Two institutional conditions have driven the heavy involvement of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in domestic politics after 1949. The first is "symbiotic" Party–army relations as evident in the extensive and entrenched personal networks in the PLA that Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping could count on for support in times of political crisis. The second is civilian governance failure that incentivised these leaders to leverage the military for domestic politics. This article shows major changes in these conditions in the post-Deng era, which reduced the PLA's role in domestic politics. With reference to these changes, the article explores the PLA's possible role in transition to the post-Xi Jinping leadership.