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Dissent in China’s Military: Not Everyone Sees the West as the Enemy

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Amid China’s increasing military assertiveness, particularly concerning Taiwan and Western nations, a an interesting narrative is emerging from within the ranks of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Not all members of the military view potential confrontations with Taiwan and the West as necessary or winnable. This dissenting perspective within the Chinese military sheds light on the complexities of China’s strategic outlook. In this article, we explore this intriguing viewpoint and its potential implications.

Recent actions by China, such as military exercises around Taiwan and increased hostility towards the West, have fueled concerns over potential conflicts. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call for enhanced war planning, a strengthened command structure, and rigorous training have emphasized China’s readiness to assert its military power. However, not all members of the PLA share this aggressive stance.

Family members and friends of current and former PLA members have revealed that some in China’s military harbor reservations about casting the West as the country’s primary adversary. These dissenting voices believe that China’s interests may not align with such confrontations and question the inevitability of victory in potential conflicts.

Contrary to official military indoctrination, some PLA members hold positive views of Western countries, including the United States. They argue that cooperation with the West would facilitate China’s military modernization and development. These individuals maintain relationships with Western friends and acquaintances, seeing such connections as essential for peaceful coexistence.

President Xi Jinping has initiated indoctrination campaigns to align military personnel’s thinking with the central leadership’s views on external threats. However, these efforts have not succeeded in silencing dissenting voices. The Chinese military’s unique role as a political tool for the Communist Party complicates Xi’s task of maintaining ideological unity.

Xi Jinping’s firm grip on the PLA faces challenges from officers who hold unaligned perspectives. These officers may coalesce into a faction that challenges Xi’s authority, a prospect he seeks to avoid. Recent removals of influential figures like PLA Air Force General Liu Yazhou indicate Xi’s zero-tolerance stance towards dissenting views within the military.

Dissenting officers, like those in the PLA, argue that China faces no immediate threat of invasion from the West. They believe that military preparation for such a scenario is unnecessary and counterproductive. They assert that engaging in conflict with Western nations, particularly the United States, would likely result in defeat.

In a nod to ancient Chinese wisdom, dissenting officers often quote Sun Tzu’s famous adage: “If a battle can’t be won, don’t fight it.” They advocate for a cautious and pragmatic approach, focusing on peaceful relations and avoiding unnecessary conflicts.

This is a small crack in a very large organization, but it is indeed a crack. Soldiers tend to be more wary of war than civilians because they have seen the ugliness of war, and have felt the loss of friends. They hate when civilians expend the lives of soldiers on foolish goals. The question is, given the purge of military officers whose loyalty might be questioned, how much power can the military exert?

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