Chinese Strategists Consider Weaponizing “Complexity Science”

“The network information system … can be damaged or controlled by destroying key nodes in the network information system, creating a destruction ‘multiplier’ effect of ‘100-1=0.’”

The complexity of warfare increases as new capabilities, such as unmanned aircraft, loitering munitions, cyber warfare, and others, are introduced. As complexity increases, so do the risks, prompting Chinese military thinkers to explore the possibilities of using “complexity science,” the study of complex systems, to their advantage. The first excerpted article, published by the People’s Liberation Army’s official newspaper, PLA Daily, and reposted to the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China’s website, underscores the importance of understanding basic science versus the concept of “complexity science.”  A traditional, cause-and-effect system assumes a linear outcome, which is predictable. However, as the article points out, in a complex system, the topic of study of “complexity science,” one slight change could have a huge impact on the course or outcome of the war.[i]

Complexity science is important in both defensive and offensive operations. For example, offensively, the article explains that destroying a key node of an opponent’s network information system, the glue that holds together the joint operations system, can serve as a force multiplier. In defensive operations, to protect their own systems, PLA commanders need to completely understand the emerging nature of complex war systems so that they can predict or anticipate where the adversary might attempt to degrade their systems. In offensive operations, on the other hand, they should use their insight to shape the war and create winning opportunities for themselves. The article explains that coming up with countermeasures and improving the ability to predict emerging technology can be facilitated through modeling and simulation. It also suggests taking advantage of the unpredictable and “fighting opportunities” in combat “to catch the opponent off guard with thunderous momentum.” The second article, published by China’s top military decision-making command body, the Central Military Commission’s authorized news source, China Military Online, details “complexity” in command-and-control (C2) systems. It explains that complexity science offers a new way to understand, guide, and practice war. It also recommends using complexity, around C2, as a weapon to complicate the opponent’s decision-making capacity, while also facilitating one’s own abilities. The key to accomplishing this is by breaking the traditional decision-making methods and reshaping those of the opponent. Humans, becoming increasingly intertwined with machines in the decision-making process at all levels, will create “unprecedentedly prominent battlefield management issues,” the article argues. As variables become more complex it is easier to reshape the opponent’s decision-making process by limiting the adversary’s intelligence capabilities, impairing their reflexes, creating confusion at the intersection, and pushing the opponent to their breaking point.


Liu Haiye et al, “认真研究并加以把握运用,战争复杂系统的涌现性 (Carefully Study and Understand the Emergence of Complex War Systems),” PLA Daily (official news source of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army), 17 November 2023.

Informatization and intelligentization in the network information system is the “glue” and “catalyst” of the joint operations system. However, it does not always guarantee the network’s effectiveness in driving the entire joint combat system. The network information system not only can serve as a “multiplier” of “1+1>2”in aggregating combat forces that are widely distributed and have heterogeneous functional role, it can be damaged or controlled by destroying key nodes in the network information system, creating a destruction “multiplier” effect of “100-1=0”.

Make good use of the emergent nature of complex war systems: …In recent years, the continued advances in modeling and simulation, artificial intelligence, big data and other technologies, has provided new support for commanders to grasp the emergent nature of complex war systems. If commanders can fully grasp the emergent nature of complex war systems, they might be able to perceive, foresee, utilize or even create “points” where war emerges before their opponents do, thereby becoming more proactive in shaping the war situation and creating winning opportunities.

Gain insights in advance and implement changes before the enemy. Once the emergence of complex war systems occurs, it could cause major global or local changes in the entire battlefield. “Forewarned is forearmed, without prejudging the waste”. Only by sensing and anticipating the possible emergence of key nodes in the war system and key turning points in the combat process before the opponent does, can we implement changes before the enemy and disrupt their operations…(we should) implement various countermeasures for war preparations, and improve the pertinence and predictability of military training and preparations…Methods such as modeling and simulation, which can provide insights into the emergence of complex war systems, should be actively applied to build, restore, and simulate real combat environments and operations in virtual war spaces.

