The Central Military Commission (CMC) refers to the parallel national defense organizations of the Communist Party of China and the People's Republic of China: the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China, a Party organ under the CPC Central Committee, and the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China, a central state organ under the National People's Congress, being the military branch of the national government.

The command and control of the People's Liberation Army, People's Armed Police and People's Liberation Army militia 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 一个机构两块牌子, yígè jīgòu liǎngkuài páizi), in order to fit in both state government and party systems. Both commissions are currently chaired by Xi Jinping, who is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China as well as Paramount leader. 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] CMC has control over 6.8 million personnel.

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


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

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 (traditional Chinese: 中共中央軍事委員會, Zhōnggòng Zhōngyāng Jūnshì Wěiyuánhuì). 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 the Revolutionary Military Commission of the CPC Central Committee (traditional Chinese: 中共中央革命軍事委員會, Zhōnggòng Zhōngyāng Gémìng Jūnshì Wěiyuánhuì) was created after the Chinese Soviet Republic's Chinese Red Army 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 (traditional Chinese: 中央人民政府人民革命軍事委員會, Zhōngyāng Rénmínzhèngfǔ Rénmín Gémìngjūnshì Wěiyuánhuì). 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 Council of the People's Republic of China (simplified Chinese: 中华人民共和国国防委员会, Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó Guófáng Wěiyuánhuì) chaired by the President in keeping with the 1954 Constitution.

As Mao Zedong was also the Chairman of the Communist Party of China and led military affairs as a whole, the CMC and NDC'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 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.[2] 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).

In 2016, the 5 traditional departments were dissolved by order of Chairman Xi Jinping, and in their place 15 new departments were created as part of the ongoing modernization of the PLA.

Command structure

National Emblem of the People's Republic of China (2).svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

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 (Joint Staff Department, Political Works Department, Logistic Support Department, Equipments Development Department) and, in turn, to each of the service branches (ground, navy and air forces) . In addition, the CMC also has direct control over the Rocket Forces, Strategic Support Forces, the National Defense University, and the Academy of Military Sciences. 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) and enforcing the law all around China. 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 the Communist Party, who is supported by two to three Vice Chairmen, sometimes, but not currently, including the Minister of National Defense. Members of the CMC normally includes the Directors of the PLA’s general departments and the Commander of the Ground Force, Air Force, Navy, and Rocket Forces.

Political structure

The armed forces of China also have Joint Staff Department, the Political Work Department, the Logistics Support Department and the Equipment Development Department , which implements the directives of the Central Military Commission. Along with the General Secretary of the Communist Party and Premier of the State Council, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission have consistently been one of the most powerful political leaders in China.

The Chairman of the CMC was twice in its history held by a senior official who had given up his other posts: by Deng in the late 1980s, and by Jiang in the early 2000s. In the case of Deng Xiaoping, because of his prestige, he was able to exercise considerable power after his retirement, in part due to his holding the position of 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 ultimately Jiang was unable to do 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 relinquished his post as Chairman of the party's Central Military Commission in September 2004 to Hu Jintao, and from the state commission in March 2005, which appeared to solidify Hu's position as paramount leader. However, Jiang had appointed two generals who maintained good relations with him, Xu Caihou, and Guo Boxiong, to the Vice-Chairman positions, and continued to wield influence through them at the expense of Hu.[3] Unlike Deng and Jiang, Hu relinquished his CMC post along with his remaining leadership offices in favour of his successor Xi Jinping.

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.

The Library of Congress says of the two CMCs: "The state Central Military Commission was the state's decision-making body in military affairs and directed and commanded the armed forces. The state Central Military Commission consisted of the chairman, who was commander in chief of the armed forces, an executive vice chairman, two vice chairmen, and four other members. Because the PLA has been under party control since its inception, the leadership of the party over the military did not change with the establishment of the state Central Military Commission. Although parallel leadership blurred the distinction between the two groups, the party Central Military Commission retained its traditional, preeminent position in charge of military affairs."

Election of members

Theoretically, the CPC (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 CPC 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.


The make-up of the current Central Military Commission of the Communist Party was determined at the 19th Party Congress held in October 2017; the state commission awaits confirmation at the 2018 National People's Congress.[4]

Vice Chairmen (2)
  1. Air Force General Xu Qiliang
  2. General Zhang Youxia[5]
Members (4)
  1. General Wei Fenghe
  2. General Li Zuocheng, Chief of Joint Staff
  3. Admiral Miao Hua, Director of the General Political Department
  4. General Zhang Shengmin, Deputy Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection


The exact internal organisation of the CMC is highly secretive. However, until 2015 it is known that the CMC contained least five key departments. The Joint 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.

Until 2016 this had been the normal organization of the two CMCs. By order of Chairman Xi Jinping, 15 departments were created to replace the 5 organs, which were disbanded. The new 15 departments are:[6]

  1. General Office (办公厅)
  2. Joint Staff Department (联合参谋部)
  3. Political Work Department (政治工作部)
  4. Logistic Support Department (后勤保障部)
  5. Equipment Development Department (装备发展部)
  6. Training and Administration Department (训练管理部)
  7. National Defense Mobilization Department (国防动员部)
  8. Discipline Inspection Commission (纪律检查委员会)
  9. Politics and Legal Affairs Commission (政法委员会)
  10. Science and Technology Commission (科学技术委员会)
  11. Office for Strategic Planning (战略规划办公室)
  12. Office for Reform and Organizational Structure (改革和编制办公室)
  13. Office for International Military Cooperation (国际军事合作办公室)
  14. Audit Office (审计署)
  15. Agency for Offices Administration (机关事务管理总局)

See also