September 26, 2003 | News Releases on Asia
Heritage VP Co-edits Book on China'a Military
WASHINGTON, SEPT. 25, 2003-Last year, the world's largest army
celebrated its 75th anniversary.
The People's Liberation Army, the armed forces of the People's
Republic of China, has spent much of that time in turmoil and
warfare. What have its leaders learned about war and military
might? That's the subject of a new book co-edited by Dr. Larry
Wortzel, vice president for foreign policy and defense studies at
The Heritage Foundation.
Wortzel and co-editors Andrew Scobell, professor of national
security affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute, and Thomas
Donnelly, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute,
gathered in September 2002 to assess what lessons China's soldiers
had drawn from their combat history.
All the research in the book, which flowed from those discussions
to a compilation of research papers from China experts, comes from
primary documents, written in Chinese by the military leaders
involved in those experiences.
"This book is not about what people think the Chinese have
learned," said Wortzel. "It's some of the top experts in the world
reading the documents in Chinese and analyzing what the Chinese
themselves say they've learned."
The Chinese learned the value of surprise, of taking advantage of
their huge population and army to mass hundreds of thousands of
soldiers against an enemy, of maneuvering for position and of
strategic employment of terrain, said Wortzel. Their main weakness:
logistics, "partly because of the amount of people they have to
supply and partly because of their defense industry."
The book includes 12 chapters divided into four sections-an
overview, a section on the various services (army, navy, air
force), a section on the campaigns the army has fought and a final
section on domestic deployments and civil-military relations.
Scobell, who specializes in analyzing the Chinese military
campaigns, said he has heard the PLA described as a "come as you
are army," and he agrees. "They believe the weak can prevail over
the strong," he said. "And they've almost always been the weaker
force. They've been effective at making the most at what they
"For instance, we rely on high-tech weaponry. If our backup
generator goes out, we have a problem. The Chinese tend to just
soldier on. Thus, when they look back, they think they've had
nothing but success. They don't seem able to acknowledge failure.
The problem with this is it may make them more likely to use force
in the future."
"The Lessons of History: The Chinese People's Liberation Army
at 75." Editors: Laurie Burkitt, Andrew Scobell, Larry Wortzel.
Strategic Studies Institute Press. To read the book online, visit
To obtain a copy, see the SSI Web site carlisle.army.mil/ssi/contact.html.