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[ 67 ] roundtable • sizing the chinese military China’s National Military Strategy: An Overview of the “Military Strategic Guidelines” David M. Finkelstein Since the mid-1990s the Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has been engaged in a seminal period of focused and sustained efforts to modernize. For more than a decade the armed forces of China have been undergoing transformative adjustments of such a profound nature relative to the past that one group of mainland military authors considers this ongoing period of reform to constitute the PLA’s “third modernization.” What is the PLA trying to achieve and, more importantly, why? What calculations, assumptions, and assessments are driving Beijing to enact changes in its military forces? What objectives does the leadership of the PLA seek to achieve? These are not merely academic questions. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is also asking these fundamental questions, and the answers the DoD comes up with will have an impact on U.S. military modernization plans and programs. The 2006 DoD report to Congress stated: “China’s leaders have yet to adequately explain the purposes or desired endstates of their military expansion…this lack of transparency prompts others to ask, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld did in June 2005: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing robust deployments?” The 2007 report continues to lament that Chinese leaders have not provided a rationale for military modernization. This essay seeks to answer some of the fundamental questions being asked about Chinese military modernization.  See Wang Wenrong (General Editor), et al., Zhongguo jundui disanci xiandaihua lungang [On the Third Modernization of the PLA], (Beijing: Liberation Army Press, February 2005). The authors argue that the first significant “modernization” of the PLA occurred just prior to the founding of the PRC in 1949, “on the eve of the founding of the New China,” and the second modernization began in the mid-1980s. The third modernization to which they refer began, they argue, in the mid-1990s, especially the latter half.  Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2006 u, 1.  Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2007 u David M. Finkelstein is Director of the China Studies Center and Project Asia at the CNA Corporation in Alexandria, Virginia. note u This essay is a shortened version of a paper originally presented at the conference “Exploring the ‘Right Size’ for China’s Military: PLA Missions, Functions, and Organization,” Carlisle Barracks, PA, October 6–8, 2006 and to be included in Roy Kamphausen and Andrew Scobell, eds., Right Sizing the People’s Liberation Army: Exploring the Contours of China’s Military (Carlisle, PA: Army War College Press, forthcoming). [ 68 ] asia policy The Military Strategic Guidelines: Blueprint for Military Modernization Not surprisingly, the PLA does have an overarching framework that provides a rationale for military modernization. This framework provides the justification for activities across the entire spectrum of defense reform and modernization, determines priorities, and eventually connects with resourceallocation processes. This strategic rationale is contained within the Military Strategic Guidelines that are issued by the Central Military Commission (CMC)oftheCentralCommitteeoftheCCP.TheMilitaryStrategicGuidelines is the near analogue to the U.S. National Military Strategy. Issuing a new set of military strategic guidelines, or announcing major revisions to the guidelines, is considered a significant political-military event within China. Following the founding of the PRC in 1949, the guidelines have according to PLA materials undergone major revision only five times. New military strategic guidelines are issued in response to major changes in one or all of the following areas of assessment: (1) changes in the international order, (2) changes to the international or regional security environment and to China’s security situation, (3) changes to China’s domestic situation or changes in domestic objectives, and (4) changes in the nature of warfare itself. New guidelines are issued under the name of the chairman of the CMC...


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