History of the People's Liberation Army

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The history of the People's Liberation Army began in 1927 with the start of the Chinese Civil War and spans to the present, having developed from a peasant guerrilla force into the largest armed force in the world.

Historical background

China has a long military tradition, dating back to the earliest days of recorded history. The martial exploits of kings and emperors, loyal generals and peasant rebels, and strategists and theorists are well known in Chinese high culture and folk tradition.[citation needed]

Throughout the centuries, two tendencies have influenced the role of the military in national life, one in peacetime and the other in times of upheaval. In times of peace and stability, military forces were firmly subordinated to civilian control. The military was strong enough to overcome domestic rebellions and foreign invasion, yet it did not threaten civilian control of the political system. In times of disorder, however, new military leaders and organizations arose to challenge the old system, resulting in the militarization of political life. When one of these leaders became strong enough, he established a new political order ruling all China. After consolidating power, the new ruler or his successors subordinated the military to civilian control once again.[1]

In the past 150 years, a third factor entered the Chinese military tradition—the introduction of modern military technology and organization to strengthen military capabilities against domestic and foreign enemies.[citation needed]

Since the beginning of the 20th century, all three tendencies have been discernible in the role of the military in national life. These factors have been particularly apparent in the role of the People's Liberation Army in the rise to power of the Chinese Communist Party, in the military's role in the politics of the People's Republic of China, and in the efforts of Chinese leaders to modernize the armed forces.[citation needed]

After decades of development from a peasant guerrilla force to a conventional military organization capable of achieving longsought national liberation from foreign colonial powers and the invasion and occupation by the Imperial Japanese Army, the People's Liberation Army pursued further technical competence and improved organization, with Soviet assistance, in the 1950s. Political involvement in the Great Leap Forward (1958–60) and the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) delayed these efforts until the late 1970s, when the People's Liberation Army embarked on a military modernization program, which had three major focuses. First, military modernization required both the strengthening of party control over the military and the continued disengagement of the armed forces from politics. These steps were necessary to ensure that a politically reliable yet professionally competent military would concentrate on the task of military reform. Second, defense modernization attempted to achieve improved combat effectiveness through organizational, doctrinal, training, educational, and personnel reforms (including recruitment, promotion, and demobilization). These reforms emphasized the development of combat capabilities in waging combined arms warfare. Third, military modernization was aimed at the transformation of the defense establishment into a system capable of independently sustaining modern military forces. This transformation necessitated the reorganization and closer integration of civilian and military science and industry and also the selective use of foreign technology.[citation needed]

Since the 1960s, China had considered the Soviet Union the principal threat to its security; lesser threats were posed by long standing border disputes with Vietnam and India. China's territorial claims and economic interests made the South China Sea an area of strategic importance to China. Although China sought peaceful reunification of Taiwan with the mainland China, it did not rule out the use of force against the island if serious internal disturbances, a declaration of independence, or a threatening alliance occurred.[2]

The scope of foreign military cooperation has evolved gradually. In the 1950s, China dealt only with communist nations and insurgencies. In the 1960s, it began to provide military assistance to Third World nations to counteract Soviet and United States influence. Beginning in the late 1970s, China shifted its arms transfer policy away from military assistance in favor of commercial arms sales and began developing military ties with Western Europe and the United States. Chinese military contacts with foreign countries expanded rapidly with the introduction of the military modernization program and the policy of opening up to the outside world.[citation needed]

In the late 1980s, People's Liberation Army forces consisted of the various arms like Ground forces, and the Air Force, Navy, and Rocket Force . The ground forces were divided into group armies. Ground force equipment was largely of Soviet design and obsolete, although some weaponry had been upgraded with foreign technology. The Air Force had serious technological deficiencies despite incremental improvements of aircraft. The Navy was developing a blue-water capability and sea-based strategic forces. China possessed a small but relatively credible nuclear deterrent force with an incipient second-strike capability. Paramilitary forces consisted of the militia, reserve service system, Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and People's Armed Police Force.[citation needed]

Historical development, 1927-79

From the founding of the People's Liberation Army to the Korean War

Flag of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (中國工農紅軍).

