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View Full Version : OoE, A quick enquiry on academic reading for the PLA



LongshotSNN
29 Oct 06,, 20:02
Sir, Would Shambaugh be a good starting point for a student?

And that said, how would one negotiate the differences between an "optimist" and a "pessimist" in terms of PLA modernization?

Officer of Engineers
29 Oct 06,, 21:18
Sir, Would Shambaugh be a good starting point for a student?

One of the better ones. No matter who you read, always read the footnotes. They form the basis of any research. No footnotes, the read is worthless.


And that said, how would one negotiate the differences between an "optimist" and a "pessimist" in terms of PLA modernization?

In this case, an optimist is the one who believes in photoshop and a pessimist only believes regimental colours. I'm a pessimist. If it ain't deployed and I don't see the regiment, I don't count it.

LongshotSNN
30 Oct 06,, 08:12
Thanks for the quick reply, sir.

Addendum: Are there anymore authors you'd recommend? So far I've combed some places and aside from Shambaugh's 2003 book, there's also Lilley, Blasko and I'm thinking of picking up Wortzel.

In essence, how would you define a good author on the PLA?

Officer of Engineers
31 Oct 06,, 19:44
I highly recommend Col (Ret'd) Ken Allen, USAF and Col (Ret'd) Denis Blasko, USArmy. Both were former defence attache to Beijing and as a result have personal contacts within the PLA. They're not toy lovers and are accutely aware of the PLA's problems but more importantly, they're also aware that the PLA is aware of their problems. They gave important insight on how the PLA views their problems and what kind of solution that they can accept or what kind of solution that they will reject (ie, American ones if only that they cannot afford it).

I count Wortzel, Richard Fisher, and Gates amongst the Washington Blue Group, ie trying to turn the PRC as a USSR replacement. They are, however, important reads as far as the raw intelligence is concerned but I remain highly skeptical about their conclusions.

LongshotSNN
19 Nov 06,, 17:14
Sir, a few other questions to bother you with.

Having read some of Shambaugh's other works, such as those regarding the China-Taiwan issue, I am a little puzzled. He comes off in some of his journal articles as a neutral Realist of sorts, but I get the idea also that he has that institutionalist feel to those works too.

Also, if Fisher and Wortzel can be put in the Blue team, then may I ask are there PLA-watchers who are Red team? How about Joffe, Godwin or Pillsbury?

I did read Godwin and Pillsbury, but couldn't make out their leanings, especially for the latter. Godwin comes off as another realistic sort, IMHO.

Officer of Engineers
21 Nov 06,, 07:22
My applogies. I saw this thread. Went to take care of screaming daughter and barking dog and forgot about it.

The problem with Shambaugh ... and almost every China watcher is that we all fall into the trap of thinking the Chinese know what they're doing. The thing to realize is that they're making mistakes and don't know what they're doing anymore than we do.

About the only thing we can do is look at trends and then try to see where those trends are going but like I said, even the Chinese don't know where they're going. It's extremely easy to say that the Chinese are concentrating on getting rich but looking at the economic problems facing them, they're doing alot more reacting than pro-active actions.

It's a case which do you look at more, the trees or the forest but at the same time noticing alot of fires coming and going. To state the status of the forest and trees in say 50 years time is hard. That is the case right now with China watching. As Astralis pointed out, local elections are coming in place. Is that the start of Chinese democracy ... or the elements of another Tianamen Square?

There are no "Red" Team but rather the pro-China bussiness group. That should give you an idea who they are,

Godwin and Pillsbury are Blue Team. They're the ones advocating a military response to China's maritime build up.

Blademaster
21 Nov 06,, 15:31
Godwin and Pillsbury are Blue Team. They're the ones advocating a military response to China's maritime build up.

A military response? A China's maritime build up?? Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!! It will take China 20 years to get to the level of Britain in navy strength and training but it means that USA will still be ahead.

