Li Xiaobing, A History of the Modern Chinese Army [Lexington,
Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 2007]
Reviewed by Yu Maochun, Professor of East Asia and Military History,
United States Naval Academy
Li Xiaobing's new history marks a major achievement in the study of the Chinese Communist armed forces, collectively known as the People's Liberation Army, or the PLA, primarily for the simple reason that there has been a glaring shortage of anything readable in Western languages on the inner logic and historical evolution of the PLA. A former PLA soldier himself, Li has unique advantages in producing such an impressive tome. First of all, he has gathered a large and unparalleled pool of primary and secondary sources, Chinese or otherwise, for writing this book. The result is a well-researched, richly documented book that adds authenticity to many of its claims. Secondly, Li's prior service in the PLA has clearly given him an intimate perspective on the social life and cultural transformation of the PLA, which makes the book unique in that it is the first attempt in a Western language to reveal the history of the PLA as "a soldier’s story."
The Asian Military Revolution: From Gunpowder to the Bomb
by Peter A. Lorge, Cambridge University Press, 2008; 188 pages.
Reviewed by Paul Lococo Jr, University of Hawaii-Leeward
This book is strewn with IEDs that explode with regularity as one reads through the introduction, seven chapters, and conclusion. The explosions do not cause physical damage, but damage to a number of assumptions and arguments too often held by Western writers and scholars in discussions of Asian military history. Peter Lorge has provided a very valuable contribution to our understanding of the impact of gunpowder weapons on Asian military practices and societies. Possibly just as important, Lorge convincingly demonstrates that there was a significant military revolution in Asia prior to the arrival of the Europeans. Or, rather, as he would have it, several different military revolutions in Asia, as there was no one common response to the use of gunpowder weapons. When Europeans arrived in the modern period they had firearms that were slightly advanced compared to Asian guns, but through trade (and sometimes directly) Asians quickly acquired these and thus Asian gunpowder weapons were never more than at most a few years behind the Europeans.