Contentious Veterans: China's Retired Officers Speak Out
Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 41, No. 3 (July 2015), pp. 563-81
19 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2014 Last revised: 17 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 16, 2014
What drives retired military officers in China toward contention? Decades of research on protest has produced little on veterans’ collection action, and even less on that by ex-officers. Newspaper reports, police journals and veterans’ blogs show that contention by Chinese former officers (ranging from occupying government compounds to marches, mass petitioning, open letters and class-action lawsuits) is the result of bad luck in post-military job assignments, a fragmented political system that makes it difficult to ensure that pensions and other benefits reach retirees, and pervasive corruption that leads ex-officers to feel that local officials have embezzled funds meant for them. Contention by former officers typically uses military rhetoric and builds on military experiences, even for former officers who were employed in civilian jobs for many years. Although contention by ex-officers is not likely to rock the state, it says much about how “sticky” military identities are, where veterans fit in the political landscape, Leninist civil-military relations, and the treatment that old soldiers receive in a fast changing socio-economic order.
Keywords: People’s Liberation Army, protest, popular contention, state-owned enterprises, military officers, China, veterans
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