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What changes in China’s modern military policy reveal about military organizations and strategy Since the 1949 Communist Revolution, China has devised nine different military strategies, which the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) calls “strategic guidelines.” What accounts for these numerous changes? Active Defense offers the first systematic look at China’s military stra What changes in China’s modern military policy reveal about military organizations and strategy Since the 1949 Communist Revolution, China has devised nine different military strategies, which the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) calls “strategic guidelines.” What accounts for these numerous changes? Active Defense offers the first systematic look at China’s military strategy from the mid-twentieth century to today. Exploring the range and intensity of threats that China has faced, M. Taylor Fravel illuminates the nation’s past and present military goals and how China sought to achieve them, and offers a rich set of cases for deepening the study of change in military organizations.Drawing from diverse Chinese-language sources, including memoirs of leading generals, military histories, and document collections that have become available only in the last two decades, Fravel shows why transformations in military strategy were pursued at certain times and not others. He focuses on the military strategies adopted in 1956, 1980, and 1993—when the PLA was attempting to wage war in a new kind of way—to show that China has pursued major change in its strategic guidelines when there has been a significant shift in the conduct of warfare in the international system and when China’s Communist Party has been united.Delving into the security threats China has faced over the last seven decades, Active Defense offers a detailed investigation into how and why states alter their defense policies.


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What changes in China’s modern military policy reveal about military organizations and strategy Since the 1949 Communist Revolution, China has devised nine different military strategies, which the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) calls “strategic guidelines.” What accounts for these numerous changes? Active Defense offers the first systematic look at China’s military stra What changes in China’s modern military policy reveal about military organizations and strategy Since the 1949 Communist Revolution, China has devised nine different military strategies, which the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) calls “strategic guidelines.” What accounts for these numerous changes? Active Defense offers the first systematic look at China’s military strategy from the mid-twentieth century to today. Exploring the range and intensity of threats that China has faced, M. Taylor Fravel illuminates the nation’s past and present military goals and how China sought to achieve them, and offers a rich set of cases for deepening the study of change in military organizations.Drawing from diverse Chinese-language sources, including memoirs of leading generals, military histories, and document collections that have become available only in the last two decades, Fravel shows why transformations in military strategy were pursued at certain times and not others. He focuses on the military strategies adopted in 1956, 1980, and 1993—when the PLA was attempting to wage war in a new kind of way—to show that China has pursued major change in its strategic guidelines when there has been a significant shift in the conduct of warfare in the international system and when China’s Communist Party has been united.Delving into the security threats China has faced over the last seven decades, Active Defense offers a detailed investigation into how and why states alter their defense policies.

