29 March 2008

Soldier Scholars: Military Education as an Instrument of China's Strategic Power

This is scary.

Soldier Scholars: Military Education as an Instrument of China's Strategic Power

An examination of China’s PME reforms shows that Beijing’s belief in PME is more than rhetoric. China’s leadership has implemented sweeping organizational reforms, commissioned substantive pedagogical research and has institutionalized PME into the culture of the PLA. Today the PLA is leveraging its civilian academic institutions—as Roy Kamphausen stated—to “… train large numbers of technologically proficient military leaders better able to function on the high-tech battlefields of the 21st century.” Beijing’s investments in education have been impressive. From 1978 to 2004, the number of institutions of higher education in China nearly tripled while the number of faculty during that same time period quadrupled (China Brief, March 1, 2006).

Many studies have focused exclusively on the technological piece of the Chinese military transformation puzzle. Students of Chinese military power tend to emphasize the study of force structure and weapons systems while other aspects of military power such as doctrine, organizational structure and military education are neglected. The PLA’s sweeping education reforms indicate that English statesman Francis Bacon’s famous words that "knowledge is power" resonate with the leadership in Beijing. There are two overarching questions for defense analysts and Washington policymakers: How will China’s PME transformation impact their military effectiveness at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of warfare? And how will China’s military policy and strategy be affected writ-large? Enhancing education throughout the PLA is critical for producing a more highly effective force because it will provide officers and NCOs with the skills needed to succeed on the future battlefield. NCOs in the PLA will be more integrated into the system and likely to understand their orders within the broader context of the national war effort. This will influence their decision-making calculus at the tactical level, which can have operational and strategic implications. By transforming its entire PME system, the PLA is taking an important step to increase its military effectiveness at all levels of war, from tactical to strategic, by enhancing the quality of its personnel.



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