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Praetorian China?

OSAKA – Do China’s rulers have full civilian control of their country’s military? Asian governments are now regularly asking themselves that question as China hardens its stance on its claims to islands in the South and East China Seas.

Perhaps the gravest incident so far came this January, when Chinese naval forces twice locked their weapons’ radar systems – the final step before firing – on a Japanese destroyer and a patrol helicopter. In the diplomatic ruckus that ensued, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson was, at first, utterly ignorant of the incident and asked that the journalists posing the questions put them directly to the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) leadership.