Jeffrey LewisPLA Procurement Website

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has launched a procurement website to promote “integrity, fairness and openness” in military procurement.

China Daily quotes a PAP officer saying the website will reduce corruption:

Ma Qiang, from the Gansu Division of the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force, said on Friday that the general public can now have easier access to the corresponding laws and policies on military material buying, and the interactive link is a major step out of secrecy and towards a practice free of “behind-door” corruption. Visitors can lodge online complaints to the website.

In the United States, transparency in military procurement has less to do with reassuring other countries than providing oversight . Transparency helps combat corruption (see Druyun, Darlene). and ensure our troops get the equipment they need (see Humvees, Up-Armored).

Same in China. The website represents another (small) step in a long-running effort by the Chinese leadership to marketize and rationalize (in David Shambaugh’s parlance) its defense procurement to make sure its soldiers get the equipment they need.

China’s defense R&D sector has been fantastically corrupt since the late 1950’s, when Deng Xiaoping asked Marshal Nie Rongzhen—an old buddy from their student days in Paris—whether he wanted to be mayor of Beijing or run the country’s scientific programs. Nie chose the latter, becoming the first head of the China’s Commission of Science Technology, and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND), eventually stacking COSTIND with enough family members and cronies to make Dick Cheney blush.

Well, maybe not Dick Cheney.

The Chinese leadership finally got around to tackling this empire in the 1990s, forcing Nie’s daughter, General Nie Li, and her husband, COSTIND Chairman General Ding Henggao, into retirement in 1994 and 1996.

In 1998, China reorganized COSTIND as a civilian enterprise with administrative and regulatory responsibilities and created the General Armaments Department as a military procurement entity. (Although COSTIND was stacked with military officers, COSTIND’s bureaucratic interests historically have clashed with the wider PLA).

General Ding, by the way, was replaced with a very ambitious army officer from Henan named Cao Gangchuan—who you may have noticed is running the PLA these days.

Interesting how that little website is linked to who happened to be showing Mr. Rumsfeld around the other day, no?


Recent discussions of reforms to China’s procurement system include David Shambaugh, Modernizing China’s Military : Progress, Problems, and Prospects, University of California Press, 2004 and Keith Crane et al, Modernizing China‚Äôs Military: Opportunities and Constraints, RAND 2005.

For background on COSTIND, I recommend: Evan Feigenbaum, China’s Techno-Warriors: National Security and Strategic Competition from the Nuclear to the Information Age, Stanford University Press, 2003.


  1. dan (History)

    Greg, get to work. That thing is a monstrosity.