Forget it. The only way China can match USA is if there is a Ironclad revolution in space warfare coming up where USA and CHina will be on the same level-- starting from scratch.

Officer of Engineers
21 Nov 06,, 15:55
Doesn't mean the US will give the PLAN a free ride. By deploying to Guam and Diego Garcia, the USN forced a PLAN recalculation in their strategy and deployment schema wheras they might have tempted to ignore those bases before hand.

hallo84
21 Nov 06,, 18:56
Doesn't mean the US will give the PLAN a free ride. By deploying to Guam and Diego Garcia, the USN forced a PLAN recalculation in their strategy and deployment schema wheras they might have tempted to ignore those bases before hand.

Let USN deploy. It's not like PLAN have any say in this matter or not.
If PLAN still follows its minimal deterrance objective then deployment in Guam and Diego Garcia should not affect its current calculations (political or otherwise). Taiwan may not be key anymore especially with the reduction in risk of war after Chen steps down. Politically Beijing may see an exit strategy or even try to engage in more bilateral activity with Ma.

astralis
21 Nov 06,, 19:32
About the only thing we can do is look at trends and then try to see where those trends are going but like I said, even the Chinese don't know where they're going. It's extremely easy to say that the Chinese are concentrating on getting rich but looking at the economic problems facing them, they're doing alot more reacting than pro-active actions.

It's a case which do you look at more, the trees or the forest but at the same time noticing alot of fires coming and going. To state the status of the forest and trees in say 50 years time is hard. That is the case right now with China watching. As Astralis pointed out, local elections are coming in place. Is that the start of Chinese democracy ... or the elements of another Tianamen Square?

i wonder to what degree the chinese know they are making mistakes, and how often, too, they correct these mistakes. after all, we can't see everything they do, right or wrong. this applies for both the PLA and the chinese state itself.

in terms of economics, i would like to add that in addition to col yu's astute observations, part of the reason why they're doing a lot more reacting these days is because they're slowly finding out that what used to work in a command economy does not do squat, or actually hurts, in the complexity of a market economy. for example, the chinese tried to order their banks, diktat-style, to stop loaning out so much money and reduce money velocity. that failed.

they're now crawling towards a monetary and fiscal policy more inline with what we're used to in the west.

here's an example of where the chinese realized they made a mistake (it took them quite a while). how many have they missed? in rumsfeldian terms, they must deal with "unknown unknowns" as well as "known unknowns", and that is what makes china-watching so difficult.

xinhui
21 Nov 06,, 22:06
The following is a review written by a good friend of my.


OK, anyone who knows anything about the PLA will find this to be a very boring read. With the possible acception of the chapter on the CMC, Shambaugh provides little in the way of original insight and the rest of the book simply rehashes material that could be found in tons of better books like You Ji's the Armed Forces of China, or RAND's The PLA as Organization, which frankly are very good investments.

Furthermore, Shambaugh's book is full of mistakes, including on p.1 where he states that the US use of B-1 bombers was critical to the destruction of Iraq during Desert Storm, which would be news to the US as the B-1 wasn't introduced in combat until Afghanistan. There are also examples of ships being misidentified in pictures. Not a good example of serious scholarly work.

The one good thing that I can say about this book is that the footnotes are incredible.

For a scholar as respected as Shambaugh who spent a decade or two on this, Modernizing China's Military was a really disappointing book,

xinhui
21 Nov 06,, 22:10
FYI, I met Shambaugh, been to his office, and saw his personal PLA collection at GW, a very impression collection of PLA published books i might add . Oh, he also reads CDF so are his students. One of his student whom I met told me they discuessed the role of BBS (CDF) in PLA watching.

Like all things, he is good at civil-military relations, but when it come to actual military issues, he is.....how to put it…. Not well respected.


How about Joffe, Godwin or Pillsbury?

