May 2, 2019

Executive Summary

What good is looking back? Fifty years ago, one of the key people behind the Apollo Moon missions was a computer scientist named Margaret Hamilton. Like many young people in those days, I was all about becoming an astronaut and going to the Moon. While the early astronauts were all men, not everyone involved was, as proved all too well in the movie Hidden Figures. Until that movie, I had no idea who programmed the computers that made the mission possible—and I read everything I could in the Space Race days of the 1960s. Why did I not know that story? It was a different time—no Internet, only three major television networks, and people of color and women were often excluded from the frontlines of many parts of society. Our view of the world was far more restricted than it is today. I suspect most of our readers have a hard time imagining a past where such boundaries existed or, more likely, why some still exist even if laws removed them long ago.

April 16, 2019

China's Other Army: The People's Armed Police in an Era of Reform

China’s premier paramilitary force—the People’s Armed Police (PAP)—is undergoing its most profound restructuring since its establishment in 1982. Politically, the reforms reaffirm Chinese Communist Party (and Xi Jinping’s) control over the PAP and may reduce the scope for local abuse of power. Operationally, the reforms narrow the PAP’s responsibilities to three key areas: domestic stability, wartime support, and maritime rights protection. PAP activities beyond China’s borders are likely to increase and could have implications for the United States and other Indo-Pacific states.

March 25, 2019

Russian Challenges from Now into the Next Generation: A Geostrategic Primer

U.S. and Western relations with Russia remain challenged as Russia increasingly reasserts itself on the global stage. Russia remains driven by a worldview based on existential threats—real, perceived, and contrived. As a vast, 11-time zone Eurasian nation with major demographic and economic challenges, Russia faces multiple security dilemmas internally and along its vulnerable and expansive borders. Exhibiting a reactive xenophobia stemming from a long history of destructive war and invasion along most of its borders, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and perceived Western slights, Russia increasingly threatens others and lashes outward. However, time is not on Russia’s side, as it has entered into a debilitating status quo that includes unnecessary confrontation with the West, multiple unresolved military commitments, a sanctions-strained and only partially diversified economy, looming domestic tensions, and a rising China directly along its periphery. Washington still has an opportunity to carefully improve U.S.-Russia relations and regain a more stable relationship in the near term, but only if activities and initiatives are based on a firm and frank appreciation of each other’s core interests, including those of their allies and partners.

March 13, 2019

El Salvador's Recognition of the People's Republic of China: A Regional Context

In January 2016, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) abandoned an 8-year truce in its war with the Republic of China (ROC) over diplomatic recognition around the world and subsequently moved to aggressively woo traditional Taipei allies. This paper centers on the PRC’s recent successful push into Latin America, and particularly in Central America—historically a primary area of influence for the United States. Through a concerted effort—and often in exchange for promises of mega investments and financial aid—the PRC increasingly receives a warm welcome across the Latin American continent. This paper analyzes recent decisions by several countries in the Western Hemisphere in recognizing PRC and offers an in-depth assessment of El Salvador’s recent decision to break historic ties to Taiwan and embrace Beijing—a move that presents a significant strategic challenge to U.S. regional interests.

Feb. 11, 2019

Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms

China’s current military reforms are unprecedented in their ambition and in the scale and scope of the organizational changes. Virtually every part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) now reports to different leaders, has had its mission and responsibilities changed, has lost or gained subordinate units, or has undergone a major internal reorganization.

Feb. 8, 2019

Introduction Appendix: Central Military Commission Reforms

This appendix analyzes the organizational logic behind the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) shift from a system centered on a small Central Military Commission (CMC) staff and the four general departments to a much larger post-reform CMC staff that incorporates many of the functions of the former general departments. It also describes the functions of the 15 new CMC departments, commissions, and offices that were announced on January 11, 2016.

Feb. 5, 2019

About the Contributors

About the Contributors from the new NDU Press book "Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms."

Feb. 5, 2019

Conclusion: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms

China’s military reforms are driven by Xi Jinping’s ambition to reshape the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to improve its ability to win informationized wars and to ensure that it remains loyal to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). There is broad political support within the party for Xi’s goal of building a stronger military. The outline of the current military reform agenda was endorsed at the third plenum of the 18th Party Congress in November 2013, and Xi played a central role in working with PLA leaders to develop detailed reorganization plans and implement the reform agenda. At the first meeting of the new leading group on military reform in early 2014, Xi declared that the overriding goal was to produce a military that can “fight and win battles.” The 19th Party Congress work report in October 2017 advanced the timeline for Chinese military modernization, calling for achieving mechanization and making strides on informationization and building strategic capabilities by 2020 and building “world-class forces” [shijie yiliu jun, 世界一流军] by mid-century.

Feb. 5, 2019

System Overload? The 2015 PLA Force Reduction, Military-Locality Relations, and the Potential for Social Instability

Like his predecessors, Xi Jinping has sought to improve the PLA by trimming its size and adjusting its outdated force structure. In their chapter in the new NDU Press book, "Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms," Taiwan National Defense University Professor Ma Chengkun and John Chen describe the regulations in place to handle demobilized PLA soldiers. They assess that relocation problems will be reduced by the ability of local governments to provide educational benefits for ex-PLA members and an anti-corruption campaign that has made some former soldiers ineligible for support.

Feb. 5, 2019

Civil-Military Integrations and PLA Reforms

In his chapter in the new NDU Press book, "Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms," PLA specialist Brian Lafferty provides a comprehensive overview of China’s attempt to close the civilian-military gap, concluding that the “track record suggests that even positive returns will involve a longer and more difficult process than the Party currently acknowledges.”