1. Peter Lorge (Vanderbilt University)
"War in the _Discourses on Salt and Iron"
Although primarily known for its extended discussions of economic issues, "The Discourses on Salt and Iron" devotes several chapters
to military affairs. These chapters discuss warfare in very concrete terms, and confront issues like the correct policies for dealing with border barbarians that are absent from military texts like the Sunzi or Wuzi. The fundamental positions on strategy, whether to campaign offensively to expand territory, maintain a forward defense, or establish a passive defense, would be repeated for the rest of Chinese history. Moreover, since these discussions followed the previous day’s debates on the economic policies that enabled Han Wudi to wage offensive, expansionary war, we might reasonably see _The Discourses on Salt and Iron_ as a text on grand strategy.
This paper will first place _The Discourses on Salt and Iron_ in its political and strategic context; it will then describe the respective military polices advocated by the interlocutors; and finally it will contrast those policies and the strategic outlook of the participants with the very different perspective of the Warring States period military texts. _The Discourses on Salt and Iron_ proceeds from the question of whether the imperial state should harness economic activity to an aggressive military policy (as well as limiting internal agglomerations of power by private citizens), or whether economic activity should be left to the people, thus limiting the state’s military capability. As a fundamental court policy debate the economic and military issues were inextricably linked.
2. Jonathan Skaff (Shippensburg University)
"The Geo-Strategic Significance of Inner Mongolia: A Case Study of the Sui-Tang and Türk Empires"
A geographic factor, control over Inner Mongolia, played a heretofore underappreciated role in determining the balance of power between China and Mongolia. This region served as strategically important staging grounds for either Turkic raids southward on China or Sui-Tang expeditions northward into Inner Asia. Keys to military success were control of the water, grass and pastoral nomadic tribes in the extensive zone, north of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall, where the Gobi desert met the grasslands of Hexi and Inner Mongolia. When Turkic cavalry could travel southward from Mongolia through the parched Gobi Desert and enter the Inner Mongolian steppe unimpeded, their horses could be rested, fed and watered to prepare for raids on China. On the other hand, when the Sui and Tang garrisoned strategic points in the China-Inner Asia borderlands and held the allegiances of pastoral nomads of the region, invading Turkic armies were easily repulsed. Moreover, control of these borderlands facilitated expansion into Inner Asia. The grasslands supported pastoral nomadic tribes, which supplied Sui-Tang garrisons and expeditionary armies with skilled cavalry warriors and quality mounts. Whichever side controlled the intermediate Inner Mongolian zone between China and Mongolia gained a substantial advantage in warfare.
3. George L. Israel (Macon State College)
"Ming Court and Country during the Ning Princely Rebellion"
I propose to assess how military power was exercised within the boundaries of the Ming state by examining the political culture that led to the rebellion in 1519 by a Ming prince, Zhu Chenhao, as well as how that rebellion was suppressed by the famed Ming philosopher and statesman Wang Yangming. Given the slow pace with which he expected that the Ming court would be able to mobilize armies, and fearing that the more time the prince had the more dangerous the situation would become, as grand coordinator of Southern Jiangxi,
and having just led campaigns to suppress localized armed disturbances in that region, Wang Yangming rapidly assembled an army from diverse elements of the regional population and quickly defeated the prince’s rebel force. From this series of events, we learn just how perverse the functioning of the Ming court had become, and yet also how through local action loyal officials were able
draw upon the resources at their disposal, both material and ideological, to restore stability to the Ming state.
4. Edward A. McCord (George Washington University)
"Predatory Warlordism: Wang Zhanyuan in Hubei"
This paper focuses on the career of Wang Zhanyuan, military governor of Hubei from 1915 to 1921, to show how warlords could translate their military and political power into personal wealth. In his seven years in office, Wang was able to accumulate a personal fortune of around thirty to forty million yuan, making him one of the wealthiest men of his era. The paper therefore identifies Wang’s administration of Hubei as a form of “predatory rule.” While such predatory behavior was by no means a rarity, memoirs by a number of Wang’s associates give us a clearer understanding of the specific ways and means of warlord corruption than in many other instances. The paper does not argue, however, that Wang’s military and political power allowed him to indulge in his greed without restraint. This paper will seek to show how a variety of factors, including the competitive politics of warlordism itself, also placed constraints on warlord autonomy. Indeed, in the case of Wang Zhanyuan, the tensions between his desire for military expansion and his appetite for personal enrichment ultimately contributed to his downfall. Wang attempts to disband his original troops (whose pay he regularly embezzled) with even cheaper new recruits resulted in mutinies that provided an opening for other warlords to challenge his control over Hubei province. Wang’s case therefore gives us a clearer picture of the nature of Republican warlordism by showing both the
resources available to and the constraints on military commanders in this period.
