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  • The China Reading List.

    This is a reference thread on China related reading list, please feel free to contribute.

    For starter, the following is an excellent intro to PLA done by some of the most respected names in the PLA watching community and it is free to download.

    The People's Liberation Army as Organization
    Reference Volume v1.0
    Cover: CF-182 | The People's Liberation Army as Organization: Reference Volume v1.0

    Edited by: James C. Mulvenon and Andrew N. D. Yang

    This book is the product of a conference, held in October 2000, that brought together many of the nation's top experts to evaluate issues of structure and process in the People's Liberation Army (PLA). The editors believe that fundamental knowledge about the PLA can be ascertained from the study of its organizational structure, and that this type of structure and process analysis is the critical first step toward a revolution in our understanding of the central issues, including how the PLA will fight. The papers in this volume present a comprehensive view of the administrative and operational structure of the PLA. In exhaustive detail, they discuss the leadership, history, organization, functions, and possible future direction of each of the PLA's Commissions and Military Departments.
    Support RAND Research — Buy This Product!

    Paperback Cover Price: $110.00

    Discounted Web Price: $99.00

    Pages: 656

    ISBN/EAN: 0-8330-3303-4

    Free, downloadable PDF file(s) are available below.
    Download PDF Part 1

    (File size 9.2 MB, 37 minutes modem, 5 minutes broadband)
    Prefatory Material, Chapters 1-7
    Download PDF Part 2

    (File size 9.3 MB, 37 minutes modem, 5 minutes broadband)
    Chapters 8-12

    RAND makes an electronic version of this document available for free as a public service. If you find this information valuable, please consider purchasing a paper copy of the full document to help support RAND research.

    Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 7.0 or higher for the best experience.

    Chapter 1:
    Introduction to the PLA's Administrative and Operational Structure

    Chapter 2:
    The Central Military Commission and Military Policy in China

    Chapter 3:
    The Pinnacle of the Pyramid: The Central Military Commission

    Chapter 4:
    The General Staff Department of the Chinese People's Liberation Army: Organization, Roles, & Missions

    Chapter 5:
    The General Political Department and the Evolution of the Political Commissar System

    Chapter 6:
    The People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Logistics Department (GLD): Toward Joint Logistics Support

    Chapter 7:
    The General Armament Department

    Chapter 8:
    PLA Ground Forces: Moving Toward a Smaller, More Rapidly Deployable, Modern Combined Arms Force

    Chapter 9:
    PLA Air Force Organization

    Chapter 10:
    The Organization of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)

    Chapter 11:
    The Chinese Second Artillery Corps: Transition to Credible Deterrence

    Chapter 12:
    The Institutional Lessons Of Disaster: Reorganizing The People's Armed Police After Tiananmen
    “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all” -- Joan Robinson

  • #2
    Red Star Over China- Edgar Snow

    Integral in shaping both western and urban Chinese views to the CCP pre-1941. Probably our first glimpse at Mao Tse-Tung and other notables, to include Chou En-lai, Lin Piao, and (I think) a modest nod to Chu Teh.

    Most western perspectives trace from here, I believe, however topical Snow's approach.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs


    • #3
      One more to add to the list.

      "The search for Modern China by Johathan D. Spence. Very readable and generally consider to be one of the best work on general Chinese history from Ming to 1989.
      “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all” -- Joan Robinson


      • #4
        Fundamental Issues In Present-day China by Deng Xiaoping.

        It is a collection of his speeches and papers published before 1987. It is a gem (for some of us), yes, it is a propaganda, but it is remarkably frank and gives a good idea how he thinks. While one can't agree with him on many issues, but the Chinese leadership still uses his frameworks as guides in many of the current policies and it is always interesting to see how he sees China in 20, 30 and 50 years (from 1987)

        One of the best quotes "I am a layman I the field of economics. I have made a few remarks on the subject, but all from a political point of view" Oct 6, 1984.

        If it is on sell and cheap, pick up a copy. It gives me a few chuckles every time I read it. :P especially his paper on "An idea for the peaceful reunification of the Chinese Mainland and Taiwan" from 1983.
        “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all” -- Joan Robinson


        • #5
          Interpreting China's Grand Strategy by Michael D. Swaine and Ashley J. Tellis is a great starting point and it's free from RAND:

          To brush up on 5,000 years of Chinese history, I'd dust off the classics by John King Fairbank and Immanuel C.Y. Hsu:

          For a grounding in the IR literature on China's rise, consult:

          On the Chinese economy, Barry Naughton is the most comprehensive, but MacFarquhar and Goldman provide useful background while Joseph Studwell is readily accessible:


          • #6
            My thanks for the list, but Fairbank???!!! you are kidding, I hope.
            “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all” -- Joan Robinson


            • #7

              The Chinese Army Today, by Dennis Blasko

              used in US Air War College


              by the way, JK Fairbank and to a lesser degree Spence is the basis for most undergraduate education in Chinese history. if nothing else, reading Fairbank and the books of today is a good lesson on how THINKING about chinese history in the west has evolved...
              There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov


              • #8
                Fairbank is not without his faults, but does mark an important break in the literature. He also spawned a generation of China scholars. To that end, Astralis is correct. I’m not suggesting Fairbank is the end all be all, but his books are widely available and when perusing the shelves at Barnes & Noble, one can do a heck of a lot worse.


