In This Review

PLA Influence on China’s National Security Policymaking
PLA Influence on China’s National Security Policymaking
Edited by Phillip C. Saunders and Andrew Scobell
Stanford University Press, 2015, 360 pp

Saunders and Scobell have assembled leading authorities on civil-military relations in China, a subject of great importance for U.S.-Chinese relations and East Asian security. This highly informative volume covers, among other things, the role of China’s military in formal policymaking institutions and specifically in Chinese policy toward North Korea and Taiwan and in the South China Sea. Taken together, the essays suggest that the People’s Liberation Army’s interests and perspectives differ from those of other sectors of China’s foreign policy apparatus and reflect the military’s responsibility to defend the country’s security and territorial integrity. Nonetheless, it seems clear that the Chinese Communist Party retains firm control over the military, including when it comes to weapons procurement and the use of force. The absence of an effective Chinese interagency policymaking system grants the PLA privileged access to civilian elites, especially on intelligence matters, which means the military could have significant influence on Chinese decision-making during a crisis. The essays in this volume also suggest that the lack of institutionalized interagency foreign policy coordination enables the Chinese military to conduct provocative maritime operations in distant waters, which might undermine Chinese diplomacy and contribute to international tensions.