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Chinese Lessons from Other Peoples’ Wars

Chinese Lessons from Other Peoples’ Wars published on

Authored by U.S. Army War College

The annual Conference on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) took place at the U.S. Army War College (USAWC), in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on October 22-24, 2010. The topic for this year’s conference was the “PLA’s lessons from Other People’s Wars.” Participants at the conference sought to discern what lessons the PLA has been learning from the strategic and operational experiences of the armed forces of other countries during the past 3 decades.

Why did observers of the PLA want to study what Chinese military analysts might learned about non-Chinese wars? The answer is twofold. First, the PLA has not fought an actual war since 1979. Yet, during the last 3 decades, fundamental changes have taken place on the battlefield and in the conduct of war. Since the PLA has not fought since 1979, it had no experience in the changing face of war, and thus could not follow Mao Zedong’s admonition to “learn by doing” ; instead, it must look abroad for ways to discern the new pattern of warfare in the evolving information age. Studying Chinese military analysts’ observations of non-Chinese wars therefore provides us a glimpse of what the PLA takes from others’ experience to improve its capability and to prepare itself for dealing with China’s national security issues, such as Taiwan, the South and East China Sea disputes, and internal unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang, to name the most obvious ones.

Second, Chinese military analysts have noticeably more freedom in assessing and commenting on the strength and weakness as well as the success and failures of other countries’ wars. Indeed, for political reasons, Chinese military analysts have to emphasize the heroics and triumphs of the PLA’s war experience and downplay setbacks and failures. While there is certainly recognition of the daunting challenges-in Korea, for example, accounts readily acknowledge that the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV) were totally unprepared logistically and devastated by airpower-there are limits to the levels of candor. To date, there is no critical analysis of the PLA’s claimed success or dismissed failure in the Sino-Vietnamese Border War of 1979 by Chinese military analysts (however, there are a few studies done by scholars outside of China). Studying Chinese military analysts’ observation of other people’s wars, therefore, provide us key hints as to what Chinese military analysts consider important aspects of current and future military operational success and failure.

Publication Date:
Dec 02 2014
1505318033 / 9781505318036
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
6″ x 9″
Black and White
Related Categories:
History / Asia / China


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