Central Military Commission (People's Republic of China)

Central Military Commission (People's Republic of China)
Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China
Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó Zhōngyāng Jūnshì Wěiyuánhuì
The CMC is housed in the Ministry of National Defense compound ("August 1st Building")
Agency overview
Formed 4 December 1982
Preceding agency National Defense Commission
Jurisdiction People's Liberation Army
Headquarters August 1st Building, Beijing
Agency executives Hu Jintao, Chairman
Xi Jinping
General Guo Boxiong
General Xu Caihou, Vice-Chairmen

The Central Military Commission (CMC) (simplified Chinese: 中央军事委员会; traditional Chinese: 中央軍事委員會; pinyin: Zhōngyāng Jūnshì Wěiyuánhuì) is the national defense organization of the People's Republic of China.

It refers to one of two organizations of the People's Republic of China: either the "Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China" (simplified Chinese: 中华人民共和国中央军事委员会; traditional Chinese: 中華人民共和國中央軍事委員會, a state organ) or the "Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China" (simplified Chinese: 中国共产党中央军事委员会; traditional Chinese: 中國共產黨中央軍事委員會, a party organ).

The command and control of the People's Liberation Army (Chinese armed forces) is exercised in name by the 'state CMC', supervised by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The state CMC is nominally considered the supreme military policy-making body and its chairman, elected by the National People's Congress, is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In reality, command and control of the PLA, however, still resides with the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee—the 'party CMC'.

Both commissions are identical in membership, thus actually forming one identical institution under two different names (called simplified Chinese: 一套机构两块牌子; traditional Chinese: 一套機構兩塊牌子; pinyin: yítào jīgòu liǎngkuài páizi), in order to fit in both state government and party systems. Both commissions are currently chaired by Chairman Hu Jintao. The 11-man commission issues directives relating to the PLA, including senior appointments, troop deployments and arms spending. Almost all the members are senior generals, but the most important posts have always been held by the party's most senior leaders to ensure absolute loyalty of the armed forces and to ensure the survival of the regime.[1]

The CMC is housed in the Ministry of National Defense compound ("August 1st Building") in western Beijing.



The party military committee dates back to October 1925, and while operating under various degrees of authority and responsibility, was consistently named the Central Military Affairs Commission (中共中央军事委员会, Zhōng​gòng​zhōng​yāng Gé​mìng​jūnshì Wěi​yuán​huì). Among Western commentators, “Affairs” is frequently dropped from the title.[2] As a commission, it ranks higher in the party hierarchy than departments such as the Organization or United Front Departments. In 1937 it was created the Revolutionary Military Commission of the CPC Central Committee (中共中央革命军事委员会, Zhōng​gòng​zhōng​yāng Gé​mìng​jūnshì Wěi​yuán​huì) after the Chinese Soviet Republic's armed forces were integrated into the Kuomintang's army for the anti-Japanese war, and it later evolved into the Central Military Commission after the Party's 7th Congress in 1945. In this period, the Committee was always chaired by Mao Zedong.

In the September 1949 reorganization, military leadership was transferred to a government body, the People's Revolutionary Military Commission of the Central People's Government (中央人民政府人民革命军事委员会, Zhōng​yāng Rén​mín​zhèng​fǔ Gé​mìng​jūnén​mínshì Wěi​yuán​huì). The final coexistence of two military committees was set in 1954, as the CPC Central Military Commission was re-established, while State military authority rested into a National Defense Commission (国防委员会, Guó​fáng Wěi​yuán​huì) chaired by the President of the People's Republic of China.

As Mao Zedong was also the Chairman of the Communist Party of China and led military affairs as a whole, the CMC's day-to-day work was carried out by its first-ranking vice-chairman, a post which was occupied by Lin Biao until his death in 1971, then by Ye Jianying. As a consequence of the Cultural Revolution, the Party CMC became the sole military overseeing body, and the National Defence Council was abolished in 1975.

Deng Xiaoping's efforts to institutionally separate the Party and the State led to the establishment of today’s State CMC, which was created in 1982 by the Constitution of the People's Republic of China in order to formalize the role of the military within the government structure. Both the National Defense Commission and State CMC have been described as 'consultative' bodies.[3] Contrarily to the National Defense Commission, however, the Party and State CMCs are almost identical in leadership, composition and powers.

The Commission included the post of secretary-general until 1992. This post was held by Yang Shangkun (1945–1954), Huang Kecheng (1954–1959), Luo Ruiqing (1959–1966), Ye Jianying (1966–1977), Luo Ruiqing (1977–1979), Geng Biao (1979–1981), Yang Shangkun (1981–1989), Yang Baibing (1989–1992).

Command structure

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Unlike in most countries, the Central Military Commission is not considered as just another ministry. Although China does have a Ministry of National Defense, headed by a Minister of National Defense, it exists solely for liaison with foreign militaries and does not have command authority.

