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Propensity, Conditions, and Consequences: Effective Coercion Through Understanding Chinese Thinking

  • Published
  • China Aerospace Studies Institute

In late 2021, the U.S. Army released Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 7-100.3, Chinese Tactics.  The books first chart shows how the People’s Republic of China (PRC) People’s Liberation Army (PLA) translates defensive national policy into the “basic warfighting philosophy” of active defense.  It says that Chinese philosophy, history and geography influence their national policy.  

However, ATP 7-100.3 fails to explain how philosophy, history, or culture influence PLA “military thought,” the Chinese loose equivalent of “doctrine.”  Instead, the text simply lists two authors, Sunzi (older transliterations include Sun Tzu) and Mao Zedong, and states, “Sun Tzu and Mao together created the framework from which the PLA’s modern-day strategy and tactics are derived.”  It then states that the PLA is “Influenced largely by [Sunzi’s] The Art of War."

For the sake of understanding PLA tactics, reducing the PLA’s culture, history, and philosophy to only Sunzi and Mao, while unfortunate, is understandable.  But to understand PLA strategic thinking, Western thinkers cannot afford to be as reductionist by avoiding weighing Chinese philosophy, history, culture, and identity.  In 1977 Jack Snyder, then writing about Soviet nuclear operations, said, “Neither Soviet nor American strategists are culture-free, preconception-free game theorists.”  The same holds true when thinking about PLA strategists. 

Click here to watch the introductory video