PLA leaders not likely to resist any move by Xi Jinping to invade Taiwan, US analyst says

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The People’s Liberation Army leadership has become so beholden to Chinese President Xi Jinping that its generals would not likely resist any plan he might back to invade Taiwan, the author of a Pentagon-funded report about the country’s military has concluded.

By examining the biographies of hundreds of PLA military officers, Joel Wuthnow – the author of the report, “Gray Dragons: Assessing China’s Senior Military Leadership” – said he saw similarities to the leadership problems plaguing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“When you go through the data and analyse who China is promoting up to [senior] levels, you start to see some parallels” with “the generals who were faulted for giving [Russian President Vladimir] Putin apparently pretty bad military advice”, Wuthnow, a senior fellow at the National Defence University, which is funded by the Pentagon, said in an interview.

In this video image, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air force and naval aviation corps conduct aerial refueling on August 4,  part of military exercises around Taiwan that raised tensions following a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Xinhua via AP
In this video image, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air force and naval aviation corps conduct aerial refueling on August 4, part of military exercises around Taiwan that raised tensions following a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Xinhua via AP

The People’s Liberation Army leadership has become so beholden to Chinese President Xi Jinping that its generals would not likely resist any plan he might back to invade Taiwan, the author of a Pentagon-funded report about the country’s military has concluded.

By examining the biographies of hundreds of PLA military officers, Joel Wuthnow – the author of the report, “Gray Dragons: Assessing China’s Senior Military Leadership” – said he saw similarities to the leadership problems plaguing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“When you go through the data and analyse who China is promoting up to [senior] levels, you start to see some parallels” with “the generals who were faulted for giving [Russian President Vladimir] Putin apparently pretty bad military advice”, Wuthnow, a senior fellow at the National Defence University, which is funded by the Pentagon, said in an interview.

“What happens if Xi Jinping himself makes up his mind that, for political reasons, he has no choice but to [invade Taiwan], how willing would the military be to voice their concerns to him,” Wuthnow asked. “Would they not be under significant pressure to do what the boss asks them to do without pushing back?

“And after the Party Congress, I think the decision-making in China will be even more Xi-centric,” he added, referring to the 20th National Congress of China’s Communist Party, set to take place this fall.

The congress will be one of the party’s most important in 40 years, with Xi, who also serves as the CCP’s general secretary, expected to secure a third term.

Recent moves by US lawmakers that Beijing regards as undermining its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan have led some analysts to suggest a military invasion of the island is more likely.

Joel Wuthnow, author of “Gray Dragons: Assessing China’s Senior Military Leadership”. Photo: Handout

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei last month sparked a round of unprecedented PLA drills that all but blockaded Taiwan. A bill is now moving through the US Congress that would allocate billions of dollars in financing for the island’s military. scmp