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The People's Liberation Army and the People's Republic at 50: Reform at Last


The People's Republic of China (PRC) may not have had the opportunity to celebrate 50 years of statehood had it not been for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) – nor, for that matter, is it likely that the PRC would have come into existence in the first place were it not for the PLA (as is evident in Mao's often-cited observation that, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun!”). As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rode the military to power in 1949, the army also subsequently acted on several occasions to rescue the regime, maintain the Party in power and ergo sustain the People's Republic. The PLA has also been the designated protector of “state sovereignty” and “unifier” of China – acting to incorporate Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Manchuria and border regions in the south-west and north-west during the early 1950s, and fighting several border wars against China's neighbours thereafter – and it is the PLA that is ultimately charged with ensuring both that Taiwan does not seek “independence” and that China's territorial claims in the East and South China Seas are protected.

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Godwin , “Chinese military strategy revised: local and limited war,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 519 (011992)

Alastair I. Johnston , “China's new ‘old thinking’: the concept of limited deterrence, International Security, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Winter 1995).

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The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
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