In the late 1970s, the PLA began altering its promotion
practices to reflect the new emphasis on professional competence.
Previously, there had been no retirement system in effect, and
junior and field-grade officers had remained at their posts for
many years with little opportunity for advancement. When promotion
occurred, it was based on seniority, political rectitude, or a
patron-client relationship. Officers advanced up a single chain of
command, remaining in the same branch or service for life. In 1978
the PLA reinstituted the retirement system established by the 1955
Military Service Law and promulgated officer service regulations,
which set retirement ages for military officers. Thus the PLA began
a two-pronged effort to retire older officers and to promote
younger, better educated, professionally competent officers. Older
officers, including many over seventy years of age, were offered
generous retirement packages as inducements to retire. The PLA also
formulated new promotion standards that set minimum education
levels for officers and emphasized education in military academies
as a criterion for promotion. Officers below the age of forty had
to acquire a secondary-school education by 1990 or face demotion.
Furthermore, past promotion practices were to be discarded in favor
of greater emphasis on formal training, higher education levels,
and selection of more officers from technical and noncombat units.
With the reduction in force begun in 1985, professional competence,
education, and age became criteria for demobilization as well as
promotion. By 1987 the PLA's promotion practices were based more on
merit than they had been a decade earlier; nevertheless, political
rectitude and guanxi (personal connections) continued to
play an important role in promotion, and no centralized personnel
system had been established.
Data as of July 1987