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) traces its origins to the August 1, 1927, Nanchang Uprising in which Kuomintang (Nationalists, also spelled "Guomindang") troops led by Communist Party of China leaders Zhu De and Zhou Enlai (while engaged in the Northern Expedition) rebelled following the violent dissolution of the first Kuomintang-Communist Party of China united front earlier that year. The survivors of that and other abortive communist insurrections, including the Autumn Harvest Uprising led by Mao Zedong, fled to the Jinggang Mountains along the border of Hunan and Jiangxi provinces. Joining forces under the leadership of Mao and Zhu, this collection of communists, bandits, Kuomintang deserters, and impoverished peasants became the First Workers' and Peasants' Army, or Red Army—the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party.[citation needed]

Using guerrilla warfare that would later make Mao Zedong internationally famous as a military strategist, the Red Army survived several encirclement and suppression campaigns by superior Kuomintang forces. However, internal politics in the Communist Party forced the Red Army to temporarily abandon its guerrilla tactics and resulted in the epic Long March of 1934-35 (see Chinese nationalism and Chinese communism). The Red Army's exploits during the Long March became legendary and remain a potent symbol of the spirit and prowess of the Red Army and its successor, the PLA. During that period, Mao's political power and his strategy of guerrilla warfare gained ascendancy in the party and the Red Army.[citation needed]

The divisions of the "Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army" (中國工農紅軍) were named according to historical circumstances, sometimes in a nonconsecutive way. Early Communist units often formed by defection from existing Kuomintang forces, keeping their original designations. Moreover, during the Chinese Civil War, central control of separate Communist-controlled enclaves within China was limited, adding to the confusion of nomenclature of Communist forces. By the time of the 1934 Long March, numerous small units had been organized into three unified groups, the First Front Red Army (紅一方面軍/红一方面军/Hóng Yī Fāngmiàn Jūn), the Second Front Red Army (紅二方面軍/红二方面军/Hóng Èr Fāngmiàn Jūn) and the Fourth Front Red Army (紅四方面軍/红四方面军/Hóng Sì Fāngmiàn Jūn), also translated as "First Front Red Army", "Second Front Red Army" and "Fourth Front Red Army".[3]

The First Front Red Army formed from the First, Third and Fifth Red Army in southern Kiangsi under command of Bo Gu and Li De, while the Fourth Front Red Army under Zhang Guotao was formed in the SzechuanShensi border area from several smaller units. After the organization of these first two main forces, the Second Front Red Army formed in eastern Kweichow by unifying the Second and Sixth Red Army under He Long and Jen Pi-shih. A "Third Front Red Army" was never established, and the three armies would maintain their historical denominations of First, Second and Fourth Front Red Armies until Communist military forces were nominally integrated into the National Revolutionary Army, forming the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army, during the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945.[citation needed]

In 1937 the Red Army joined in a second united front with the Kuomintang against the invading Japanese army (see Anti-Japanese War). Although nominally cooperating with the Kuomintang, the Chinese Communist Party used the Red Army to expand its influence while leading the anti-Japanese resistance in north China. At the time of the war, the Red Army numbered 1 million and was backed by a militia of 2 million. Although the Red Army fought several conventional battles against the Japanese (and Kuomintang troops), guerrilla operations were the primary mode of warfare.[citation needed]

Mao's military thought grew out of the Red Army's experiences in the late 1930s and early 1940s and formed the basis for the "people's war" concept, which became the doctrine of the Red Army and the PLA. In developing his thought, Mao drew on the works of the Chinese military strategist Sun Zi (4th century BC) and Soviet and other theorists, as well as on the lore of peasant uprisings, such as the stories found in the classical novel Shuihu Zhuan (Water Margin) and the stories of the Taiping Rebellion. Synthesizing these influences with lessons learned from the Red Army's successes and failures, Mao created a comprehensive politico-military doctrine for waging revolutionary warfare. People's war incorporated political, economic, and psychological measures with protracted military struggle against a superior foe. As a military doctrine, people's war emphasized the mobilization of the populace to support regular and guerrilla forces; the primacy of men over weapons, with superior motivation compensating for inferior technology; and the three progressive phases of protracted warfare—strategic defensive, strategic stalemate, and strategic offensive (see Mobile Warfare). During the first stage, enemy forces were "lured in deep" into one's own territory to overextend, disperse, and isolate them. The Red Army established base areas from which to harass the enemy, but these bases and other territory could be abandoned to preserve Red Army forces. In addition, policies ordered by Mao for all soldiers to follow, the Eight Points of Attention, instructed the army to avoid harm to or disrespect for the peasants, regardless of the need for food and supplies. This policy won support for the Communists among the rural peasants.[4]

