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Traditional Military Thinking and the Defensive Strategy of China

Authored by Lieutenant General Li Jijun. Edited by Dr. Earl H. Tilford Jr.. | August 1997

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Lieutenant General Li Jijun is the Vice President of the Chinese People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Science. The Academy is the principal military institution for developing military doctrine and strategic theory in the People's Republic of China. Established in 1958 on the northwestern side of Beijing, the Academy has a mostly military staff of about 500 full-time researchers, engineers, and specialists, some of whom are scholars of national repute and tutors of doctoral candidates.

The Academy is more than a national defense university. It conducts research on national defense issues, armed forces development, and military operations. It organizes, plans, and coordinates academic endeavors throughout the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and maintains a broad range of contacts with all PLA units. In addition to performing theoretical analyses and academic study, the Academy deploys senior faculty teams to augment operational headquarters during times of conflict. Moreover, the Academy performs consultant functions for China's Central Military Commission and the General Departments of the PLA.

The Academy's leaders have always come from the senior ranks of the PLA and have included some of China's most experienced and influential generals. General Li is no exception. He began his military career as a junior officer during the Korean War. As he matured in service to his nation, General Li earned a reputation for being one of China's most respected and influential strategists. His position of leadership in the Academy of Military Science, coupled with the Academy's ubiquitous influence over Chinese national security matters, confirms the significance of the following address.

Another factor adding relevance to General Li's remarks is how they fit in the contemporary international strategic context. In support of China's policies of "reform and opening up," the PLA is actively seeking military-to-military relations with other nations, particularly with the United States. Aware of this historic juncture, General Li delivered his address in the spirit of increased Sino-American dialogue and cooperation. The speech is interesting for what it tells us not only about Chinese strategy, but how the Chinese government views threats to its national security.

However challenging, it is important for American strategists to view the international security environment from a Chinese perspective. Only then can our dialogue be meaningful, our engagement productive, and further cooperation possible. General Li's address is a grand first step toward explaining how China views the military dimensions of its national security strategy.

Douglas C. Lovelace

Research Professor

Strategic Studies Institute