Hu Xiaofeng, “从复杂性科学看指挥控制领域变革趋势 (A Look at Changing Trends in Command and Control From the Perspective of Complexity Science),” China Military Online (news source authorized by the Central Military Commission and sponsored by the People’s Liberation Army), 2 January 2024.

Complexity science has provided new possibilities for understanding war and guiding war practice. In the field of command and control, complexity can be used as a weapon to make the opponent’s decision-making more complicated, while oneself can easily deal with it. The key to achieving this effect is to break the original traditional decision-making method and reshape the opponent’s decision-making process.

How to create complexity

In future wars, as the combat system becomes larger and larger, humans and machines become more intertwined in decision-making at all levels, especially the widespread use of intelligent combat platforms, resulting in unprecedentedly prominent battlefield management issues.

Traditional decision-making only changes the decision-making parameters, not the decision-making process, so the decision-making complexity is constant… If complexity methods are introduced, the opponent’s decision-making process can be reshaped, forcing the opponent to introduce new parameters, leading to an increase in decision-making complexity. For example, if one’s own camouflage effect exceeds the opponent’s existing reconnaissance capabilities, it forces it to find new reconnaissance and positioning methods, thereby prompting it to change its decision-making process and make decision-making more complex. So, how to create complexity? It is generally believed that there are mainly the following four methods.

Limit intelligence capabilities. By creating uncertainty to enhance complexity and reduce the adversary’s situational awareness, the adversary can only act with the support of limited information…

Impaired reflexes. Create complexity by leveraging adaptive characteristics to weaken adversaries’ operational responsiveness…

Create confusion at the intersection. Creating chaos and complexity by crossing boundaries to create new emergent effects… Facilitate tipping point transitions. Push your opponent to the breaking point and create complexity, resulting in non-linear transitions…


[i] The first article uses an old the British proverb as an example. “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the rider was lost. For want of a rider, the battle was lost. For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” This analogy underscores the importance of each node, down to the most basic one (the nail). For more on this proverb, see “A Little Neglect May Breed Great Mischief,” Citadel website, accessed 20 January 2024.

China Celebrates New Turbofan Engine Design as Giving It a Strategic Advantage

China’s WZ-7 (“Soaring Dragon”) is a high-altitude, long-endurance drone, shown here
on display during the 2022 Zhuhai Airshow.

“With its inherent advantages of having a world-leading industrial system and strong production capacity, China already has an absolute advantage in the Sino-US arms race around UAVs, loitering munitions, and cruise missiles.”

China claims its new turbofan could give it an edge during a high-intensity war. According to the first article posted on the publicly owned Chinese Internet platform Tencent, the Institute of Engineering Thermophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has developed a new-generation, low-cost, easy-to-manufacture turbofan engine, which can be used in high-speed, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and missiles. A turbofan engine, first conceptualized in the 1930s is also known as a fanjet, is a modern variant of the gas turbine engine.

What makes the recent Chinese version unique is that it has a significantly reduced number of parts. According to the second article, published by leading Chinese Internet and gaming provider NetEase, there are only two stages, a fan stage and a high-pressure compressor stage. In contrast, according to the article, the U.S. Global Hawk’s turbofan engine has 13 additional stages. This less complex structure makes it 20 to 30 percent lighter and less expensive to manufacture than other turbofans. The first article argues that these simpler turbofan engines will allow China to produce them faster and increase “the operational efficiency of frontline combat forces.” For example, the People’s Liberation Army will be able to turn to private enterprise with lower technical capabilities than specialized military industrial complex to manufacture the new variant. Noting lessons learned from the Ukraine conflict, the article argues that “the side able to dominate the battlefield is often not the Ukrainian military with its advanced NATO equipment, but the Russian military, which can steadily supply less advanced equipment to the frontlines.” The article also notes that by leveraging its cost and production capacity to provide a continuous supply of units to power its weapons, China can ensure that “when a conflict does break out between [it] and the United States,” the U.S. military will not be able to “engage in a high-intensity war of attrition.”