In the second phase, superior numbers and morale were applied to wear down the enemy in a war of attrition in which guerrilla operations predominated. During the final phase, Red Army forces made the transition to regular warfare as the enemy was reduced to parity and eventually defeated.[citation needed]

In the Chinese Civil War which followed Japan's defeat after the Second World War, the Red Army, newly renamed the People's Liberation Army, again used the principles of people's war in following a policy of strategic withdrawal, waging a war of attrition, and abandoning cities and communication lines to the well-armed, numerically superior Kuomintang forces. In 1947 the PLA launched a counteroffensive during a brief strategic stalemate. By the next summer, the PLA had entered the strategic offensive stage, using conventional warfare as the Kuomintang forces went on the defensive and then collapsed rapidly on the mainland in 1949. By 1950 the PLA had seized Hainan Island and Xizang.[citation needed]

On January 15, 1949, the Communist Party Central Military Commission decided to reorganise the regional armies of the PLA into four field armies.[5] The forces in Northwest China were designated the First Field Army, with Peng Dehuai as commander and also serving as political commissar. The First Field Army was to comprise the 1st Corps Army and 2nd Corps Army, and totalled 134,000 men. After 1949, the First Field Army controlled five provinces - Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, and Xinjiang. The Second Field Army took control of PLA troops in central China, with Liu Bocheng as commander and Deng Xiaoping as commissar. It comprised the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Armies, plus a special technical column, and totalled 128,000 men. After 1949, the Second Field Army was stationed in southwest China and controlled five provinces - Yunnan, Giuzhou, Sichan, Xikang, and Tibet. The Third Field Army took control of the troops in eastern China, with Chen Yi as its commander. It comprised the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th Corps Army plus the headquarters of the special technical troops, with a total of 580,000 men. After 1949, the Third Field Army remained on China's east coast, controlling Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, and Fujian. The PLA troops in Manchuria were designated the Fourth Field Army under Lin Biao. The army comprised the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th Corps Army, special technical troops, the Column of Guangdong and Guangxi, and the 50th and 51st Corps.[citation needed]

When the PLA became a national armed force with the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, it was an unwieldy, 5-million-strong peasant armed force.[citation needed] In 1950 the PLA included 10,000 troops in the Air Force (founded in 1949) and 60,000 in the Navy (founded in 1950). At that time, demobilization of ill-trained or politically unreliable troops began, resulting in the reduction of military strength to 2.8 million in 1953.[citation needed]

China's new leaders recognized the need to transform the PLA, essentially an infantry army with limited mobility, logistics, ordnance, and communications, into a modern military force. The signing of the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance in February 1950 provided the framework for defense modernization in the 1950s. However, the Korean War was the real watershed in armed forces modernization. The Chinese People's Volunteers (as the military forces in Korea were called) achieved initial success in throwing back United Nations (UN) troops and, despite the PLA's first encounter with modern firepower, managed to fight UN forces to a stalemate. Nevertheless, China's Korean War experience demonstrated PLA deficiencies and stimulated Soviet assistance in equipping and reorganizing the military. The use of unsupported infantry attacks against combined arms firepower caused serious manpower and materiel losses. Shortcomings in transportation and supply indicated the need to improve logistics capabilities.[citation needed]

Military modernization in the 1950s and 1960s

Large-scale Soviet aid in modernizing the PLA, which began in the fall of 1951, took the form of weapons and equipment, assistance in building China's defense industry, and the loan of advisers, primarily technical ones. Mostly during the Korean War years, the Soviet Union supplied infantry weapons, artillery, armor, trucks, fighter aircraft, bombers, submarines, destroyers, and gunboats. Soviet advisers assisted primarily in developing a defense industry set up along Soviet organizational lines. Aircraft and ordnance factories and shipbuilding facilities were constructed and by the late 1950s were producing a wide variety of Soviet-design military equipment. Because the Soviet Union would not provide China with its most modern equipment, most of the weapons were outdated and lacked an offensive capability. Both Chinese dissatisfaction with this defensive aid and the Soviet refusal to supply China with nuclear bomb blueprints partly contributed to the withdrawal of Soviet advisers in 1960 (see Sino-Soviet Split).

