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China's Military-Civil Fusion Strategy

  • Published
  • By Alex Stone, Peter Wood
  • China Aerospace Studies Institute, Air University, Maxwell AFB, AL

Military-Civil Fusion (MCF), this term seems like a counterpart to the American term civil-military integration (CMI), but in reality it is far deeper and more complex. Whereas, according to the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, America’s CMI is “cooperation between government and commercial facilities in research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and/or maintenance operations”, China’s Military-Civil Fusion strategy is a state-led, state-directed program and plan 
to leverage all levers of state and commercial power to strengthen and support the armed wing of the Communist Party of China, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

China’s Military-Civil Fusion program is not new. Every leader since Mao Zedong has had a program to compel the “commercial” and “civil” parts of Chinese society to support the PLA. It has gone by different terms, Military-Civil Integration, Military-Civil Fused Development, etc. General Secretary Xi Jinping has elevated the concept to Military-Civil Fusion. But is all cases, it is the “Military” that comes first. Whereas in the United States there is a partnership for spin-off and spin-on technologies, with a goal of assisting commercial companies as well as the military, this is simply a happy coincidence when, and if, it happens in China.

Since Xi Jinping’s assumption of power, the role of the military, and the importance of MCF have markedly increased. General Secretary Xi has clearly switched the emphasis from Deng Xiaoping’s famous statement. While most remember the first part of Deng’s saying, “韬光养晦”, which is generally translated to “bide your time, and hide your capabilities”, most Americans, and westerners, seem to forget there was more in his dictum. The full quote is: “冷静观察, 稳住阵脚, 沉着应付, 韬光养晦, 善于守拙, 决不当头, 有所作为”  It is the last four characters that now seem to have the emphasis, loosely translated- and achieve some goals/ get something done. This explains China’s growing assertiveness and emphasis on the final piece of Deng Xiaoping’s “Four Modernizations”, the military.

To date, most surveys and analysis of MCF have focused on concrete examples, of how it is or is not working. These are important aspects to understand and study. However, what this report does is focus on how Military- Civil Fusion fits in to the CCP’s and the PRC’s overall national strategy; how it fits in with the other pieces which the CCP uses to guide the development path of the PRC; and rather than “looking down” to focus on the implementation of the program, but rather to “look up” to the strategies and policies that form the connective tissues within the greater system.

This report is intended for both policy makers and practitioners, to help them better understand how MCF is intrinsically linked to the other national strategic-level programs in China, and help them better compete in the long-term by understanding the nature of the system with which we are competing.

Dr. Brendan S. Mulvaney
Director, China Aerospace Studies Institute

Click here for the full report