Feb. 4, 2019

Breaking the Paradigm: Drivers Behind the PLA's Current Period of Reform

What prompted Xi Jinping and his colleagues in the military to launch the most ambitious restructuring of the PLA in a generation? In this chapter from the new NDU Press book "Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms," CNA Vice President David M. Finkelstein argues that three factors can help explain the reforms: the political need to reaffirm Chinese Communist Party authority within the military (which firmly remains a Leninist “party army”), an operational imperative to overcome institutional barriers to the army’s ability to wage modern joint operations, and an increasingly fragile national security environment requiring a stronger armed force. Finkelstein also suggests that Xi has been supported in his endeavor by a cast of professional PLA officers who have advocated for change from the inside, often drawing from U.S. and Russian examples.

Feb. 4, 2019

Appendix: Central Military Commission Reforms

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Feb. 4, 2019

Introduction: Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA

Integral to Xi Jinping’s vision of restoring China to greatness—what he defines as the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” [zhonghua minzu weida fuxing, 中华民族伟大复兴]—is building a more modern, capable, and disciplined military. China’s economic development, territorial integrity, and even the survival of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) itself cannot be guaranteed without an army that can fight and prevail in modern warfare. Articulating the need for a stronger military, Xi and his colleagues have reflected on periods of Chinese weakness, such as the era of imperial decline in the late 19th century and the Japanese occupation in the 1930s and 1940s. In Xi’s words, a “nation’s backwardness in military affairs has a profound influence on a nation’s security. I often peruse the annals of modern Chinese history and feel heartbroken at the tragic scenes of us being beaten because of our ineptitude.” Such humiliations, in his view, should never be repeated.

Feb. 4, 2019


Other than the introduction and conclusion, all the chapters in this book were originally presented as part of the PLA conference series co-sponsored by Taiwan’s Council of Advanced Policy Studies (CAPS), National Defense University (NDU), and the RAND Corporation. The editors thank the authors for their patience and hard work in revising and updating their papers for publication.

Jan. 30, 2019

A Strategic Overview of Latin America: Identifying New Convergence Centers, Forgotten Territories, and Vital Hubs for Transnational Organized Crime

This paper outlines a number of critical strategic challenges in Latin America for U.S. policymakers, which were directly identified in the December 2017 National Security Strategy. However, despite this recognition, these issues are seldom featured in policy discussions about the region.

Jan. 23, 2019

Joint Doctrine Update

Joint Doctrine Updates.

Jan. 23, 2019

J 3-24 Counterinsurgency

The Joint Staff has revised JP 3-24, Counterinsurgency, which provides instructions and doctrine to plan, execute, and assess counterinsurgency operations. JP 3-24 is a priority publication, which supports the National Defense Strategy and National Military Strategy. JP 3-24 defines counterinsurgency (COIN) as comprehensive civilian and military efforts designed to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes. Accordingly, JP 3-24 provides authoritative doctrine relative to counterinsurgency. Highlights include analysis of the COIN operational environment, the nature of an insurgency, considerations for COIN planning, and how to conduct a COIN assessment.

Jan. 23, 2019

Master and Commander in Joint Air Operations: Winning the Air War Through Mission Command

Much has been written on Mission Command and Control since 2012 when CJCS General Martin Dempsey released a white paper which encouraged this leadership style among his subordinates. Mission command is a proven concept in air operations, and will be required to face the challenges of future conflicts. Since the advent of satellite communications and the internet, however, command and control of joint air operations has become increasingly centralized. Mission command is essential to winning future air wars says, the author, which is feasible because new technology allows operational commanders to make tactical decisions from thousands of miles away.

Jan. 23, 2019

War in 140 Characters

How has social media reshaped the way war is fought? Brett Swaney reviews War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century by David Patrikarakos. Every war, says the author, is essentially a clash of narratives. The author’s hypothesis that social media has reshaped not just the nature of conflict but also the entire discourse surrounding warfare remains an open question. Nonetheless, this book is required reading for national security professionals who seek a better understanding of the power of social media and the contemporary conflict increasingly shaped by homo digitalis.

Jan. 23, 2019

Just War Reconsidered

The greatest blind spot of Just War Theory is the accountability of senior civilian and military leaders for wartime decisions. Anthony Pfaff reviews Just War Reconsidered: Strategy, Ethics, and Theory by James Dubik. This book covers the responsibilities and obligations of civilians for the decision to go to war, and the higher obligations of military leaders and soldiers pertaining to unnecessary harm, impermissible weapons, the acceptance of surrender, and the treatment of combatants and noncombatants, among others. This book is critical reading for national security professionals in positions where they will make or advise decision-makers regarding warfare.