PLA Pollution

By Bryan • china, environment • 19 Mar 2006

The Chinese army must seek approval by local authorities and pass an environmental impact test on future construction projects.

That was the order from Chinese President Hu Jintao Saturday in an effort to curb pollution caused by military activities and prevent environmental hazards.

Future construction of military bases, ports, logistics centers and exercise fields should only be approved after the project passes environment evaluation, the Xinhua news service reported.

The new rules say the assessment should also be applied to other activities that be harmful to the environment. These would include military training, goods transfer, weapon purchases, repair and disposal.

Militaries are among the world’s largest and most destructive polluters.

The PLA is an interesting entity, largely because of it’s relationship to the central government. Unlike western democracies, the PLA is not politically neutral and is still closely entwined with the political leadership having saved the ruling party twice, once during the Cultural Revolution, and again in Tiananmen.

The PLA also differs from other armed forces in regards to its commercial endeavors. It’s not only an army, but also a business, a highly successful one, raking in the dough through arms exports as well as production of non-military hardware, agriculture, real estate and other entrepreneurial enterprises. At one point, the PLA actually funded a large portion of its activities with money generated via its commercial businesses.

There was a crackdown on this commercial military complex in the 1990’s. The military’s involvement in commerce was seen to affect military readiness and to cause corruption. Second, there was concern that having an independent source of funding would lead to decreased loyalty to the party. The result of this was an effort to spin off the Pal’s commercial enterprises into private companies managed by former PLA officers, and to reform military procurement from a system in which the PLA directly controls its sources of supply to a more market based bidding system.

I discussed this with a student yesterday whose brother in law is an officer in the PLA. Apparently one of the adverse effects of limited PLA businesses was the economic impact on the soldiers themselves. Without the outside income, life in the PLA is essentially a life of poverty. As such, the CCP continues to officially denounce PLA businesses, while looking the other way on many occasions. Why pay the troops when they can pay themselves?

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3 Responses

  1. lurking_administrator

    Because of the uniqueness of PLA, the relationship of PLA and provincial government is complicated. Therefore, when it comes to certain issue related to both sides, usually it’s hard to decide. So personally I think the order that Chinese army must seek approval by local authorities and pass an environmental impact test on future construction projects makes sense.

  2. Can you describe the relationship between the PLA and the local government? Specifically Nanjing? As the headquarters of the Nanjing Military District, I would imagine that the relationship is quite deep, largely from an economic standpoint (while underpaid, soldiers still having money to spend!)

  3. lurking_administrator

    From my limited knowledge of the PLA, I think the local government has been very supportative and cooperative to Nanjing military area command in terms of political, technical and legal preference. Meanwhile, the PLA also involved in internal security and the development of Nanjing. It’s true that soldiers are underpaid. Guess the political connections and influence of PLA still help in getting business interest. Not sure though. That’s why the spinoff occurred. Otherwise more corruption I think.

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