China’s President, Xi Jinping, Gains a New Title: Commander in Chief

Apr 22, 2016 · 35 comments
MJG (Boston)
Xi is working very hard to make a fool of himself. Is he competing with Kim in NK?

Insecurity is one thing. Compensating for it by wearing costumes and giving one self titles that pretty much cover anything....

Finally Dukakis can get past the tank helmet blunder.
Fulaoshi (Suffield)
The biggest threat to China remains China itself. The fact that Xi Jinping continues to marshall power doesn't necessarily show a prominent strong leader, but perhaps a leader who struggles to securely move his country forward into what should be a progressive era. Deng Xiaoping's Open Door Policy made China what it is today by mitigating government's involvement in business, but since then the government has sadly crept back into business.

One of my favorite sayings in Chinese, “分久必合,合久必分” or "That which is divided must unite, that which is united must divide."

Right now the main division we see in China is the outflow of capital. Those who retain the wealth in the country must have strong political ties, those who do not agree with the country and want to retain their wealth status must flee the country or invest in foreign markets.

At this point, even if I was a party member in China I would feel obligated to speak out against Xi's brash actions. However, given the fact that the Chinese people lack the fundamental right to freedom of speech, I would feel compelled to look to move my capital to other countries.

Perhaps I would even look to move the most important capital - human capital. I would bet on a continued outflow of people through immigration and a "brain drain" from China to other more open and decentralized countries.
mclean4 (washington)
Xi jinping is the new emperor of China. As long as he is the emperor he will certainly enjoy his life and carry out his authority. Mao Zedong was pretty bad for China but not as bad as Xi Jinping. Mao wanted to have absolute power but Xi wants both power and wealth for himself. Sorry for the poor Chinese people. Xi grew up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76), maybe that is why he hates everybody and the whole world.
Steve Fankuchen (Oakland, CA)
Soon we will be seeing the Peoples Liberation Army marching through Tiananmen Square carrying Chairman Xi's Little Pink Book.
loveman0 (SF)
Looking at all the news today, this, restrictions on Apple, a propaganda campaign warning about foreign spies, one would have to surmise that Mr. Xi just doesn't like Americans.
jpduffy3 (New York, NY)
This seems to be a familiar pattern. Xi consolidates power and in the process seeks greater control of an increasingly more powerful military. Putin is doing the same thing. Given these developments, what are our options?

Trying to deprecate the capabilities and commitment Chinese military is not a suitable response. It ignores reality.

We are on the verge of a new Cold War, but this time, with much more powerful and committed adversaries. Xi and Putin want to have more influence in world affairs, and they appear determined to get it one way or the other. They both view the availability of military force as an enhancement to their negotiation ability. We need to see this, understand what it means and what it requires us to do, and proceed accordingly.
Steve Fankuchen (Oakland, CA)
Soon we will be seeing the Peoples Liberation Army marching through Tiananmen Square carrying Chairman Xi's Little Pink Book.
Shawn (Shanghai)
The Chinese will never be able to have a successful military because deep down they will only look out for their own self interest. They'll take what they can and squirrel it away for their family. Everybody from the generals to the enlisted men are trying to suck their cream from the military cash cow. There is no ethos of shared sacrifice for the greater good in China, it is all about taking as much as you can for yourself and your family while the taking is good.

This is why I maintain that the greatest threat to peace in Asia is not the Chinese, but a rebuilt and refocused Japanese Army. The Chinese, in their own way, are encouraging this rebuilding to happen and will once again pay the price.
wsmrer (chengbu)
There is some truth in this but perhaps because China does not see war as a business, trade, commerce of all types is the motive force. This year they cut back their military budget to signal to their network of Asian nations that transforming their system into a Consumer market was the plans overriding goal. But as a ‘Korean Conflict’ veteran I would not underestimate the fighting abilities of their army. What happened for a time was the PLA transformed into a business under Deng Xiaoping and corruption became extensive; they have since returned to barracks.

Correction f0r above entry: C-in-C, not C-of-C.
Mark (California)
I was with you until the last paragraph.

Explain, with some detail, how it could be Japan, and not China, that is the bigger military threat to Asia.

Isn't it China that is building artificial islands for the purpose of making them into military bases in the South China Sea?

How exactly will the Japanese re-invade Asia, what with the US having dozens of Naval, Army, Air Force and Marine bases not only in Okinawa , but at Sasebo, Yokosuka, Zama, Atsugi and Misawa on the main island of Honshu?
Wikipedia Reference:

Will US forces stand idly by while Japan invades China?

Or are you saying the US will act in concert with Japan to conquer Asia militarily? Does that include North Korea too?

