Shifts in Warfare and Party Unity: Explaining China's Changes in Military Strategy - by CWP Alumni Taylor Fravel

Saturday, Feb 3, 2018

Since 1949, China has adopted nine national military strategies, known as “strategic guidelines.” The strategies adopted in 1956, 1980, and 1993 represent major changes in China's military strategy, or efforts by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to wage war in a new way. Shifts in the conduct of warfare in the international system offer one explanation for why China, a developing country for most of this period, pursued major change in its military strategy. Such shifts in the conduct of warfare should be especially powerful if a gap exists between a state's current strategy and the requirements of future warfare. The PLA has only been able to change strategy, however, when the Chinese Communist Party leadership is united and agrees on basic policies and the structure of authority. When the party is united, it delegates substantial responsibility for military affairs to the PLA leadership, which changes or adjusts military strategy in response to changes in China's security environment.

Taylor Fravel Photo

M. Taylor Fravel
Posted Online January 29, 2018 

© 2018 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

International Security

Volume 42 | Issue 3 | Winter 2017/18