The Evolution of PLA's Warfighting in Maoist China, 1950-1982
Li Jie, Doctoral Candidate, King's College London.
4-6pm, Wednesday 22 October 2014
Room S-1.04, Strand Building, Strand Campus, King's College London
All welcome - no need to book.
This paper examines and explains the development of PLA’s
(People’s Liberation Army) warfighting from 1950 to 1982, a period during which
Mao Zedong’s military thinking had a dominant influence within the PLA. Since
the late 1920s when the Soviets first introduced the new “operational” level of
warfare, major Western military powers had gradually adopted a “modern” way of
warfighting. Absolute destruction of enemy’s troops through concentrated
annihilation had been replaced by disruption of enemy’s defending system
through fragmenting, simultaneous, and echeloned strikes across the whole
theatre. This remarkable change is not observed in the Chinese case in the
period selected, despite that Peng Dehuai (1953-58) led a modernization program
of weapons and later Lin Biao (1959-1971) covertly professionalized the forces
closely associated to him. After Lin’s death, Ye Jianying (1972-1978) quickly
organised a reform to bring the PLA back to a mass army. I use balance of power
theory and bureaucratic politics model to analyze why a breakthrough did not
occur in the PLA’s warfighting. A preliminary finding is that it was Mao’s
dominance within the PLA and his preference for a mass army, which led to this
absence. In addition, Mao’s preference for a mass army mainly concerned about
political stability in the domestic strategic
situation only played a subsidiary role in Mao’s thinking on military
modernization. This finding is contrary to the conventional wisdom, which
argues that strategic situation, deduced from balance of power, is a more
powerful tool than bureaucratic politics model for the study of doctrine,
especially when threats become sufficiently grave (Posen, 1984). Future
comparative studies could include this Chinese case to re-test the credibility
of the two theories.
About the speaker
Li Jie holds a MA (with Honours) degree in Psychology from
the University of St Andrews, and a Master’s degree in China in Comparative
Perspective from the London School of Economic and Political Science. He also
studied American Politics in “Power and Politics” summer seminars in Georgetown
University, D.C., held by Oxbridge Learning Academy, and achieved a distinction.
He is now a third-year PhD candidate in Chinese Security Studies at Lau China
Institute, King’s College London. His research interests focus on the evolution
of the conduct of modern warfare, especially the evolution of Chinese way of
warfighting since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
His PhD research examines and explains the continuity and change in the PLA’s
understanding and practice of warfighting in 1950-1982, during which Mao’s People’s
War theory had a dominant influence.