Dennis J. Blasko: Chinese Strategic Thinking: People’s War in the 21st Century

From the China Briefing:

People’s war is not a static or dead theory. As the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) modernizes through the processes of mechanization and informationization, “China is striving to make innovations in the content and forms of people’s war” (2008 China’s Defense White Paper). Contrary to the perception that people’s war relies “on ‘rifles and millet’ and overwhelming numbers (e.g. human wave attacks) with an emphasis on guerrilla warfare and protracted conflict,” according to The Science of Strategy people’s war “is a form of organization of war, and its role has nothing to do with the level of military technology” [1]. In part to compensate for its technological shortfalls, mobilization of the Chinese population is key to supporting the country’s war effort “by political, economic, technical, cultural and moral means” (The Science of Military Strategy, p. 455).

The recently concluded annual meeting for the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC)—China’s legislature—signed the National Defense Mobilization Law, which provides a legal basis for integration of civilian resources into military operations when “the sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity or security of the nation are threatened.” The law “sets out principles and organizational mechanisms for national defense mobilization, personnel and strategic material storage” and will go into effect July 1 (Xinhua News Agency, February 26). Its text is widely available, in Chinese, on the internet (, February 26).

The passage of the mobilization law underscores the continued relevance of people’s war in Chinese strategic thinking. In order to understand how the Chinese armed forces will fight Local Wars under Informationized Conditions, people’s war in its modern permutation must be considered.


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