. He also is an alternate member of the 13th Patty Congress Central Committee. Yu, who has a strong background in research and development, training and command, has traveled to several countries. Yu initially made his mark in the air force when he conducted the first flight in 1958 of China's indigenously-developed (but never produced) FT-1 trainer. From his position as director of HqAF's Training Department, he replaced Wang Hai as the Guangzhou MRAF commander in 1982. When Wang Hai became PLAAF commander in 1985, Yu transferred to Beijing to become a deputy commander.

The most likely prospects to become the next deputy commanders are four post-Korean War airmen who are currently MRAF commanders: Lieutenant Generals Cao Shuangming (Shenyang), Jiang Yutian (Nanjing), Lin Jigui (Jinan) and Liu Heqiao (Guangzhou). The first three are also members of the 11th National People's Congress. They are all young, respected pilots within the air force and have been deputy MRAF commanders.

Even younger PLAAF officers are already being prepared to assume command responsibility in the out-years. One of them is Lieutenant General Peng Gongge. He is the commander of the 7th Air Corps in Nanning and an alternate member of the 13th Party Congress (along with Yu Zhenwu). Peng followed Yu Zhenwu as director of HqAF's Training Department. He also accompanied Wang Hai, Cao Shuangming and Jiang Yutian to the United States in 1986.

The history of the PLAAF is marked by recurrent efforts to regularize its personnel, procedures, regulations, missions and institutions as well as continuous efforts to acquire modern aircraft and weapons. Modernization has involved civilian industrial technologies whose acquisition and. implementation are fundamentally beyond the control of the air force. Regularization has involved internal processes over which the air force has exercised some control. The withdrawal of Soviet assistance, a succession of disruptive political policies and struggles, and a defense strategy that did not encourage the development of air power doctrine left the PLAAF short of its own standards of a regularized military service. Similar but industrially more complex factors have stymied the efforts of Chinese aviation industry engineers to develop and manufacture modern equipment. As the PLAAF looks toward the year 2000 and surveys the modern aircraft and related weapons possessed by Japan, the two Koreas, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand and India, there is bound to be mounting frustration. The most disturbing question for the air force is how long can regularization be meaningfully sustained without modernized equipment? Some Chinese writers argue that quality training can "make up for the lack of modernity of our weaponry." It is doubtful this view is totally accepted in the PLAAF. [117]

It would be misleading to conclude that various efforts to regularize the air force were failures. There were indeed incremental improvements and changes. If there is a persistent lesson in Western defense reform literature, it is that incremental changes are about all any organization can realistically expect. What is most incomprehensible to foreign analysts, however, is the extent to which Chinese political struggles and issues, which were largely unrelated to the air force, have been able to so thoroughly disrupt and erode prior achievements.

What is significant about China's recent decade of reform--particularly the pursuit of military regularization after 1985--has been the breadth and depth of initiatives. The extent to which the PLAAF was able to implement many of its reforms has been impressive. It would be difficult to find military reforms of similar scope in most Western nations.

The 1980's resurgence of Western analytical interest in PLA professionalism may have overlooked the relevance of regularization to professionalism. The debate about professionalism invariably has hinged on the political roles of the PLA. It is commonly argued that a politicized army cannot be a professional army. This study of PLAAF regularization and reforms concludes that China's air force has indeed become a professional military service. As argued earlier, it is not a foreign label the PLAAF. necessarily welcomes. But the fact remains, regularization of the PLAAF has led to recognizable standards of professionalism. [118]

PLAAF regularization and reform have contributed to the development of professionalism in at least three important ways. First, a sense of air force corporateness has been fostered through the reestablishment of PLAAF organizations; the compilation of rules, regulations and directives; a rationalization of the manpower structure through retirement directives; the introduction of ranks; the creation of a corps of civil servants; the establishment of a NCO corps; the clarification of regular promotion paths within the organizational hierarchy; and the articulation of air force mission statements. Second, various measures have also contributed to the development of a set of ethics or values. The PLAAF has embraced the spectrum of values found in the often cited corpus of military values--"the PLA's fine traditions." Additionally, the clarification of rules and regulations has sharpened a sense of what is expected of air force personnel. A renewed concentration on defining air power doctrine and missions has compelled airmen to think more consciously about what the air force contributes relative to national defense strategy. Finally--and perhaps most convincingly--regularization has pointedly drawn attention to job skills, education and training. PLAAF schools have been reopened and upgraded. New training methods have been developed as well as specialized "joint" training bases which reflect the changes in military strategy.

What remains to be seen is whether or not China has successfully moved beyond the enervating political and social disruptions which in times past not only arrested the processes of regularization but actually resulted in atrophy. The political shocks resulting from the June 1989 disturbances initially portended a recurrence of politically induced oscillations. A year later, however, the PLAAF does not seem to have departed perceptibly from its intended course of regularization. The vitality of regularization may depend more on the outcome of the festering issue of equipment modernization than party discomfort with professionally oriented commanders.

No comments:

Post a Comment