Or will Japan attack US forces first, knowing that the US is by far the largest, best equipped military in the world, then invade China, then the rest of Asia, and fulfill its final dream for a "Greater East Asia Co -Prosperity Sphere"?

Please explain.
Mark (California)
Despite the comical portrait of middle aged Chinese bureaucrats dressing up as military figures, I don't think anyone is underestimating either Chinas intentions nor abilities in their massive military buildup. Vietnam, The Philippines, Malaysia and even Indonesia have been threatened directly by Chinese naval vessels in the South China Sea, and China is quickly converting their artificial islands into landing strips for military aircraft. The threat is real and growing.

If , however, you think Japan is the true threat, can you answer how exactly they would be able to launch a campaign of conquest? The US has over 50,000 Navy, Army, Air Force and Marine personnel on Okinawa and the mainland of Honshu - are you suggesting the US would either:

1) Do nothing and let Japan attack China at will;
2) Actively join Japan and attempt a co-invasion of China;
3) Some how Japan would be able to first defeat all the US forces stationed in Japan, then still have the strength to attack China?

If you truly believe Japan is the biggest threat to peace in Asia, you'll have to deal with those questions first.

In the mean time, the rest of South East Asia and the US will continue to view China as the bigger threat.
wsmrer (chengbu)
Why not, the title is more in keeping with how President-General Secretary Xi views the interaction of Party and Military. There was a leaked report in the Times, from Shenzhen meeting with part elites soon after Xi came to power, and the topic was the Gorbachev problem. That is the party losing power because the military was not there to put down the protest that led to the collapse of the USSR’s CP under Gorbachev . Xi’s attention to strengthening the PLA including building up the navy has filled the news since.

The ominous news is the likelihood that C-of-C Xi will have to deal with C-of-C Trump or C-of-C Clinton in coming years. It is hard to imagine rational behavior ruling the day in such a world.
Andrew S. (San Francisco, CA)
Since Deng Xiaoping, no Chinese leader has had such a firm grip on power as Xi Jinping. But even as Deng had the military under control, he didn't take a rank as Xi now has.
Xi has extended his grip on the levers of power more than any leader since Mao, and maybe even more so. Mao was a dictator, while Xi has won people over to his side. Perhaps like Putin, he lets those who work with him get rich, and nails those who oppose him. He charged Bo Xilai, possibly the last ComParty leader able to challenge him, corruption and put him and his people in prison.
In Chinese there is a saying "May you live in interesting times". Xi Jinping will sure make the next ten years interesting. He's relatively young, anyone think he'll stay on in office, or will he become an emince grise and pull strings?
Andrew S. (San Francisco, CA)
Sorry - éminence grise!
A Canadian (Ontario)
Where you see a "firm grip on power", others see insecurity.

While Xi Jinping has initiated some campaigns that have "won people over to his side", Xi, like his predecessors (including, in their dotage, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping), depends on the coercive capacity of the Party's army and its domestic security forces.

It was not for nothing that Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao, waged a two-year long campaign to "remind" the People's Liberation Army about its role as the Party's army between 2009 and 2011 (after several retired officers published articles in Chinese journals and newspapers suggesting that China needed a state army, rather than one beholden to a particular political party).

Without the military on its side, the Party would be hard-pressed to maintain its grip on power (and its policy of preventing the advent of alternative power centres in Chinese society).
Andrew S. (San Francisco, CA)
What you write about Xi and the ComParty leadership needing the PLA is true. And to some extent that has always created a minor balance of power between the PLA and Party. PLA leadership has always had a say in Party decisions, and members serve on Party committees that make decisions. So which tail is wagging which dog can be hard to tell sometimes.
Army leaders have been recent targets in corruption cases. News media comments often describe them as unprecedented. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that many of them were subordinates of powerful PLA leadership, and their arrests serve as warning to the very top.
infrederick (maryland)
Lets see 50 % of global manufacturing underpinning a powerful central military position. Massive ongoing military buildup. Fascistic authoritarian regime overlaid on an unstable empire. Necessity for an outside threat to prevent the country splintering and descending back into warlords ruling regions. Recent history of being conspired against by western powers. Xenophobic populace with historically justified fear of outside powers, susceptible to being roused to a fever pitch, with a national ethos of being racially superior and destined to rule the world.

What could go wrong.
Kurt (Chicago)
Like everything else about China, the news stories try to establish the narrative instead of looking at conditions.

As a start, the Chinese military was/is about as corrupt as any military could possibly be. I remember walking past the military base on Xixi Rd. in Hangzhou, and laughing at the continuous stream of pimped out Range Rovers and other luxury SUV's sporting camo paint, chrome wheels and trims, jacked up in the back, and looking for all the world like Army super pimps. Everyone knows that promotions were bought, not earned. Everyone now knows about the general with the solid gold life sized statue of Mao in his living room.

