Generals out to seize initiative before congress

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 July, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 July, 1997, 12:00am
 

PLA generals are stepping up their hawkish rhetoric in an effort to seize the initiative at the forthcoming 15th party congress.


Military sources said yesterday several members of the top brass had given tough speeches on the possibility of using quasi-military means to speed up reunification with Taiwan.


Others expressed impatience at being 'bullied' by sovereignty claimants - such as the Philippines - to islands in the South China Sea.


The sources said the generals had since last month urged that more attention be focused on Taiwan following the Hong Kong handover.


'A senior general recently outlined a new strategy for seizing [the Taiwan outposts of] Quemoy and Matsu,' a source close to the PLA said.


'The general said in an internal briefing for civilian cadres that the PLA was confident that so long as the offensive was limited to the outlying islands, the United States would not intervene.' Another general laid down the criteria for 'seriously considering' quasi-military tactics.


One criterion was that 50 per cent of Taiwanese favoured independence. According to a poll conducted recently by a Taipei-based newspaper, 43 per cent of the Taiwan public was in favour of eventual independence.


According to the general, if this percentage rose to 50 per cent or beyond, Beijing could start using quasi-military means to thwart separatist sentiments.


The other yardstick was that Taipei passed laws and regulations, making it possible for the people to choose their 'national destiny' through a referendum.


A number of senior officers claimed the Chinese Foreign Ministry and other civilian departments had taken too 'tame' a stance towards the Philippines over disputed islets in the Spratlys chain.


Meanwhile, the top brass is close to finalising the post-15th congress army leadership.


Two octogenarian generals, Liu Huaqing and Zhang Zhen, will retire from their positions as Central Military Commission vice-chairmen.


Two other vice-chairmen, generals Zhang Wannian and Chi Haotian, will be given heavier responsibilities.


Only one senior general, Chief of Staff General Fu Quanyou, is tipped to become a commission vice-chairman. General Fu is considered close to President Jiang Zemin, the commission chairman.


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