Jiang Fuwei, “中美无人机军备竞赛,中国抢先立于不败之地,可以让美军更清醒 (In Sino-U.S. UAV Arms Race, China’s Advanced, Invincible Position Can Make the U.S. Military Sober Up),” Tencent (a major Chinese platform company that connects users, businesses, and industries with technology and innovation, 1 November 2023.

“Zhu Junqiang, director of the Institute of Engineering Thermophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that they have developed a new-generation low-cost turbofan engine, and this new engine has been used in a certain type of high-speed, long-endurance UAV.

This type of turbofan engine reportedly adopts a very unusual single-shaft high-pressure direct-drive configuration, which integrates the compressor and fan that must be arranged separately in conventional twin-shaft engines, reducing the number of engine parts by more than 60 percent. This reduces the overall weight and size of this type of engine by 20 to 30 percent compared to conventional twin-shaft configuration engines with the same thrust, and it also reduces fuel consumption by 10 percent.

In other words, the emergence of this type of engine not only signifies that the performance of domestic UAVs, loitering munitions, and even cruise missiles using turbofan engines will be significantly improved, but also that the manufacturing costs of these types of equipment will be further reduced to what can be called a “formidable” level. With its inherent advantages of having a world-leading industrial system and strong production capacity, China already has an absolute advantage in the Sino-US arms race around UAVs, loitering munitions, and cruise missiles…

Once China can produce a new turbofan engine, which costs only 20 percent of that of the existing turbofan engine, even if [the engine] currently can only be used in weapons such as UAVs and cruise missiles, significantly reducing the overall cost can increase the output and equipment quantity of these weapons systems, thereby increasing the operational efficiency of frontline combat forces…

Due to the significant reduction in the number of parts, the degree of difficulty in producing this type of engine is greatly reduced…

Looking at the experience of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the side able to dominate the battlefield is often not the Ukrainian military with its advanced NATO equipment, but the Russian military, which can steadily supply less advanced equipment to the frontlines.

At this point, once the PLA can leverage these advantages in cost and production capacity, it can establish strong anti-loss capabilities and continuous supply capabilities for weapons such as UAVs and cruise missiles.

So, when a conflict does break out between China and the United States, the US military in the Western Pacific will not have the ability to engage in a high-intensity war of attrition with the PLA….

Jianduan Fangu, “我国研制成功高空低油耗涡扇发动机,战略无人机将傲视全球 (My Country Has Developed a Successful High-Altitude, Low-Fuel-Consumption Turbofan Engine and Will Dominate the World of Strategic Drones),” NetEase, (A leading Chinese Internet and gaming provider centered around premium content.), 26 October 2023.

The Institute of Engineering Thermophysics of the Chinese Academy of Science developed a high-performance, high-altitude, low-fuel-consumption turbofan engine, with greatly improved technology… First, the Institute of Engineering Thermophysics’ high-altitude, low-fuel-consumption turbofan engine has greatly simplified the engine structure. There is only one stage for the fan and one stage for the high-pressure compressor. The first stage uses a diagonal flow compressor, and the second stage uses a centrifugal compressor. The pressure ratio of each stage is very high, which significantly reduces the number of compressor stages. Comparing it to the Global Hawk’s engine, there are 13 fewer stages, which greatly reduces the number of parts. This reduces the complexity of the engine, which reduces fuel consumption and makes it cheaper.

Image Information:

Image: China’s WZ-7 [R1] (“Soaring Dragon”) is a high-altitude, long-endurance drone, shown here on display during the 2022 Zhuhai Airshow.
Attribution: CCA-Share Alike 4.0 Int

The People’s Liberation Army’s Evolving Close Air Support Capability (Kevin McCauley) (January 2024)

(Click image to download brief.)

This monograph examines PLA close air firepower support based on authoritative PLA sources including internal publications, as well as PRC aviation industry research. The PLA Air Force (PLAAF), Army Aviation, and unmanned aerial vehicle close air firepower support, command and control, and the firepower support process are examined.

People’s Liberation Army Promoting Battlefield Commander’s Initiative

Diagram outlining PLA Command and Control Network

Diagram outlining PLA Command and Control Network

“Mission command advocates fully leveraging the initiative of frontline commanders in a battlefield full of uncertainty and chaos to gain decision-making advantages.”

