Preparations continue in full swing in Tiananmen Square, the largest square in the Chinese capital, in preparation for the commemoration of the 22nd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Loudspeakers broadcast music and military “marches”, while soldiers and students perform their final training in preparation for the parade, while black luxury cars flock to the grand building of the People’s Congress, carrying all the country’s leaders and the Communist Party present, as usual on such an occasion, except for one person Only everyone today misses him, Lin Biao, the defense minister, who was deputy to the historic Chinese leader Mao Zedong, his proclaimed successor, and the country’s second-in-command.
Things unfolded successively through information leaked over the following years, Lin Biao had just failed to implement a military coup plan to seize power and assassinate Mao due to differences between the two men, following Mao’s decision to rapprochement with the United States, Meanwhile, Biao desired a greater rapprochement with the Soviets. After the failure, he decided to flee to Moscow, before his plane crashed in mysterious circumstances.
Since the founding of the Red Army in 1927, after the Nanchang Uprising (2), the subordination of the army to the Communist Party was confirmed as a mainstay of the new government in China. Over the following decades, the Red Army did not pose a great threat to the party leaders, because of the strict ideological loyalty that was imposed within its ranks, and for long periods it played the role of the purge arm used by the party to get rid of its political rivals, to the point that “Mao” used “Lin Biao” himself to get rid of his successor, Liu Zhaoshi, who was holding the position of president, and his supporters, before Mao froze the position of President of the Republic for four full years, and Biao ascends to his successor, the sole vice-chairman of the Communist Party of China.
(3) Biao introduced major military reforms to arming and training the Chinese army, which paved the way for his inclusion in the ranks of the ruling party, before he sought to overthrow Mao. So, Biao’s experience has instilled fears among party leaders that a more professional army necessarily means breaking out of the party’s control, or trying to impose certain policies on its agenda. In the following months and years, Mao and his comrades launched a massive purge of the Chinese army, aimed at eliminating leaders and officers close to Biao, with the aim of regaining control within the army.
At the time, Mao discovered that he was suffering from the increasing strength of local military leaders, and the potential for conflict between them or the central authorities, so he held a meeting with the new chief of staff, to advise Mao to replace all commanders and senior officers in the eight military regions. Mao actually responded to the advice by appointing new leaders, and none of them were allowed to bring in loyal staff except for service jobs such as secretarial, cooking, and escort.
The new tactics paid off well. Over the ensuing decades, there were no regional military upheavals or rebellions, even as the country went through turbulent periods such as Mao’s death in 1976, or even the Tiananmen Incident in 1989. The Chinese leadership seemed to succeed in undermining the threats the potential of the military, by making large-scale sporadic adjustments to the top military elite over the years, which President Xi Jinping today finds himself compelled to do again, on a large scale, and in a manner almost similar to what Mao did, But for radically different reasons.
Nothing can tell us about the depth of the gap between the view of China and the view of the West on war from a cursory comparison between the writings of the most prominent war theorist for both camps, despite the presence of a time gap between them that extends over more than two thousand years. For Karl von Claswitz (1780-1831), the Prussian military expert, “there are many ways to achieve goals, but for political ends the only means is combat, where everything is subject to the force of arms.” As for “Sun Tzu” (551-496 BC), the most famous military theorist in the history of China, he believes that “fighting a hundred wars, even if all of them are victorious, is not a wise decision, but the wisdom always lies in breaking the enemy’s resistance without a fight.” No wonder, then, that concepts such as “shenzan,” meaning “beware of war,” have for centuries dominated Chinese military thinking, bequeathing the country a primarily defensive view of military matters.