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People's Liberation Navy - Political Systems

According to PLA writings, the PLA's political work system is the means through which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) guarantees absolute control over the military. Every organization in the PLA, including headquarters, operational units, academies, research institutes, and factories, has one or more components of the political work system, which consists of the following six main components:

  • Party committee system
  • Political administrative system
  • Discipline inspection system
  • Party congresses
  • Political officer system
  • Judicial system

The PLAN's political work system is identical to the larger PLA's political work system.

Party Committee System

The PLA has five types of Party committees that can be established in organizations at all levels of the PLA. The type of Party committee established depends on three factors:

  • The level at which the organization resides
  • The organization's responsibilities, such as the Operations Department having greater responsibilities than the Management Bureau, even though they are at the same level
  • The number of Party members

Each Party committee is responsible to a higher level committee and ultimately through the Central Military Commission (CMC) to the CCP's Central Committee. The five types of Party committees, which are discussed in more detail later, are shown below:

  • Party Committee
  • Grassroots Party Committee
  • Party general branch
  • Party branch
  • Party small group

Every organization in the PLA is composed of two basic components:

  • A headquarters element
  • Administrative departments

Every headquarters element has one of the three types of Party committees shown below:

  • A Party committee established in every regiment-level and above organization headquarters
  • A grassroots Party committee established in each battalion-level organization headquarters
  • A Party branch established in each company level organization headquarters

Every administrative department has one of the four types of Party committees shown below:

  • Party committee
  • Party general branch
  • Party branch
  • Party small group

The figure below provides an example of the different types of Party committees within PLAN Headquarters' structure, including the Operations Division of the Operations Department in the Headquarters Department.

PLAN Headquarters Party Committees

Party Committees

A Party committee is established in each headquarters element for all PLA regimentlevel and above organizations. The PLAN has a Party committee for each regiment and above organization. At the regiment level, this includes vessel dadui, aviation regiments, coastal defense regiments, and all regimentequivalent organizations.

Each of these Party committees has a standing committee consisting of the commander, political commissar, deputy commanders, deputy political commissars, and directors of the four first-level administrative departments-Headquarters, Political, Logistics, and Equipment. In most cases, the political commissar is the Party secretary and the commander is the deputy secretary. In some situations, however, the commander is the secretary and the political officer is the deputy secretary.

In addition to the headquarters element's Party committee, each of the four first-level administrative departments has its own Party committee. In addition, some second-level departments for regiment and above organizations have their own Party committee if there are enough Party members for one.

Grassroots Party Committees

A grassroots Party committee is assigned to the headquarters element for all battalion-level organizations.Although these committees are formally identified as grassroots Party committees, the PLA often omits the term "grassroots" and identifies them just as Party committees. Grassroots Party committees are not assigned to administrative departments.

Party General Branches

Party general branches are established only within administrative departments that are not large enough to have a Party committee but are too large for a Party branch. Party general branches are not established in headquarters elements.

Party Branches

Party branches are assigned to all company-level organization headquarters and to all second and third-level administrative departments. For example, the second-level Operations Division subordinate to PLAN North Sea Fleet's Headquarters Department has a Party branch. Furthermore, each administrative branch on PLAN vessels, such as a destroyer's radar and sonar branch, has its own Party branch.

Party Small Groups

All PLA Party members must belong to some type of Party organization. Party small groups are established at the platoon level, where only a few officers are present, and at the squad level, which is composed solely of enlisted personnel. In addition, when the PLA establishes ad hoc working groups, the members, regardless of their grade or rank, are organized into a Party small group or a Party branch. Which type of Party committee is established, such as a Party small group or Party branch, depends on the number of Party members involved.

Party Congresses

By regulation, every regiment-level and above organization in the PLA holds a Party Congress once every five years, but a Party Congress can be held on an ad hoc basis if necessary. For example, from 1956 to 2004, the PLAN held 10 Party Congresses. Although they were held sporadically through the 1960s, they have been held every five years since. The PLAN holds plenary sessions for each congress about twice a year.

Party Congresses are composed of elected representatives from the Party committee at each level. They are the top-level organizations responsible for supervising lower-level Party committees. In addition, every administrative department that has a Party committee with more than 200 Party members holds its own Party Congress every five years. The Party Congress reviews the department's activities for the previous five years and selects new members for the next Party committee.

Battalion and company-level organizations and administrative departments that have fewer than 200 Party members convene a Congress of Military Party Members. All of these Party Congresses are responsible for approving the Party Committee's report, the report for that level's discipline inspection commission, discussing key issues and making decisions based on those issues, and selecting and approving the members for the next Party committee and that organization's discipline inspection commission.

Political Officer System

Party committees are the decision-making and guidance bodies for all key issues, including training, at each level in the chain of command. The political officer system consists of political officers at every level in the chain of command from the company level up to the four General Departments. Platoons and squads donot have political officers. The three types of political officers are:

  • Political commissars are assigned to all regiment-level and above organizations
  • Political directors are assigned to all battalion-level organizations
  • Political instructors are assigned to all company-level organizations

Some of the key responsibilities for political officers include:

  • Serving as either the secretary or deputy secretary of the Party committee
  • Implementing decisions made within the Party committee system
  • Instilling Party discipline among Party members
  • Providing political education to the troops within their organization
  • Working with other components of the political work system

Political officers at the company and battalion levels are responsible for gathering information on all personnel for promotions. They are also responsible for administering the Party member selection process. However, promotions and Party membership decisions are decided by the appropriate Party committee.

The PLA has a dual leadership system, where the commander and political officer are coequal in grade; however, almost all key decisions are made by the organization's Party committee, where the political commissar is normally the secretary and the commander is the deputy secretary. For example, Party committees oversee virtually all of a unit's work: from operations and training issues, such as logistics support and personnel completion of training tasks; to officer evaluation, selection, and staffing; to expenditure of unit funds for goods and materials; to the implementation of higher-level Party committee decisions.

Political Administrative System

All regiment-level and above headquarters in the PLA have a political administrative structure, which is responsible for implementing the organization's political work. Organizations at the battalion level and below do not have any administrative departments. The political administrative structure consists of departments, divisions, offices, or branches, which are responsible for managing the establishment of Party organizations, officer personnel records, propaganda, security, culture, mass work, and Party discipline.3 At the regiment level, some of the administrative branches are combined. For example, the figure below shows how the propaganda and security administrative structure is organized from PLAN Headquarters down to the regiment-level vessel dadui.

PLAN Propaganda and Security Administrative Structure



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