5. Yan Xu (Ohio State University)
"Fish-Water Intimacy: The Construction of Soldier Heroes in Mass Culture in Yan’an, 1937-1945"
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Communist Party accumulated strength incrementally village by village. Yan’an, a northwest inland city, became the seat of the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region. In order to ensure the continued popular support for military recruitment, the Chinese Communists made strenuous efforts to build army-civilian solidarity in Yan’an. Substantial mass cultural productions were created on the themes of the image of soldier and army-people solidarity. What role does the emotional ties
between Communist soldiers and peasants play in the discourse on soldier heroes? My paper approaches this question by examining the party’s wartime social and cultural campaigns and by closely reading a representative genre of mass culture in wartime Yan’an, the yangge drama.
The yangge drama is selected as a case study of mass culture on the soldier hero in Yan’an because of its unique social significance. The yangge targeted both males and females, both the literate and the illiterate. It was officially developed into a mass movement in 1943 at the same time the campaign of supporting the army was going on in the border region. Therefore, the yangge serves as the best window in examining the political and social background of the discourse on soldiers’ masculinities and how different forces participated in the construction of that discourse. Cultural propagandists celebrated the emotional ties between soldiers and peasants as an integrated factor in defining a soldier hero. The construction of CCP soldier heroes within the framework of army-people intimacy
in wartime mass culture was crucial for the CCP’s project of managing close social integration in their revolutionary base.
My study on the construction of soldiers’ heroes in wartime mass culture in Yan’an will attempt to engage dialogue with previous scholarship on Chinese Communist revolution, Chinese masculinity, and wartime popular culture. Existing studies examine the CCP’s wartime success in military mobilization in the paradigm of double appeals──national resistance and socioeconomic and political reforms. This framework is based on the presumption of rationality in decision-making and behaviors on the part of the CCP and on the part of the rural peasants. The construction of soldier heroes within the framework of army-people emotional ties will add a cultural perspective to existing scholarship on Chinese revolution.
The CCP’s political, economic and cultural policies established army-people intimacy as a legitimate category of social emotion in Yan’an. As Mao and his associates pressed for a new mass culture that drew on China’s own folk tradition yangge, a new discourse on soldier heroes was forged along the lines of army-people intimacy. Chinese Communist soldiers did not hesitate in expressing their
emotions toward peasants. In contrast to the Western rationality-oriented masculinity, the expression of emotions was integrated into the masculinity of Chinese communist soldier hero. The Maoist discourse on the soldier heroes in mass culture engineered social emotions between soldiers and peasants as a method of political mobilization. The army-people intimacy celebrated in mass culture was gendered in a way that strengthened the patriarchal authority of male peasants. The mobilization of this social emotion is crucial for the rapid development of the CCP army in the border region during the war.
6. David Silbey (Cornell University)
"Military Choices Made by the Empress Dowager Cixi during the Boxer Uprising"
My paper looks at the military choices made by the Dowager Empress Cixi during the Boxer Uprising, analyzes Chinese military performance during the Uprising, and looks at the tension between the formal military power offered by the dynasty's armies and the informal military power offered by the Boxers themselves.
7. Harold M. Tanner (University of North Texas)
"Learning Through Practice: Chinese Communist Forces in the Three Expeditions/Four Defenses Campaign, Winter 1946-47"
In October 1946 Chinese Communist forces in the Northeast stood at a crossroads. Over the course of the past year, Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist armies had pushed the vast majority of Lin Biao’s men north of the Songhua River, where they were building a base area. All that remained of the Communist presence in South Manchuria was a small base area in a few counties in the mountainous terrain backing onto the border with North Korea. Nationalist commander Du Yuming hoped to deal with the Communists by eliminating the weak and isolated South Manchuria Base Area, and then turning north to cross the Songhua and wipe out their main force.
Under these circumstances, the Communists had to meet two challenges. The first was to survive. The second was to learn the tactical skills necessary to go toe-to-toe with the Nationalist soldiers in order to move from defensive to offensive operations, annihilate substantial numbers of enemy troops, and expand Communist-held territory. Lin Biao found the solution to both these challenges in a series of operations known as the “Three Expeditions/Four Defenses Campaign.” This paper will draw on open and internal Chinese secondary sources, published documents, and memoirs to show how the Chinese Communist forces in the Northeast successfully defended their precarious base areas and at the same time accumulated a series of victories and tactical experience which enabled them to grasp the initiative, moving from guerrilla to conventional operations and, at the same time, from the strategic defensive to the strategic offensive.