The most important chain of command runs from the CMC to the four General Headquarters (General Staff Department, General Political Department, General Logistic Department, General Armament Department) and, in turn, to each of the service branches (ground, navy and air forces) and military regions. In addition, the CMC also has direct control over the Second Artillery Corps (strategic missile force), the National Defense University, and the Academy of Military Science. As stipulated in the 1997 National Defense Law, the CMC also controls the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP), who have the politically sensitive role of guarding key government buildings, including the main leadership compound of Zhongnanhai in Beijing. The CMC shares command authority with the Ministry of Public Security of the State Council.

Although in theory the CMC has the highest military command authority, in reality the ultimate decision making power concerning war, armed forces, and national defense resides with the Communist Party’s Politburo. The CMC is usually chaired by the General Secretary of CPC, who is supported by two to three Vice Chairmen, including the Minister of National Defense. Members of the CMC normally includes the Directors of the PLA’s Four General Headquarters and the Commander of the Air Force, Navy, and Second Artillery.

Political structure

The armed forces of China are commanded by General Staff Headquarters, the General Political Department, the General Logistics Department and the General Armaments Department of the PLA, which implements the directives of the Central Military Commission. Along with the General Secretary of the Communist Party and President, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission is one of the most powerful leaders in Chinese politics.

The Chairman of the CMC was twice in its history held by a senior official who had given up his other posts, as in the case of Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. In the case of Deng Xiaoping, because of his prestige, he was able to exercise considerable power after his retirement, in part from his position as CMC Chairman. There was speculation that Jiang Zemin would have been able to retain similar authority after his retirement from the positions of General Secretary and President, but this did not turn out to be so. One major factor is that in contrast to Deng Xiaoping, who always had close relations with the People's Liberation Army, Jiang had no military background. In addition, with the promotion of the fourth generation of Chinese leaders to lead the civilian party, there was also a corresponding promotion of military leaders. All the military members of the CMC come from Hu Jintao's generation rather than from Jiang's, and at the time of the leadership transition, there appeared some very sharp editorials from military officers suggesting that the military would have strong objections to Jiang attempting to exercise power behind the scenes. Jiang Zemin retired from his post as Chairman of the party's Central Military Commission in September 2004 to Hu Jintao, and from the state's in March 2005, solidifying Hu's position as paramount leader.

In China's state-party-military tripartite political system, the CMC itself is a decision-making body whose day-to-day affairs are not nearly as transparent as that of the Central Committee or the State Council. As one of China's three main decision making bodies the relative influence of the CMC can vary depending on the time period and the leaders. In the event of war or political crisis, for example, the CMC may well function as a de facto executive for the country's daily affairs.

The Tiananmen Protests of 1989 illustrates how the Central Military Commission functions. CMC Chairman Deng Xiaoping proposed the imposition martial law and the use of armed soldiers to suppress unarmed demonstrations in Beijing. Under the constitution of the Chinese Communist Party, the CMC is subordinate to the Politburo.

Election of members

Theoretically, the CCP (party) CMC is elected by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and is subordinate to the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC). In practice, membership is very closely controlled by the PBSC.

Similarly, the State CMC is nominally elected by the National People's Congress and theoretically reports to the Congress, but is in practice indistinguishable from the CCP CMC. This difference in elections also results in the only difference in membership between the two bodies, as party organs, such as the party congress and the Central Committee assemble at different times than the National People's Congress. For example, some were elected into the party CMC in the Sixteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China in November 2002, but they entered the state CMC in March 2003, when the 10th National People's Congress convened.

The members are generally uniformed military commanders, except for the chairman and first vice-chairman, who have both been drawn from the Politburo in recent years. The military members are generally members of neither the Politburo Standing Committee nor the State Council outside of the Minister of National Defense, although they all tend to be members of the Communist Party and are members of the Central Committee. The military members are apparently chosen with regular promotion procedures from within the PLA.


According to the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the CMC is composed of the following: the Chairman; the Vice-Chairmen; and Members. The Chairman of the Central Military Commission has overall responsibility for the commission.

As of May 2009 (dates refer to tenure on the CCP MAC):[4]


Vice Chairmen:


  • Minister of National Defense - General Liang Guanglie (since November 2002)
  • Chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army — General Chen Bingde (since September 2004)
  • Director of the General Political Department — General Li Jinai (since November 2002)
  • Director of the General Logistics Department — General Liao Xilong (since November 2002)
  • Director of the General Armament Department — General Chang Wanquan (since October 2007)
  • Commander of the PLA Navy — Navy General Wu Shengli (since October 2007)
  • Commander of the PLA Air Force — Air Force General Xu Qiliang (since October 2007)
  • Commander of the Second Artillery Corps — General Jing Zhiyuan (since September 2004)


The exact internal organisation of the CMC is highly secretive. However, it is known that the CMC contains at least five key organs.

The General Staff Department is the nerve center of the entire Chinese military command and control system, responsible for daily administrative duties of the CMC. The General Office processes all CMC communications and documents, coordinate meetings, and convey orders and directives to other subordinate organs.

See also



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