The PLA and Diplomacy: unraveling myths about the military role in foreign policy making

You Ji*

*Corresponding author for this work

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36 Citations (Scopus)


The PLA's role in Beijing's foreign policy-making process is a closed book but it is a key research topic in our study of Chinese diplomacy. This paper argues that generally the PLA abides by a fine division of labor with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in managing Beijing's international pursuits. The civilians are in charge of China's generic foreign affairs and daily diplomacy. The Central Military Commission (CMC) is responsible for security/military-related foreign affairs and defines the bottom-line for employing force in conflicts. Institutionally the PLA's role is more directional than detailed and is often behind the scenes. This complicates our research of the subject matter, as the line between this division of labor is thin over many diplomatic issues. Often times it is hard to demarcate where Beijing's normal diplomacy ends and where security/military dynamics begin. This paper adopts a two-layered analysis on civil-military interaction on foreign and security affairs: the broad consensus of CCP-PLA leaders on CCP regime stability at a time of drastic domestic change and world pressure; and the PLA's directional role in China's security/military-related foreign affairs under a generic civilian guidance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-254
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Contemporary China
Issue number86
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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