In the early 1940s, China's leaders decided to reorganize the military along Soviet lines. In 1954 they established the National Defense Council, Ministry of National Defense, and thirteen military regions. The PLA was reconstituted according to Soviet tables of organization and equipment. It adopted the combined-arms concept of armor- and artillery-heavy mobile forces, which required the adoption of some Soviet strategy and tactics. PLA modernization according to the Soviet model also entailed creation of a professional officer corps, complete with Soviet-style uniforms, ranks, and insignia; conscription; a reserve system; and new rules of discipline. The introduction of modern weaponry necessitated raising the education level of soldiers and intensifying formal military training. Political education and the role of political commissars lost their importance as the modernization effort progressed.

The military's new emphasis on Soviet-style professionalism produced tensions between the party and the military. The party feared that it would lose political control over the military, that the PLA would become alienated from a society concentrating on economic construction, and that relations between officers and soldiers would deteriorate. The party reemphasized Mao's thesis of the supremacy of men over weapons and subjected the PLA to several political campaigns. The military, for its part, resented party attempts to strengthen political education, build a mass militia system under local party control, and conduct economic production activities to the detriment of military training. These tensions culminated in September 1959, when Mao Zedong replaced Minister of National Defense Peng Dehuai, the chief advocate of military modernization, with Lin Biao, who deemphasized military professionalism in favor of revolutionary purity (see Great Leap Forward 1958-60).

The ascension of Lin Biao and the complete withdrawal of Soviet assistance and advisers in 1960 marked a new stage in military development. The Soviet withdrawal disrupted the defense industry and weapons production, particularly crippling the aircraft industry. Although the military purchased some foreign technology in the 1960s, it was forced to stress self-reliance in weapons production. Lin Biao moved to restore PLA morale and discipline and to mold the PLA into a politically reliable fighting force. Lin reorganized the PLA high command, replaced the mass militia with a smaller militia under PLA control, and reformulated the Maoist doctrine of the supremacy of men over materiel. Lin stated that "men and materiel form a unity, with men as the leading factor", giving ideological justification to the reemphasis on military training. Political training, however, continued to occupy 30 to 40 percent of a soldier's time. At the same time, Lin instituted stricter party control, restored party organization at the company level, and intensified political education. In 1964 the prestige of the PLA as an exemplary, revolutionary organization was confirmed by the "Learn from the PLA" campaign. This campaign, which purported to disseminate the military's political-work experience throughout society, resulted in the introduction of military personnel into party and government organizations, a trend that increased after the Cultural Revolution began.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the PLA fought one internal and one external campaign: in Xizang against Tibetan rebels, and on the Sino-Indian border against India. In the first campaign, PLA forces suppressed Tibetan insurgents who rebelled in 1958-59 against Chinese rule. The Sino-Indian border war broke out in October 1962 amid the deterioration of Sino-Indian relations and mutual accusations of intrusions into disputed territory. In this brief (one month) but decisive conflict, the PLA attacked Indian positions in the North-East Frontier Agency (later called Arunachal Pradesh), penetrating to the Himalayan foothills, and in Ladakh, particularly in the Aksai Chin region. After routing the Indian Army, the PLA withdrew behind the original "line of actual control" after China announced a unilateral cease-fire. Both campaigns were limited conflicts using conventional tactics.

The Cultural Revolution

The PLA played a complex political role during the Cultural Revolution. From 1966 to 1968, military training, conscription and demobilization, and political education virtually ceased as the PLA was ordered first to help promote the Cultural Revolution and then to reestablish order and authority. Although the Cultural Revolution initially developed separately in the PLA and in the party apparatus, the PLA, under the leadership of its radical leftist leader, Lin Biao, soon became deeply involved in civilian affairs. In early 1967, the military high command was purged, and regional military forces were instructed to maintain order, establish military control, and support the "revolutionary left". Because many regional-force commanders supported conservative party and government officials rather than radical mass organizations, many provincial-level military leaders were purged or transferred, and Beijing ordered several main-force units to take over the duties of the regional-force units. In the summer of 1967, regional military organizations came under leftist attack, Red Guard factions obtained weapons, and violence escalated. By September, the central authorities had called off the attack on the PLA, but factional rivalries between regional- and main-force units persisted. Violence among rival mass organizations, often backed by different PLA units, continued in the first half of 1968 and delayed the formation of revolutionary committees, which were to replace traditional government and party organizations. In July 1968, Mao abolished the Red Guards and ordered the PLA to impose revolutionary committees wherever such bodies previously had not been established.

