Top brass take shine off leaders
By WILLY WO-LAP LAM
MEMBERS of the top brass have upstaged civilian politicians in areas including diplomacy, Taiwan policy, and internal propaganda.
The Chinese media as well as the pro-Chinese press in Hong Kong have played up interviews and speeches by top military officers from different ends of the political spectrum.
Defence Minister Generals Chi Haotian is on a mission to France, Spain and Portugal, and Commander of the Guangzhou Military Region General Li Xilin is on a fence-mending trip to the United States.
Other generals basking in the media limelight included Xiao Ke, Liu Huaqing and Hong Xuezhi.
Diplomatic analysts said President Jiang Zemin was obliged to give the top officers a large say in China's policies towards Taiwan and the US.
Major statements on Taiwan policy have in the past month been relayed by General Chi and General Liu, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission.
These included not only the threat of invasion but also the possibility of a 'third round of co-operation' between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party.
Analysts said the generals had insisted a rapprochement with the US should only take place if Washington agreed not to intervene in Beijing's Taiwan policy.
The generals have scheduled more military exercises off Taiwan for the rest of the year, which have proved useful in their lobbying for a bigger budget.
Since the summer, the propaganda machinery has given officers pride of place in view of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War.
Xinhua (the New China News Agency) yesterday carried a long interview with retired General Xiao Ke, to coincide with World War II-related ceremonies in Tiananmen Square.
General Xiao, head of the liberal faction in the People's Liberation Army (PLA), struck a patriotic theme by saying: 'We should oppose hegemonism and power politics, safeguard world peace, and never let historical tragedy repeat itself.' The 87-year-old veteran blasted sectors in Japan who 'wished to make Japan a major military power and continue the policies of aggression'.
The national press also carried remarks that General Chi made to a pro-Beijing Chinese newspaper in Paris.
General Chi pointed out the missiles exercises near Taiwan showed the PLA had 'the determination and ability' to complete reunification.
The Chinese-run Hong Kong daily, Ta Kung Pao, ran an interview with General Liu, in which he said: 'Patriotism is a strong spiritual pillar that coalesces the Chinese race.' Political analysts in Beijing said the glorification of 'patriotism' suited the PLA's agenda for a larger role in domestic and foreign affairs.