Party on the Bridge: Political Commissars in the Chinese Navy

By Jeff Benson and Zi Yang

The Chinese navy follows U.S. warships operating in the East and South China Seas, sometimes creating tense situations between the two military powers. With the potential for future aggressive maneuvers by Chinese warships and their desire to operate continuously near U.S. warships, there is an increased chance for miscalculation. To avoid future miscues that could lead to further confrontation, a better understanding of the Chinese navy’s planning and decisionmaking process aboard vessels can reduce the likelihood of a conflict. As a component of the Chinese Communist Party-led (CCP) political system, the Chinese navy, unlike the U.S. Navy, utilizes political commissars aboard its warships and submarines. This report explores the political commissar’s influence and function aboard Chinese naval vessels.

This report is made possible by general support to CSIS. No direct sponsorship contributed to this report. 

Zi Yang

China Programme Senior Analyst and Doctoral Student, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University