Worries over military factionalism caused the leadership to curtail the Cultural Revolution and to initiate a policy of rotating military commanders and units. The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the enunciation of the Brezhnev Doctrine, the Soviet military buildup in its Far Eastern theater, and Sino-Soviet border clashes in the spring of 1969 brought about a renewed emphasis on some of the PLA's traditional military roles. In 1969, Lin Biao launched an extensive "war preparations" campaign; military training was resumed, and military procurement, which had suffered in the first years of the Cultural Revolution, rose dramatically. Military preparedness was further advanced along China's frontiers and particularly the Sino-Soviet border when the thirteen military regions were reorganized into eleven in 1970. The resulting military regions were the Shenyang, Beijing, Lanzhou, Xinjiang, Jinan, Nanjing, Fuzhou, Guangzhou (including Hainan Island), Wuhan, Chengdu, and Kunming MRs.

The PLA emerged from the more violent phase of the Cultural Revolution deeply involved in civilian politics and public administration. It had committed 2 million troops to political activities and reportedly suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties. Regional military forces were almost completely absorbed in political work. PLA units did not withdraw fully from these duties until 1974. Following the sudden death of Lin Biao in 1971, the military began to disengage from politics, and civilian control over the PLA was reasserted. Lin's supporters in the PLA were purged, leaving some high-level positions in the PLA unfilled for several years. PLA officers who had dominated provincial-level and local party and government bodies resigned from those posts in 1973 and 1974. Military region commanders were reshuffled, and some purged military leaders were rehabilitated. Military representation in the national-level political organizations, following an all-time high at the Ninth National Party Congress in 1969, declined sharply at the Tenth National Party Congress in 1973.

Along with the reassertion of civilian control over the military and the return to military duties came a shift of resources away from the defense sector. Defense procurement dropped by 20 percent in 1971 and shifted from aircraft production and intercontinental ballistic missile development to the modernization of the ground forces and medium-range ballistic missile and intermediate-range ballistic missile development.

Military modernization in the 1970s

In January 1974, the PLA saw action in the South China Sea following a long-simmering dispute with the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) over the Paracel Islands. The PLA successfully seized control of three disputed islands in a naval battle and a subsequent amphibious assault.[6][7]

By the mid-1970s, concerns among Chinese leaders about military weakness, especially vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, resulted in a decision to modernize the PLA. Two initial steps were taken to promote military modernization. First, in 1975, vacant key positions in the military structure and the party Central Military Commission were filled. (The state Central Military Commission was not founded until 1982; see the National People's Congress). Nonetheless, to ensure party control of the PLA, civilians were appointed to key positions. Deng Xiaoping was appointed Chief of the General Staff, while Gang of Four member Zhang Chunqiao was appointed director of the General Political Department. Second, in the summer following Premier Zhou Enlai's January 1975 proclamation of the Four Modernizations as national policy, the party Central Military Commission convened an enlarged meeting to chart the development of military modernization. The military modernization program, codified in Central Directive No. 18 of 1975, instructed the military to withdraw from politics and to concentrate on military training and other defense matters. Factional struggles between party moderates and radicals in 1975 and 1976, however, led to the dismissal of Deng from all his posts and the delay of military modernization until after the death of Mao Zedong. Within a month of Mao's death, military leaders headed by Minister of National Defense Ye Jianying cooperated with party chairman Hua Guofeng to arrest the Gang of Four, thus ending a decade of radical politics.[citation needed]

