PLA Education Reforms: Problems Remain After More Than 20 Years

The PLA’s Leading Military University: National Defense University.

The PLA’s Leading Military University: National Defense University.

At present, problems such as imprecise connection between college education and army training still exist to varying degrees.

The question of professional military education (PME) effectiveness is on the table in China given the questionable efficacy of the last round of reforms to People’s Liberation Army (PLA) PME programs. It has been 20 years since the PLA’s Central Military Commission issued its 20-year Strategic Project of Military Talent with the objective of building up a contingent of command officers capable of planning and directing informationized wars [1]. Around the same time, now-President Xi Jinping’s “Triad New Military Personnel Education System of Systems,” which focuses on developing joint talent as well as integrating military universities with unit training, emerged [2]. The Triad reforms attempted to update courses and recruit talented faculty with projects like the “Famous Teachers” program to establish a stable faculty system that critiques reform efforts; active-duty officers are brought in to teach courses and instructors are sent to field training..

As the accompanying official PLA newspaper PLA Daily articulates, problems with China’s PME systems remain. The article describes some PLA PME universities and colleges as failing to train personnel for war and the battlefield despite continuing efforts to couple educational institutions with military personnel to better link the classroom to the battlefield.  The article highlights the need to improve courses and describes major programs in China’s military universities to cultivate command talent and generate new combat capabilities.  Faculties require improvement, and the author suggests the elimination of outdated courses and course material. The article also cites the need to develop scientific and technological skills required to operate modern weapons and equipment, as well as understand new concepts of operations. It claims the PLA lacks technological literacy in network systems, intelligent technologies, and unmanned systems that are critical to future warfare concepts. Despite President Xi’s renewed efforts to jump start the Triad reform, these problems will adversely affect the PLA’s ability to develop talent capable of conducting modern combat operations.


“构建战教耦合育人 (Constructing a new pattern of teaching war coupled with educating people),” PLA Daily (official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army), 1 September 2022.

Optimize the layout of disciplines, majors, and curriculum systems. Disciplinary majors and curriculum systems are the key foundational support and talent training plan for running schools and educating people.…

Build a team of excellent teachers who know how to fight. Establish the concept of “Famous teachers must know actual combat”, make the basic quality requirements for the teaching staff to be familiar with operational theory, familiar with combat regulations, grasp operational requirements, and understand advanced military technology, and guide teachers to grasp the internal law of the transformation from teaching ability of colleges and universities to the generation of combat effectiveness of the army , … proficient in the organization, implementation, demonstration, inspection and evaluation of actual strive to become a famous combat teacher who is good at clearing the “fog of war”, familiar with the characteristics of modern warfare, making good use of information technology and new forces in new fields, and strives to understand actual combat. … Actively provide conditions for the majority of instructors to participate in major training activities and major weapons and equipment tests, increase follow-up research and training efforts, and promote the team of instructor’s abilities and talent in military practice. Actively recommend instructors to participate in joint military exercises and training, overseas military operations, and major special tasks, and improve their ability to know and understand through actual combat training and exercises.

Accelerate forward-looking research on new fields and new qualities. With the accelerated development of the new military revolution, high-technology and high-tech equipment such as networks, intelligence, and unmanned systems have a profound impact on the game strategies of modern warfare, strategic design, and operational guidance have an increasing impact on the outcome of wars, and require higher and higher scientific and technological literacy for officers and soldiers participating in the war. … Create a platform, environment and mechanism that is conducive to innovation, increase the training of young scientific and technological talents, vigorously promote cutting-edge scientific and technological innovation, realize the positive interaction between more achievements and more talents, and promote the ability to transform traditional disciplines by means of “military +” and “technology +.”

By organizing research on new fields and new quality directions such as military intelligence and unmanned operations, and holding high-level military academic lectures, we will promote new theories, new tactics, new training methods, new technologies, and new equipment in the military field into classroom teaching.


[1] “Informatization” is the concept of automated data systems-driven input for decision-making.

[2] “Triad New Military Personnel Education System of Systems 三位一体新型军事人才培养体系

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Image: The PLA’s Leading Military University: National Defense University
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