Solid gold statues, pimpmobiles, extravagant parties, and total foolishness while the Navy lacked a single aircraft carrier. I'm not saying this is all great and good, but someone had to come in and make some sense of it. That's all we're seeing. It's not news, it's just a country coming to terms with growing up.
Gert (New York)
This new title seems to suggest much more of a hands-on military role than the chairmanship of the CMC, but I don't think that Xi has ever actually served in his country's uniformed military. (The US president, even when former military, generally delegates direct control of the armed forces to uniformed service members.) It would have been interesting for Ramzy to describe Xi's military experience and qualifications for this new role.
I'm Just Sayin' (Los Angeles, CA)
Bet John McCain's jealous...could have taken that name first if he had just beaten Barack.
PlayOn (Iowa)
Mr. Xi is obviously a megalomaniac (is that a word?). Why does he need to pose in group photo wearing camos? Kind of reminds me of a previous POTUS who emerged from a fighter jet, just landed on deck of a carrier, to announce, 'mission accomplished.' Only for the dumbest Chinese, will this photo have the effect intended by Xi.
David (Spokane)
If there is a war between U.S. and China, it will likely be in the South China Sea and limited. I don't believe it will be near the shores of the U.S. It might prompt them to declare no-fly zone somewhere in the region, which will be difficult for us.
Eric (Palo Alto)
He look nice in that uniform, can he handle a rifle?
HaoyuKevinWang (Washington, DC)
How many titles does he have in total. And more importantly, what will be his next title? "Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas"?
john (sanya)
Commander in Chief George Bush on a battleship under a "Mission Accomplished" banner sets a high bar for military idiocy by a President.
And so in implosion the Chinese don the mask of the warrior..
waldo (Canada)
Like it or not, Xi is the head of the Chinese state and therefore he is the 'Commander-in-chief'. What's the big deal here?
ted (texas)
Mr. Xi is following the footsteps of Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Kim Jong un of North Korea and paving his way becoming the living god-“son of heaven” in a unitary state after his current 10 years tenor expires.
golflaw (Columbus, Ohio)
Nothing like seeing an overweight dictator who has never experienced being in any military battle, dressing up and trying to impress others playing soldier. All that is missing are battle ribbons and lots of other awards pinned on his uniform.
Mr Xi (China)
I'm sure he'll study photos of Idi Amin and soon look like a proper little dictator
wsmrer (chengbu)
Or G.W. Bush in a flight suit. Wait until HRC has the title (see How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk in today's Times). She will have a costume made you bet.
fact or friction? (maryland)
Xi is a corrupt, authoritarian dictator. The only news here, if there is any, is that Xi is becoming even more corrupt and even more authoritarian.

Xi is going down the same path as Putin. In the face of a collapsing economy (which is inevitable; corrupt, authoritarian regimes never create sustainable economic growth), they are both trying to play to nationalist pride in an effort to maintain at least some support among their increasingly discontented people.
wsmrer (chengbu)
Corrupt seams to be a loose adjective in many comment on China. It is built into a system where appeals to authority for many transactions are required and where the ancient custom of offering Hong Bao (Red Envelops) is so common. But to call Xi Jinping corrupt requires documentation other than a simple minded notion that success and corruption are synonymous.
Bloomsburg’s investigators looking at the records of elites gave a clean rating to Xi, his wife and daughter; and could not find their involvement in any corrupt activities. Must disappoint some but the man has made it on merit and warned his colleagues about family connections – for good reason, brother and law and elder sister billionaires. He sees corruption as the Achilles heal of the party organization and has sent many away including chief of Public Security Bureau and top PLA generals.
Matt Von Ahmad Silverstein Chong (Mill Valley, CA)
I wish China the best as it meanders its way to becoming a military superpower. In fact, nothing would make me happier than seeing China as the primary lightning rod for all of the world's ills, a burden carried by the US for way too long. We would be far better off in the number two spot, gradually reducing our military expenditures whilst watching from afar as China blows its accumulated wealth on military adventures and continueously bailing out its bankrupt banks and SOEs.
SR (Bronx, NY)
"In fact, nothing would make me happier than seeing China as the primary lightning rod for all of the world's ills"

Well, something would make me happier than a #1-defender role for China: an even more direct role for Xi Jinping and all his pro-money, anti-freedom, anti-climate CPC friends that puts them in front of Islamic State bullets. That would mean less ammo for the terrorists, and more freedom for China--a true win-win.
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