The Chinese leadership resumed the military modernization program in early 1977. Three crucial events in the late 1970s shaped the course of this program: the second rehabilitation of Deng Xiaoping, the major civilian proponent of military modernization; the re-ordering of priorities in the Four Modernizations, relegating national defense modernization from third to fourth place (following agriculture, industry, and science and technology); and the Sino-Vietnamese border war of 1979. In July 1977, with the backing of moderate military leaders, Deng Xiaoping reassumed his position as PLA chief of general staff as well as his other party and state posts. At the same time, Deng became a vice chairman of the party Central Military Commission. In February 1980 Deng resigned his PLA position in favor of professional military commander Yang Dezhi; Deng improved his party Central Military Commission position, becoming chairman of it at the Sixth Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee in June 1981. With enormous prestige in both the military and the civilian sectors, Deng vigorously promoted military modernization, the further disengagement of the military from politics, and the shift in national priorities to economic development at the expense of defense.[citation needed]

In 1977-78, military and civilian leaders debated whether the military or the civilian economy should receive priority in allocating resources for the Four Modernizations. The military hoped for additional resources to promote its own modernization, while civilian leaders stressed the overall, balanced development of the economy, including civilian industry and science and technology. By arguing that a rapid military buildup would hinder the economy and harm the defense industrial base, civilian leaders convinced the PLA to accept the relegation of national defense to last place in the Four Modernizations. The defense budget accordingly was reduced. Nonetheless, the Chinese military and civilian leadership remained firmly committed to military modernization.[citation needed]

A Sino-Vietnamese War revealed specific shortcomings in military capabilities and thus provided an additional impetus to the military modernization effort. The border war, the PLA's largest military operation since the Korean War, was essentially a limited, offensive, ground-force campaign. The war had mixed results militarily and politically. Although the numerically superior Chinese forces penetrated about fifty kilometers into Vietnam, the PLA was not on good terms with its supply lines and was unable to achieve a decisive victory in the war.[8] Both China and Vietnam claimed victory.[9][10] Border battles and skirmishes continued throughout the 1980s.

History of military doctrine

As a component of its function as the fighting arm of the Communist Party, PLA units has served a political role within their area of operations. This role evolved during the alliance with the Kuomintang, as Communists and leftist political administrators began land reform favoring peasants in the areas conquered by the Northern Expedition army in 1927. Later, as part of the command structure, political commissars were appointed by the Communist Party to military units for the purpose directing political education efforts, and to ensure that Party decisions were implemented. In this system, each unit had a political officer who was not responsible to the normal military chain of command, but instead answered to a separate chain of command within the Communist Party, to ensure the loyalty of army commanders and to prevent a possible coup d'état. The political commissar had the authority to override any decision of the military officers, and to remove them from command if necessary. However, that was almost never necessary — the mere presence of a commissar usually meant that military commanders would follow their directives, and the day-to-day duties of the political commissar generally involved only propaganda work and boosting the morale of the troops.

Timeline of military action


  • The Ten Years Civil War between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang:
  • 1934-1936: The Long March, a strategic retreat to avoid destruction by the Nationalist armies of Chiang Kai-shek
  • 1935: Battle at the Luding Bridge
  • Tibet

Chinese Civil War

Second Sino-Japanese War

Chinese Civil War

Korean War

Sino-Indian War

Sino-Vietnamese War

Soviet–Afghan War

Military modernization

Foreign military cooperation

In the 1950s China limited its military cooperation almost entirely to communist nations and to insurgent movements in Southeast Asia. The Soviet Union provided China with substantial assistance, and with advice in modernizing the PLA and developing China's defense industry. China provided North Korea with arms and assistance, and the PLA and the Korean People's Army developed close ties because of their association in the Korean War. In 1961 China and North Korea signed a mutual defense agreement, and Chinese-North Korean military cooperation continued in the late 1980s. China also provided weapons and military and economic assistance to Vietnam, which ended in 1978 when relations between the two countries soured. In the 1950s and 1960s, China provided weapons to communist insurgent groups in Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

In the 1960s and 1970s, China began developing military ties with Third World nations in Asia and Africa, while maintaining or promoting cooperation with North Korea, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), and Albania. Chinese military cooperation with North Korea and North Vietnam stemmed from security considerations. Chinese military assistance to Third World countries arose from attempts to extend Chinese influence and counteract Soviet and United States influence. China became increasingly anti-Soviet in the 1970s. In the 1980s China developed close military ties and provided considerable military assistance to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka in South Asia; Egypt in the Middle East; and Tanzania, Sudan, Somalia, Zaire, and Zambia in Africa.

