2. Will the position of defense minister be elevated?
The role of defense minister is oriented more toward protocol and military diplomacy than management of the PLA -- which is part of the reason why the position's current holder, Liang Guanglie, is not a vice chairman of the commission. His predecessor, Cao Gangchuan, was, though there is no explanation as to why -- the fact that nothing has been announced yet suggests the position won't be elevated. This would have implications for future meetings between the Chinese defense minister and his foreign counterparts, who should be aware that they are not talking to the highest-level uniformed officers in the Chinese military.
3. Will the role of foreign minister be elevated to the Politburo, or even the Politburo Standing Committee?
Not since 2002, when Qian Qichen served as Jiang's foreign minister, has someone from the foreign-policy establishment served in the Politburo, China's 25-member elite decision-making body. By contrast, Chinese military leaders have good access to the top Chinese leadership, since the head of state is typically also the chairman of the commission. None of the men expected to rise to the Standing Committee, the seven (or nine) member decision-making body that sits above the Politburo, has substantial foreign-policy experience, a situation that could lead to increased tensions with China's neighbors.
4. How will the new military leadership affect China's relations with the United States?
Civilian leaders appear to have firm control over the PLA. The military does have outsized influence, however, over national security issues writ large. Top generals are not only military commanders but also foreign and security policy advisors, with a near monopoly on military-related information in China.
Fifty years ago, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy's administration often overrode the advice of senior military leaders -- but only because it had developed its own options. To what extent are China's civilian leaders able to access security-related information on their own? Who informs them on security and military matters, aside from the PLA?