8. Edward F. Chen (Flushing, NY)
"'Broken Fist': The Decline and Recovery of the Nationalist Armor Force during the Chinese Civil War, 1945-50"
Despite the country’s inability to manufacture a single tank, during the Second World War Nationalist China under Chiang Kai-shek managed to develop modest armored forces, both with their own limited resources and with extensive American assistance. These were committed to combat when China’s frail logistics could permit it, at critical moments in late 1939 in southern China and in 1942 in the first Burma Campaign, and later when the American-trained Provisional Tank Group spearheaded the joint Chinese and American offensive into northern Burma from 1943-45. Thus when the Civil War broke out, Chiang’s Nationalist Army, in the process of expanding their Armored Command with American-trained personnel, were fully confident in their ability to help crush poorly-equipped Communist guerilla forces. This paper will present an overview of the development of the Nationalist Army’s armored force during the Civil War period, and how its decline paralleled that of the Nationalist Army, through poor leadership and strategy,training and logistical problems, which decimated the Armored Command in several decisive campaigns. The recovery of the Nationalist Armored Command near the end of the Civil War, coinciding with their decisive role in the 1949 Battle of Kinmen Island that saved the Nationalist cause on Taiwan, will also be addressed, and how this influenced the development of the Armored Command into the Cold War period.
9. Benjamin Knight (University of California, Berkeley)
"People's Army versus People's Party: Comparing Domestic Military Influence in Postwar China and North Korea"
Today the political influence of the Chinese armed forces is far less than that of the Korean People’s Army (KPA). This paper argues that this difference in relative strength between the party and the army as political actors stems from a definitive historical basis. I conduct a historical comparison of the evolution of PRC and DPRK’s domestic politics beginning with the founding of the two states
and subsequent war on the Korean Peninsula. My research shows how the second generation of party leadership marked the onset of a divergence in military policy. While Deng Xiaoping was able to exert effective control over the PLA, Kim Jong-il saw an increase in the armed forces’ political influence. I conclude that in addition to the DPRK’s unenviable lack of security, and the superior professionalism of the PLA, this deviation in the two countries’ domestic politics stemmed from the black marks Mao had accrued from the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward, coupled with the lack of a hereditary succession within the CCP. This key difference meant that the post-Mao Chinese leadership was able to establish a foundation of legitimacy against Mao. In contrast, Kim Jong-il became trapped in a political framework based on the continuation of his father’s deleterious polices. With Kim Jung-un now coming to power, it is becoming increasing clear that the Kim dynastic name has, and continues to produce diminishing returns to the regime’s authority, thus allowing the political influence of the KPA to increase commensurately.
10. Xiaoming Zhang (U.S. Air War College)
"A Reassessment of the 1979 War"
The classic Sun Tzu adage of war writ large, “know the enemy and know yourself,” is a fundamental tenet of Chinese military strategy. The PLA had maintained the tradition with an active program of self-evaluation in order to be fully aware of its strengths and weaknesses. Shortly after the military operations in Vietnam ended, the PLA leadership required all troops participating in the fight to summarize their war experience. The PLA Daily carried an editorial article entitled, “Transforming the Self-defense Counterattacks Experience into the Treasury of the Whole Army,” noting that the war against Vietnam was a modern war and the experience of the troops participating in the conflict would be of far-reaching significance on the Chinese military. Special teams sent to all units helped to write their experiences, which covered almost every aspect of the campaign, including planning, intelligence, command and control, operations and tactics, logistics, political work, and support from the rear. The PLA is a highly politicized and mobilized army. The emphasis of the “subjective strength” on bravery, courage, and disciplinary behaviors is dominant in assessments. Another focus was on the PLA’s political work system, the principal mechanism used to mobilize the subjective strength of the Chinese forces.
Western studies argue that China’s approach to evaluating military operations differs from Western and U.S. approaches with a preference for using “subjective measures vice quantitative indicators of performance.” Although China’s criteria for measuring the direct results of military operations include quantitative indicators to measure the extent to which the enemy’s effective strength has
been annihilated or paralyzed, the use of quantitative indicators is most likely secondary in nature. Chinese strategic culture places emphasis on “wits, wisdom, and strategy” as more decisive in determining war outcomes than actual engagements between opposing military forces.
The evaluation of China’s 1979 war with Vietnam supports this thesis. However,the assessment of the PLA’s performance in the war suggests that quantitative indicators, such as weapons and equipment destroyed or troops killed in action, are equally useful for measuring the success and effectiveness of the 1979 military campaign. This paper provides insights into how the PLA assessed its performance and experience in the 1979 military operations, and lessons learned as seen from the Chinese themselves. The PLA conducted a thorough evaluation with both quantitative and subjective measurements, yet it has failed to disassociate lessons learned from the conflict from outdated military philosophy and tradition, which may restrict its modernization and transformation. Nevertheless, this paper explains that China’s claim of military victory was derived from the leadership’s evaluation of the geopolitical outcomes in connection with its judgment of PLA’s performance on the battlefield.