In the old days when communication was difficult, relying primarily on horsemen or other means to pass messages, military command was a matter of personal charisma. That was really bad, because a general with sufficient charismatic leadership could often take the entire troop away with him in an attempt to establish a kingdom of his own, possibly capable of eventually replacing the regime of his time. Whenever a general was commanding the main force for a year-long mission, the primary concern of his emperor was the loyalty of his general instead of military victory. This problem was unsolved until the arrival of democracy or with an alternative systematic approach to chain of command. A joint operations command is the Western approach to military modernization, with objectives to improve overall efficiency and hence introduce new capabilities. It downplays the role of personal charisma in the military world, hence improving political stability as a result. China is following the same route to military modernization. I believe that it is a very good sign as it paves the way for the eventual democratization of China, intentionally or not.
Time makes charismatic characters. It wasn’t difficult for Hitler to undo Germany’s democracy overnight. Democracy is not a political system but an ideological appeal. Is it possible for US to come up with a superman to undo American democracy? Yes, it is possible, but it takes an overwhelming crisis, such as the Great Depression. An ideological appeal remains an ideological appeal. When the basic human needs are threatened, a want, however sound it is, remains a want, unable to overcome needs, except for, perhaps, religion. Weird it is, but religion has that power. However, as education level keeps on rising, religion will eventually become obsolete, due to lack of evidence. Seeing is believing. The world has not changed. It takes only a little awakening to undo religion.
China is inherently unstable like Europe. Whenever a dynasty goes down, China becomes divided. It always takes at least a few decades for a military genius to eventually emerge in order to unite the “known world”. A divided China is always very weak. Any effort on China’s democratization has to keep this historical lesson in mind. In today’s highly competitive world, division is simply not affordable. Otherwise, another show like the Republic of China will play again, decades of unending civil wars. The latest Chinese military reform is definitely not trying to address this issue, since it is not an interest of the Communist Party of China. However, it does remove a major concern for those serious in pushing for China’s democratization.
The reform is ongoing, so Western observers enthusiastic in seeing a democratic China may be interested in learning about its details, from a more political perspective instead of a military one.