People’s Liberation Army (PLA) battlefield commanders have historically been constrained by the PLA’s preference for centralized over decentralized command authority.[i] However, a recent article from the PLA Daily, the official newspaper of the PLA, addresses the need to move from centralized to mission command to allow for greater initiative by operational and tactical commanders. Doing so would provide the PLA with greater flexibility and adaptability to address rapidly changing battlefield situations and opportunities. The articles argues that the PLA must “learn from the relevant concepts of mission command, optimize and improve the original command mode, and build a command mode suitable for future information-based and intelligent warfare.”

The article describes that mission command—a concept employed by the U.S. military—leverages frontline commanders’ initiative on uncertain and chaotic battlefields due to their more realistic awareness of on-the-ground realities.[ii] Mission command preserves the superior commander’s operational intent, guidance, tasks, and resources while allowing flexibility to the frontline commander to accomplish the mission. As it notes, “it is necessary to create an open architecture to enhance the system’s ability to flexibly assemble and adapt to changes.” Advancements in command-and-control systems and intelligent decision-making technologies will improve the ability of frontline commanders to make informed decisions. Allowing subordinate commanders to Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) will not only facilitate rapid decision-making but provide for more resilient command if communications with the superior headquarters are disrupted. The author states that mission command provides for greater decentralization of decision-making creating a stronger and more ubiquitous command-and-control system.


Fie Paiguo, “从集中式指挥转向任务式指挥——美空军大力推动任务式指挥透视 (From Centralized Command to Mission Command – The U.S. Air Force Vigorously Promotes the Mission Command Perspective),” PLA Daily (official newspaper of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army), 24 August 2023.

Learn from relevant operational concepts to optimize and improve the command-and-control organizational model. Under the conditions of modern warfare, it is not easy to organize large-scale, long-term, and high-intensity air operations. If the combat command ability cannot be improved, everything is out of the question. Judging from the development practice of foreign militaries, the contradiction of being constrained by two aspects has become increasingly obvious. First, the operational command and control process is not perfect enough, and the hierarchical command mode is not perfect enough. The second is that the control-based command and control method cannot adapt to modern high-intensity air confrontation. So, facing future wars, how to optimize and improve the command-and-control mode? The effective way is to fully consider the confrontation environments of different intensities, learn from the relevant concepts of mission command, optimize and improve the original command mode, and build a command mode suitable for future information-based and intelligent warfare.Build an open system architecture to lay a solid foundation for the flexible restructuring of the command-and-control system. To achieve mission command, it is necessary to upgrade the command-and-control capabilities of the entire system. On the one hand, it is necessary to create an open architecture to enhance the system’s ability to flexibly assemble and adapt to changes. On the other hand, it is necessary to promote node element transformation and promote the reorganization of digital space combat resources. Realizing the node element of operational entities is to digitize, network, serve, and standardize them, making them easier and more convenient to be called by other platforms.”


[i] For further information on PLA modernization efforts see: Kevin McCauley, “PLA Army Efforts Integrate New Technology and Equipment Into Units,” OE Watch, 08-2022.

[ii] Authoritative PLA publications indicate the need to promote more initiative by commanders, particularly at the tactical level. PLA authors believe this is necessary due to the dynamic and fast pace of modern combat operations as well as the need to take advantage of fleeting, unforeseen battlefield opportunities.

Image Information:

Image: Diagram outlining PLA Command and Control Network.
Source: Liu Xiaoming et al, Battlefield Information Management (战场信息管理), (Beijing: National Defense University Press, 2012), 36

People’s Liberation Army Discusses Low-Altitude Air Control

Soldier from Ukrainian 25th Air Assault Brigade employing Small bomb carrying UAV.

“Low altitude is the “junction” connecting airspace and land. With the rapid development and large-scale application of low-altitude combat equipment such as helicopters, small and medium-sized unmanned aerial vehicles, and cruise missiles, the low-altitude battlefield has become increasingly important, and low-altitude control has become one of the comprehensive dominances that must be seized in future land warfare.”