In the late 1970s, the scope and tenor of foreign military cooperation changed with the shift to commercial arms sales, attempts to gain some influence in Eastern Europe, and improvement in relations with the United States and Western Europe. Chinese military assistance to communist insurgents, especially in Southeast Asia, tapered off. Nevertheless, China continued to provide weapons both to the Khmer Rouge and to noncommunist Cambodian resistance groups, and it developed close relations with and sold weapons to Thailand. Traditionally friendly states in South Asia continued to have close military ties with China and to purchase Chinese military hardware under generous terms. Chinese-Albanian relations deteriorated in the 1970s, and Beijing terminated all assistance in 1978. But at the same time, China began to exchange military delegations with two other East European countries—Yugoslavia and Romania. Chinese military relations with these two countries were limited and, especially in the case of Romania (a Warsaw Pact member), served to irritate the Soviet Union.

A major change in foreign military cooperation occurred when China began developing military contacts with West European nations and the United States in the late 1970s and the 1980s. This change reflected China's desire to counter Soviet influence, especially in Europe, as well as to develop relations with modern armed forces. China needed advanced hardware and technology and organizational, training, personnel, logistics, and doctrinal concepts for modernizing the PLA. Chinese military ties with West European countries were strongest with Britain, France, and Italy. Chinese military relations with the United States developed rapidly in the 1980s and included exchanges of high-level military officials and working-level delegations in training, logistics, and education. The United States sold some weapons to China for defensive purposes, but China was unlikely to purchase large amounts of American arms because of financial and political constraints (see Sino-American relations).

Beginning in 1979, when China introduced its policy of opening up to the outside world, military exchanges with foreign countries grew substantially. The PLA hosted 500 military delegations from 1979 to 1987 and sent thousands of military officials abroad for visits, study, and lectures. China received port calls from thirty-three foreign warships, including United States, British, French, and Australian ships, and it sent two naval ships to visit Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka in 1985. PLA departments, academies, and research institutes opened their doors to foreign military visitors. In 1987 China had ties with eighty-five foreign armies, posted Chinese military attachés in sixty countries, and hosted forty military attaches in Beijing.

See also



  1. ^ Barnouin, Barbara and Yu Changgen. Zhou Enlai: A Political Life. Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2006. ISBN 962-996-280-2. Retrieved March 12, 2011. p.49-52
  2. ^ Kissinger, H. On China, Penguin, New York, p.346
  3. ^ Peoples Liberation Army Daily (August 14, 2006) Notes Archived 2008-12-12 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2007-02-17
  4. ^ Indo-Asian News Service (October 22, 2006): Retracing Mao's Long March (Retrieved 23 November 2006)
  5. ^ Historical Dictionary of Modern China (1800-1949), James Zheng Gao, Scarecrow Press, 2009, ISBN 0810849305, 116
  6. ^ Tài liệu Trung Quốc về Hải chiến Hoàng Sa: Lần đầu hé lộ về vũ khí | Hải chiến Hoàng Sa | Thanh Niên
  7. ^ Gwertzman, Bernard (26 January 1974). "Peking Reports Holding U.S. Aide". The New York Times. New York, NY. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  8. ^ Elleman, Bruce A. (2001). Modern Chinese Warfare, 1795-1989. Routledge. p. 297. ISBN 0415214742. 
  9. ^ http://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1057&context=mscas
  10. ^ Elleman, Bruce A. (2001). Modern Chinese Warfare, 1795-1989. Routledge. p. 297. ISBN 0415214742. 


Further reading

  • Blasko, Dennis J. The Chinese Army Today: Tradition and Transformation for the 21st Century (2012) excerpt and text search
  • Cole, Bernard D. The Great Wall at Sea: China's Navy in the Twenty-First Century (2nd ed., 2010)
  • Fisher, Richard. China's Military Modernization: Building for Regional and Global Reach (2010) excerpt and text search
  • Harlan W. Jencks, From Muskets to Missiles: Politics and Professionalism in the Chinese Army 1945-1981, Westview, 1982
  • Harvey W. Nelson, The Chinese Military System: An Organizational Study of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, Boulder
  • Wortzel, Larry M.; Robin D. S. Higham (1999). Dictionary of Contemporary Chinese Military History. ABC-CLIO. 
  • William W. Whitson with Chen-Hsia Huang, The Chinese High Command: A History of Communist Military Politics 1927-71, Palgrave MacMillan, 1973
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