Joffe, Godwin and Pillsbury are old schools, they are a great read. Godwin is still very active in the community. FYI, Godwin is working a article on Chinese navy, and when it cames it, you will find it an impressive read. Had not see much out of Joffe and Phillsbury lately.

xinhui
21 Nov 06,, 22:11
Sol Sanders thinks his book is complete crap (a direct quote) and the feeling is same here.

astralis
21 Nov 06,, 22:57
xinhui,


FYI, I met Shambaugh, been to his office, and saw his personal PLA collection at GW, a very impression collection of PLA published books i might add . Oh, he also reads CDF so are his students. One of his student whom I met told me they discuessed the role of BBS (CDF) in PLA watching.

Like all things, he is good at civil-military relations, but when it come to actual military issues, he is.....how to put it…. Not well respected.

oh, you've visited shambaugh too? that's probably a good reason why most of the classes he teaches at GWU focus on politics as opposed to military. in fact, i don't remember him teaching a single military course at the elliott school (the int'l relations school of GW).

xinhui
07 Aug 08,, 09:48
astralis

Are you sure we never ran into each other? I went to number of AEI conferences during the past 10 years.

astralis
07 Aug 08,, 16:55
xinhui,


Are you sure we never ran into each other? I went to number of AEI conferences during the past 10 years.

ah, that might be why. i've only gone to a few AEI conferences myself, most of the times i am more interested in what RAND pumps out.

however, a week or so ago i did have the chance to talk to ken allen during the PLA Day celebrations at the chinese embassy. during our chat, he mentioned your name: i had no idea he was a CDF-watcher too. :cool: then again, he doesn't know that about me either. :))

xinhui
19 Nov 08,, 18:22
Thanks, Frankly speaking RAND's Center for Asia Pacific Policy has been going down hill since James Mulvenon left. I'd enjoy works released by both NRB and US Naval War college recently.

astralis
19 Nov 08,, 22:14
andy,


Thanks, Frankly speaking RAND's Center for Asia Pacific Policy has been going down hill since James Mulvenon left.

agree


I'd enjoy works released by both NRB and US Naval War college recently.

thomas barnett and andrew erickson?

these days i'm reading SSI's stuff, especially kamphausen's, also trying to catch up on phillip saunders when i have the time.

xinhui
19 Nov 08,, 22:26
Not just Andrew, but everyone in that group.

Cmdr Murray's article on rethinking Taiwan defense generated some really heated debates especially with the folks from AEI, they either hate it or love it.

Speaking of which, have you watched this debate hosted by NBR yet? Good stuff.

http://www.nbr.org/asiapolicydebate/index.html

Over 300 people, representatives from over 12 embassies, and over 40 news outlets packed the National Press Club on September 22 for Asia Policy Debate 2008, as senior foreign policy advisors to presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama debated U.S. policy in Asia.

Michael J. Green and Daniel A. Blumenthal represented McCain/Palin and Ambassador Robert S. Gelbard and Frank Jannuzi represented Obama/Biden. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, NBR senior advisor, moderated the debate, and Lori Matsukawa, co-anchor of Seattle’s KING 5 News, served as the master of ceremonies.

xinhui
19 Nov 08,, 22:26
Yup SSI's last Annual PLA Conference rules! The chapter on NCO reform was excellent.

astralis
19 Nov 08,, 22:51
andy,


Cmdr Murray's article on rethinking Taiwan defense generated some really heated debates especially with the folks from AEI, they either hate it or love it.


surprised there were people from AEI who loved it- most of the people i know are very oorah for more US arms sales.

haven't seen the NBR stuff yet, will take a look.

speaking of SSI's annual PLA conference, did you go to the recent one in September? didn't have the chance to go myself, but it looked interesting. as for NCO reform, i know what you mean, in fact this is what i'm looking at now.

http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?PubID=858

xinhui
20 Nov 08,, 00:30
no, I did not go but know about it from my friends. Actually, I have not done much recently. Been very lazy.