A recent PLA Daily article discusses the importance of low-altitude air control for ground operations and its difference from traditional concepts of air dominance.[i] The article appears to be influenced by recent conflicts such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Seizing low-altitude air control requires an integrated air defense and distributed, networked, system of systems integrating ground and low-altitude air systems with modular, mobile, multi-domain capabilities.  The importance of seizing low-altitude air control[ii] is based on the large-scale use of small and medium unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), helicopters, and cruise missiles. Traditional air dominance[iii] cannot guarantee low-altitude air control due to the sundry of small arms and short-range systems that threaten low flying airframes. The author argues that traditional air dominance operations are generally more centralized, while low-altitude air control is an ongoing, independent, and decentralized tactical operation that seizes control in a certain location for a limited time. Decentralized low-altitude air defense operations to seize control require accurate intelligence with the capability to distinguish between friend and foe, coordinated communications, and timely warning of air threats.

Achieving the capability to control the low-altitude air space even for short periods will threaten an adversary’s ability to employ UAVs and fixed and rotary winged aviation. The author urges the PLA to accelerate the development of intelligent air control UAVs with swarming capabilities, loitering munitions, detection systems to identify low, slow, micro-targets, and innovative tactics to seize low-altitude air control in the critical place and time to influence ground combat. . The capability to control the low-altitude air space would give the PLA a significant advantage protecting its forces and critical infrastructure.


夺取未来陆战低空制权 (Seize the low-altitude dominance of future land warfare),” PLA Daily (official PRC military newspaper), 23 May 2023.

“Low-altitude control is a relatively independent and decentralized tactical-level space control. Low altitude control cannot be achieved and controlled through a single operation or a stage of centralized air control operations. Seizing low altitude control power will run through the entire process of combat, displaying a “distributed, discrete” form with strong tactical, regional, mobile, and full process characteristics. Even without the guarantee of traditional air supremacy, through active actions, it is possible to seize low-altitude supremacy in a certain area and within a certain time limit, forming a low-altitude combat advantage.

To seize low altitude dominance, we should focus on the characteristics of the struggle for low altitude control, establish the concept of “relying on ground control, dynamic control, precise control, and flexible use of air”, and follow the basic principle of “whoever uses it seizes it, seizes it as needed, and manages it as needed”. By seizing it in combat, maneuvering, and using it, we can respectively seize low-altitude control power in the task area through relatively independent and dispersed low-altitude combat and low-altitude air defense operations. At the same time, it is necessary to dynamically implement low altitude airspace monitoring and management, establish a low altitude multi-means and multi-mode monitoring system, fully grasp low altitude situations, strengthen collaborative communication, accurately distinguish between enemy and friendly platforms, timely warning, quickly strike and destroy enemy air combat equipment and air control equipment, accurately handle our air conflicts, and ensure effective control of low altitude and ultra-low altitude airspace.

The low-altitude power struggle in future intelligent warfare will become more intense. The Army’s field air defense system should continuously improve the comprehensive combat effectiveness of the low-altitude airspace, attach great importance to the construction of a distributed low-altitude operational system of systems based on the network, and rely on the network to build air-ground integration, the combination of detection, attack and defense, and mobility, modular low-altitude operational system of systems. Focus on strengthening the research and development of low-altitude detection and monitoring platforms to achieve rapid network deployment and low-altitude ultra-low-altitude high-sensitivity dynamic monitoring, and improve the ability to detect “low, slow and small” aircraft; accelerate the development of intelligent air-controlling UAVs, loitering missiles, and “swarms” to enrich the air-to-ground and multi-mode guidance, multi-mechanism killing, and multi-domain attack capabilities; Continue to improve the ability to detect and attack low-altitude small and micro targets, accelerate the development of new mechanism combat equipment, and form a low-altitude combat capability that covers multiple levels of campaigns, tactics, and operational units.


[i] For additional information and perspective, see: Thomas Shrimpton, “Chinese Perspective on Manned-Unmanned Coordinated Operations on the Modern Battlefield,” OE Watch, 06-2023.

