Research on Military Demographics
Michael D. Swaine
What bases exist for group
identification among the senior, middle, and lower-ranking echelons of the
Chinese military? The concept of
field army-based associations is no longer of much relevance.
What, if any, types of new associations have replaced those ties---e.g.,
associations based on Group Army service? Military
Region service? Geographical
affiliations? or Associations with
key military bureaucracies such as the navy, air force, the general departments,
the second artillery, and the defense industry complex?
What are the relative priorities
attached to the various possible purposes of such group identification---e.g.,
personal promotion, organizational advancement, policy influence, etc.?
On a broader level, can one
identify the existence of cross-cutting generations of Chinese military
officers, each with distinct experiences, attitudes, values, and interests
regarding, for example, the overall role of the Chinese military in society, the
nature of the civil-military relationship, the content and priorities of Chinese
foreign policy, or the basic purpose of Chinese military modernization?
What is the basis of such generational differences, if they indeed exist?
How does the Chinese military
relate to Chinese society, in terms of age and income distribution, education
and training levels, the rural-urban divide, geographical distribution
(including inland versus coastal regions), and contacts with the outside world?
Can one say that the Chinese military is an accurate reflection of
Chinese society as a whole? If not, in what ways does it differ most significantly from
society? What are the major trend
How do the senior and middle ranks
of the Chinese officer corps relate to their civilian counterparts in the party
and government, in terms of age, income distribution, education and training
levels, formative experiences, and contacts with the outside world?
In what specific ways does the military leadership differ from civilian
party and government leaders in these areas?
What financial burden do the
demobilization and retirement of Chinese officers and soldiers place on the
Chinese military or local Chinese governments, both at present and over the next
What do educational and training
trends in the Chinese military say about the capacity of military personnel to
operate and maintain increasingly sophisticated weaponry?
What will the Chinese military
probably look like in 10-15 years in terms of age distribution, level of
training and education at different ranks, generational and geographical
divisions, the presence or absence of representatives of key military organs at
senior levels, etc.?
Accurate data on the background,
composition and values of Chinese military personnel remain exceedingly
difficult to obtain. In particular,
it is extremely difficult to determine the extent to which generational
differences---as opposed to other factors such as organizational
affiliations---influence or determine the core beliefs of China’s officer
corps on crucial issues of political control and policy direction.
Any reliable assessment of these
issues requires far more detailed biographical data on the officer corps than
are currently available. This
suggests the need for a systematic, thorough, and relatively sophisticated
Other sources are less systematic:
national, regional, provincial and local civilian and military newspapers
and journals, official biographical publications (e.g., Who’s Who in China:
Current Leaders), biographies of leaders, official statistical publications on
Chinese society and demographics, interviews, etc.