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Understanding the "People" of the People's Liberation Army

  • Book Cover - Understanding the 'People' of the PLA

    Understanding the "People" of the PLA

    As the People’s Liberation Army PLA continues to undergo a wide range of institutional and equipment changes, it garners much attention from think tanks, academics, and other militaries from around the world.  While the organizational and technological changes of the PLA are certainly important and merit study, one aspect that often is overlooked is the ‘softer’ side, the people who actually operate that equipment, and occupy the positions that make up the organizations.  

    This study focuses on the People of the People’s Liberation Army.  Without people, there is no army, and without highly trained people, there is no modern army.  This is true not just for China, but for nations all over the world, the United States included.  U.S. military periodicals and journals often feature articles and exposes detailing a myriad of ‘people problems’ facing the Department of Defense today.  Obesity of potential recruits, low levels of civilian unemployment, and massive pilot shortage, are just a few of the challenges that the U.S. facing with recruiting, training, and retaining the best and brightest for the U.S. military.  China’s Communist Party faces many of the same challenges in trying to fill and maintain the ranks of the PLA; however, some are uniquely Chinese, and may come as a surprise to those not familiar with certain aspects of Chinese culture.  For example:“Military spouses are no longer private citizens once they marry an active duty military member, and the stability of their marriage becomes a matter of national security (by law).”

    Certainly, a housing regulation here and a leave policy change there does not merit the same amount of research resources as does the newest fighter jet or missile technology; however, in order to ensure that leaders, policymakers, and practitioners at all levels get a holistic view of the PLA, the “People” can not be overlooked entirely.  “Understanding the “People” of the People’s Liberation Army” seeks to lay the foundation to better understand some of the key personnel issues that the PLA faces, and openly discusses in its own newspapers and journals.

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