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Military

SECTION 22
AIR FORCE POLITICAL SYSTEM

The PLAAF has three organizations that accomplish political work: Party Committees (dang weiyuanhui/dangwei), political commissars (zhengzhi weiyuan/zhengwei), and Political Departments (zhengzhi bu). Political work includes political education, personnel issues, and propaganda. HqAF's Discipline Inspection Commission (jilu jiancha weiyuanhui), which is chaired by the senior deputy political commissar, works directly for the PLAAF's Party Committee and the Military Commission's Discipline Inspection Commission. Every MRAF Headquarters also has a Discipline Inspection Commission. Each of these commissions are responsible for major disciplinary problems. The political system has about 30,000 people engaged in political work. The PLAAF Political Academy (kongjun zhengzhi xueyuan) in Shanghai graduated 20,000 cadets between 1978-1990. 

PARTY COMMITTEES

Major decisions affecting an Air Force unit require the coordination of the unit's Party Committee, which is the nucleus of unified leadership. At HqAF, the political commissar is the secretary (shuji) of the Air Force Party Committee and the commander is the deputy secretary (fushuji). All four deputy commanders, the two deputy political commissars, chief of staff, and the three other first level department directors serve as members of the Air Force Party Committee Standing Committee (dangwei changwei). 

In order to exercise the Party's absolute leadership over the military, a Party Committee and Standing Committee are established at each regiment and above. The political commissar is normally the secretary and the commander is the deputy secretary of the Party Committee at these units (budui). In addition, each unit (danwei) or headquarters staff element that has the Army-equivalent status (zhiwu dengji) of a regiment or above also has a Party Committees. For example, the Shenyang MRAF Political Department, which is equivalent to an army (jun), has its own Party Committee (bu dangwei). Grassroots Party Committees (jiceng weiyuanhui) are established at each battalion and equivalent. Grassroots Party Branches (dangde jiceng zhibu) are set up at the company level. Committee members are called chengvuan or weiyuan. 

The Party Standing Committee at each level consists of the command staff, which includes the commander, political commissar, deputy commander(s), deputy political commissar(s), chief of staff (who is also the director of the Headquarters Department), plus the directors of the Political, Logistics, and Maintenance elements. The Standing Committee meets regularly to discuss all major decisions affecting the unit and its subordinates. As a result, both the military and political officers are involved in the day-to-day running of the Air Force at all levels. 

Although the command staff meets regularly, the PLAAF does have a division of responsibilities at each level. If an issue concerns military affairs, then the military officers or commander will carry out the decision. If the issue concerns political matters, then the political officers are responsible for implementing the decision. However, some issues require input from both parties. For example, the commander at an air regiment determines how many sorties to fly on a particular day, but the political commissar help determine who will fly those missions based on political reliability.  

The PLAAF's goal is to eventually have commanders and political commissars who have worked in both military and political assignments. This is especially valuable because the political commissar is responsible for carrying out the unit's operational mission in conjunction with the deputy commanders) when the commander is absent. For example, the Lanzhou MRAF political commissar, who took the position in 1990, was previously a deputy commander in the Fuzhou and Lanzhou MRAFs. 

Since ranks were re-instituted in 1988, the rank relationship between the commander and the political commissar has been somewhat obscure, but the personal relationship has sometimes been forged over many years of working together. For example, PLAAF Commander Wang Hai is a three star general (shangjiang) and outranks Political Commissar Zhu Guang, who is a two star lieutenant general (zhongjiang). Furthermore, although they have different ranks, they both have an Army-equivalent position (zhiwu dengji) of a Military Region Commander. 

Only with the attrition of older cadres over the next few years, will the rank relationship among the staff members at all levels, including the commander and political commissar, be known with certainty. For example, some air division commanders are colonels, while their deputy commanders are senior colonels. Although the "normal" rank for the deputy director of an MRAF Political Department is a senior colonel or colonel, the deputy director of the Chengdu MRAF in December 1990 was a major general. 

POLITICAL COMMISSARS

Political commissars (zhengwei) are assigned to units (budui and danwei) at and above the regimental level, while political instructors (zhidaoyuan) are assigned to units below this level. Political instructors are also assigned to the PLAAF's flying groups and their maintenance squadrons. Political commissars and instructors are responsible for the following duties: 

- Teaching the Chinese Communist Party line, policies, and principles 

- Handling personnel issues such as promotion, selection, and transfers, and coordinating on recruitment and training matters 

- Overseeing public affairs such as cultural, artistic, and athletic work 

Political instructors at the battalion and below receive basic training at the PLAAF Political Academy in Shanghai and political commissars receive senior level training at the Air Force Command College (kongjun zhihui xueyuan) in Beijing. 

POLITICAL DEPARTMENTS

The General Political Department (GPD) is the highest leading body for political work in the PLA. While divisions and brigades have a Political Department (zhengzhi bu), regiments have a Political Division (zhengzhi chu).

 

Within the Political Departmen/Division, there is a director (zhuren), deputy director(s) (fuzhuren), and functional second level departments (bu), divisions (chu), offices (ke), and branches (gu) which are equivalent to those second level elements at HqAF (i.e. Secretariat, Propaganda, Security, Cultural, Cadre/Personnel, etc.) Assistants within the political system are called secretaries (mishu).



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