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Beijing has lost control of its regional military commands


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This April, for example, Chinese troops crossed into Indian-claimed territory and set up camp near the strategic Karakoram Pass through the Himalayas. Was this some strategic ploy directed from Beijing? Not likely, said Luttwak, First, it nearly scuttled a high-level visit to New Delhi by China’s premier scheduled for May, a priority for the civilian leadership. Second, of the two regional military commands that share responsibility for the Indian border – the Lanzhou Military Region in the west and Chengdu in the east – only Lanzhou forces got involved, while Chengdu did nothing, which suggests even the military did not have a coherent plan. “In one, maximum alert,” said Luttwak. “In the other [military region], totally quiet and normal.”


So what happened to the Lanzhou commander who sent his troops across the border? “I don’t believe he was demoted, I don’t believe he was fired.” The Chinese naval officer who nearly rammed the US Navy cruiser Cowpens for the sin of coming “within 45 kilometers” of China’s new aircraft carrier probably won’t be fired either.

When he visits China and talks to military officers about their civilian leaders’ declarations of peaceful intent, Luttwak said, “the military people always say the same thing, ‘ah, these are old guys; all these people, they don’t know.’”


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