                • #9
                  What do you guys think about Andrew Scobell? I found the concept "Cult of Defense" and it seems to sum up a lot of material describing Chinese military attitudes, in that the Chinese elites believe that their defense culture is defensive in nature despite what looks to the outside observer to be an extensive history of external military deployments.


                  • #10
                    I finished Scobell's "China and Strategic Culture", an article detailing this concept, and I guess I do have some objections. First, I'm not sure whether his conception of PLA/CPC discourse on American and Japanese strategic culture is mainstream. Chinese think-tanks, while supposedly diffuse in number (Mark Leonard, What Does China Think), is admittedly quite variable in quality (ibid.). There are definitely people who have extremely racist notions of American and Japanese strategic culture, and they are probably well-represented at the bottom of the barrel, but at the top?

                    Second, he never defines explicitly in what situations the CPC/PLA will resort to force. The concept of the Cult of Defense is quite understandable in that people and leaders in many countries fail to understand and respect the point of view of their counterparties, and a belief that their side is righteous can lead to a preference for the use of force, but in China, he never explicitly states exactly where their propensity for force is in comparison to other countries (perhaps he does so in texts I haven't read?).

                    Third, I think Scobell overstates (or states without sufficient evidence) the effect of his model on Chinese leaders. He may have identified an element in Chinese strategic thought, the delusions of righteousness that accompany every human at times, but to use it as a core to explain the entirity of CPC/PLA action seems unfounded.
                    Last edited by Inst; 20 Mar 09,, 17:15. Reason: Added article title


                    • #11

                      It has been a while since I read that book, and as I recalled, it was a good attempt to understand the Chinese culture, but there is a saying (I am not sure I get it right) "Fight the war, not the doctrine" If there is one we learned in the past few years (EP3, Impeccable, the gas field, the bronze status sales, on the list is too long) is that the Chinese governments, including both PRC and ROC and some of her citizens will rise hell if they see something "they don't like" and in doing so, they made a fool out of themselves.

                      You are talking about a nation with 80,000 larges scale protests a year, hardly a group of people who worships the "cult of defense"
                      “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all” -- Joan Robinson


                      • #12
                        Actually, Scobell is attempting synthesis between Johnston and Fairbanks; the former arguing that the Chinese are hard realists, while the latter gives too much play to Confucian-Mencian doctrine. The "cult of defense" he's referring to means that the Chinese elites refuse to believe that they are committing an act of aggression, which makes them more prone to military action. In one of his shorter articles describing the "cult of defense", he changes his position to the paradoxical one that the Chinese regard force as "use sparingly, repeat as often as needed".


                        • #13
                          “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all” -- Joan Robinson


                          • #14
                   <-- repeat as often as needed

                            Can either you or OoE post a China-watchers thread to detail the schools within the China-watching community? Or maybe you guys already have one on CDF?

                            ah, found it

                            Last edited by Inst; 25 Mar 09,, 22:35.


                            • #15
                              On my to read list:

                              Democracy Is a Good Thing - Brookings Institution

                              As an amazed world watches the explosive growth of China’s increasingly free market economy, international observers hope that this economic liberalization will be followed by greater political liberalization and freedom. This timely volume provides important clues on where Chinese political development is heading.

                              Democracy Is a Good Thing brings together the most important work of Yu Keping, a leading Chinese intellectual and prominent figure in official think tanks. Yu’s widely read essay "Democracy Is a Good Thing" has been the touchstone for heated debate within China on the desirability of democratic reform. That important piece appears here, along with several of Yu Keping’s other influential works on politics and democracy. This collection pulls back the curtain to reveal ongoing debates in Chinese political and intellectual circles, discussions that will go a long way toward determining the future of the world’s most populous nation.

                              Part I. Social and Political Development
                              1. Democracy Is a Good Thing
                              2. Political Science Studies in China: An Overview
                              3. Incremental Democracy and Political Reform
                              4. China’s Civil Society: Institutional Environment and Administrative Regulations

                              Part II. Culture, Modernity, and Sustainability
                              5. Culture and Modernity in the Chinese Intellectual Discourse: A Historical Perspective
                              6. Transformation of Chinese Culture since the Reform
                              7. China’s Economic Modernization and Sustainability
                              8. Harmony between Man and Nature: China’s Practice and Challenges

                              Part III. Globalization and Governance
                              9. Preserving China’s Autonomy under Globalization Pressures
                              10. Federalism in Modern China: Concept and Experiments
                              11. Globalization and Changes in Public Administration in China
                              12. A Harmonious World and Global Governance: A Chinese Perspective

                              ABOUT THE AUTHORS
                              Yu Keping (Author)
                              Yu Keping is deputy director of the Translation Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party Committee and a professor of politics at Beijing University.

                              John L. Thornton (Foreword)
                              John L.Thornton is chairman of the board of trustees at the Brookings Institution and professor and director of Global Leadership at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

                              Cheng Li (Introduction)
                              Cheng Li, a senior fellow in the China Center at Brookings, is editor of China's Changing Political Landscape: Prospects for Democracy (Brookings, 2008).
                              “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all” -- Joan Robinson