30 review for Active Defense: China's Military Strategy since 1949 (Princeton Studies in International History and Politics Book 2)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Active Defense: China's Military Strategy Since 1949 by M. Taylor Fravel, is an interesting examination of the People's Liberation Army, its strategic guidelines and operations level strategy, and its composition and makeup from its beginnings in the 1920's, through to modern times. China has only gone through a few official military guidelines changes throughout its history. It began with early, battlefield earned tactics and doctrine gained through combat with the numerically and technological Active Defense: China's Military Strategy Since 1949 by M. Taylor Fravel, is an interesting examination of the People's Liberation Army, its strategic guidelines and operations level strategy, and its composition and makeup from its beginnings in the 1920's, through to modern times. China has only gone through a few official military guidelines changes throughout its history. It began with early, battlefield earned tactics and doctrine gained through combat with the numerically and technologically superior Nationalist and Japanese forces. The PLA focused on luring the enemy in, and attacking only after attacked. These strategies made territorial control fluid, but ensured the PLA could pick its battles, and harry and harass enemy forces. A particularly favoured strategy involved attacking a larger forces supply lines, and ambushing reinforcements. This allowed the PLA to inflict maximum damage on enemy forces, reduce their morale, and ensure territorial and operational fluidity. Command was decentralized, and each local base area had its own forces and command structure. After 1949, China began to change its doctrine and strategic guideline, culminating in a large 1953 update. China's main foes had shifted from internal enemies on the mainland, to the combined threat of Nationalist and US forces from Taiwan. China's participation in the Korean War ensured this threat remained a major force, and encouraged the development of new guidelines, focused on mobile defense, and prioritizing coastal defense in the Northern regions (around Beijing) which were the most industrialized and vulnerable areas of the nation. The army continued to be primarily infantry, but moved away from its old doctrine of guerilla warfare and luring the enemy in strategy. China's political and military structure was still being built at this time, but military affairs were largely subordinated by Chairman Mao to subordinates as his main focus was class revolution and economic changes. This began to shift with the advent of the Cultural Revolution. Factions emerged within China, some supporting economic reform and industrialization, with others focused on continuing the revolution and resisting revisionists - ie. Khrushchev and Soviet supporters. Mao was firmly in the later camp. His strategy for taking back control involved discrediting the mobile defense doctrine and challenging its advocates, many of whom were purged. Instead, in 1969, the Party reversed course on military doctrine, putting back into place the luring the enemy in deep strategy that had characterized PLA operations before 1953. This was less a sound military decision, as Fravel argues, as a way to bring the army onside with the leftist clique led by Mao and his supporters. This strategy emphasized luring the enemy in by offering juicy targets - major cities and industrialized areas, to the enemy with little resistance, thus bringing them further into the conflict and encouraging them to spread their forces out to secure supply lines and garrison conquered territory. Then the PLA and militias would harass these positions, and cause heavy causalities. Mao thought this would be a more effective strategy, while promoting ideological purity and encouraging mobilized forces to further the revolution against imperial (ie. American) forces. However, at this time China also began to experience clashes with the Soviet Union on its northern border. This did not change China's military doctrine in any meaningful way, as the same strategy was applied to the Soviets as the Americans. The strategy changed again in the 1980's. After Mao's death and the collapse of the leftist clique in China, the Party and CMC (Central Military Committee) refocused on previous strategies with updates. Luring the enemy in, and its focus on light infantry and guerilla tactics was replaced with a greater focus on combined operations. The development of the Navy and Airforce began at this time. The Soviet Union remained the biggest threat to Chinese sovereignty at this time, with 50 divisions along the border with Russia and Mongolia. The threat of a US invasion had diminished substantially with the detente between the two nations. China began to reform at this time to both counter the Soviet threat and encourage economic development through the promotion of force number efficiencies, promotion of major infrastructure projects, and protection of internal stability. Forces like the PAP (People's Armed Police), came into fruition around this time. Even so, party unity was disrupted due to the conflict between reformers and traditionalists, and the results of the Tiananmen Square protests. A more coherent strategy was formed in 1993, under the name "Local wars under high technology conditions." This strategy resulted from the easing of China's geopolitical risk after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the relatively tame relations with the US up until 1999. The major influence of this changed strategy was the US war in Iraq in 1990-1991, where the usefulness of precision weapons and high tech logistics and military equipment was painfully obvious, with the utter destruction of Iraq's well armed and battle hardened army with little US losses and in a very short period of time. China had predicted Iraq would hold out in this war, and their predictions, along with their previous military doctrine, was utterly shattered. China refocused after this war, prioritizing the beginning of joint operations, an expansion of their naval strategy from coastal defense to near shore defense, and a focus on improving the technical capacity of their army. The focus was local wars under high technology conditions, recognizing that security risks would probably come from their neighbours over a great power in this era (Taiwan, Vietnam, India and possibly Russia) and that improving the ability for precision strikes on key targets, joint and combined operations, would improve China's abilities in a potential conflict. Since 1993, two other guideline changes have been potentially implemented, although the author notes the lack of sources on these changes. No strategic guideline has been publicly released, and the memoirs of most serving officers and politicians in this era are not yet written. Even so, some clear indications exist. China has strengthened its ability to wage war by other means (space, internet, etc.), thus improving its deterrent capabilities and ability to strike at an enemies information infrastructure in the event of a war. China's new focus is naval; it has expanded its naval capacities to include far shore operations. Its military is increasingly becoming more efficient, with reduced troop numbers, standardized and often nationally sourced materials of high quality, and a seemingly unified command structure. A focus on combating internal dissent seems obvious, with the increasing importance of anti-terror/anti-protest operations in China's peripheries becoming more relevant. China's main foe remains the US, and increasingly so since the 1999 Kosovo War, which China did not support. The shelling of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, resulting in the death of Chinese citizens, by NATO forces is seen as one of the focal points for this new hostility from the Chinese perspective. Couple this with the increasingly aggressive US naval presence in the region, and China sees threats to its naval sovereignty, especially around its disputed regions (Taiwan, South China Sea, etc.). This is an era of increasing Chinese military prowess, and it is yet to be assured that this prowess will only be used for internal defense (as China's political policies clearly state), although no evidence to suggest otherwise currently exists. This was an excellent book chronicling the growth and alteration of China's military strategy since the countries founding, focusing on high level doctrine, organization, and grand strategy. Fravel has written a fascinating and relevant study of China's military organization fro a Chinese perspective, without the rivalry bias often found in other Western sources. A fantastic read, and worthy of your time if you enjoy China watching, history, or military theory.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Grouchy Historian

    Really outstanding. My full review will be on https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/home Really outstanding. My full review will be on https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/home

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Interesting and thorough history of changes in PLA strategy. Fravel’s views on the conditions necessary for major changes were well-supported by the facts. Dense reading however, despite the relatively short length.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ting

    The book is very dry and repetitive. If you are looking for a page turner, turn away, this isn’t the read for you. However to call it informative is an understatement. It is a scholarly piece of work brimming with insight and detailed elaboration. Ambitious and comprehensive , Fravel covers all bases and does a great job at it .

  5. 5 out of 5

    Darren Smith

    Interesting book, kind of heavy on analytics, was expecting a bit more history to it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Aditya Pratama

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dirk-Heine

  8. 4 out of 5

    Martin

  9. 4 out of 5

    SYP

  10. 4 out of 5

    Aidan Clarke

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sair

  12. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

  13. 4 out of 5

    Khyle

  14. 5 out of 5

    G.P.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Philip Christian Ulrich

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rizwan Niaz Raiyan

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  18. 4 out of 5

    Subhajit Das

  19. 5 out of 5

    Spenser A.

  20. 5 out of 5

    A

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shon Feliciano

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lucas

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aaron VanAlstine

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Garafalo

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ty

  26. 5 out of 5

    Adam Brobson

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

  28. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Y Feng

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wade Allen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ayushman

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