[ii] The ability to neutralize enemy air defenses and other weapons systems that could attack low flying aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, and cruise missiles would appear difficult to achieve since these weapons would include small arms and short-range gun and missiles systems.

[iii] The PLA defines air dominance or “command of the air” as the Air Force and other services controlling the battlespace for a period of time. Presumably this encompasses offensive and defensive operations, including electronic and information warfare, to neutralize the enemy’s air defense capabilities. The reference to “a period of time” likely indicates the difficulty of sustaining command of the air.

Image Information:

Image: Soldier from Ukrainian 25th Air Assault Brigade employing Small bomb carrying UAV.
Attribution: CC By 4.0

People’s Liberation Army Focusing on Treating Internal Psychological Issues

Chinese soldiers on parade in 2015.

“Psychological service work is a regular basic task in the military, and the psychological health of officers and soldiers directly affects the combat effectiveness of the troops.”

There has been an increase in attention to psychological issues within the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in recent years. It is not clear if this is an indication of increased psychological problems among the troops or simply increased reporting. Some issues involve recruits born as late as 1995 having trouble adjusting to the regimentation of the military, difficult training conditions, and isolated garrison locations.

The military’s approach to psychological problems within its ranks is discussed in a recent PLA Daily article. A brigade in the 74th Group Army in the Southern Theater has an embedded Psychological Service Team, which is a recent development. The counselors, apparently also found at the battalion and company level, seek to identify and help personnel with possible psychological problems.

The chief of the brigade’s combat service planning section reported that all personnel in the unit were psychologically screened. The brigade’s party committee conducted investigations at the battalion and company level to ensure that the psychological counseling was achieving results. The investigation concluded that there was a general lack of attention to mental health, and that problems remained. In response to the investigation, the brigade created a psychological work supervisory mechanism office led by a psychologist and military doctor to provide professional support for the psychological services for the brigade. Psychological issues within the PLA are not isolated to the one brigade. The article recounts similar stories in other units, and psychological stations established in new medical buildings. These efforts have reportedly significantly reduced the rate of mental illness among officers and soldiers. The PLA is concerned that psychological issues in the force during a future high-intensity conflict will adversely affect combat capabilities and contribute to noncombat attrition of the units.


“一个心理服务队的“心力量 (The ‘Heart Power’ of a Psychological Service Team),” PLA Daily (Official PRC Military Newspaper), 31 May 2023.

“…Under the new situation and new tasks, we must raise awareness, improve work guidance, change “passive defense” into “active force”, and effectively improve the psychological immunity of officers and soldiers against negative emotions and mental illness.

The psychological response to wartime stress has a significant impact on non-combat attrition. According to the annual education plan, it is necessary to strengthen the popularization of psychological health knowledge among all officers and soldiers, educate and guide them to face psychological problems, overcome the “disease shame” of turning pale when talking about psychological issues, be good at discovering their psychological problems, actively seek external help, and effectively build a strong psychological defense line; By combining major combat readiness, training, exercises, stationed training, and other tasks, we aim to build a dedicated combat environment, promote advanced models of military training and preparation, strengthen the cultivation of officers and soldiers’ combat spirit, and forge a solid spiritual core.The future war will be a high-end war with high force, high intensity, high confrontation, and high intelligence. The strength of the psychological qualities of officers and soldiers directly affects the success or failure of combat operations. At all levels, it is necessary to actively carry out psychological adjustment and motivation training for personnel at different levels, task situations, and regional environments, under the guidance of a professional psychological backbone, using real-life construction, VR simulation, and other technical means. It is also necessary to rely on facilities and equipment such as psychological behavior training fields to regularly organize military physical fitness and skills coherent training and assessment. At the same time, it is also necessary to combine the execution of major tasks, strictly temper officers and soldiers under similar actual combat conditions, and cultivate their strong psychological endurance.”

Image Information:

Image: Chinese soldiers on parade in 2015.
Attribution: Creative Commons Int

People’s Liberation Army Advancing Expertise in Combat Medical Support

The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), top, and the People’s Liberation Army Navy hospital ship Peace Ark (T-AH 866) transit the Pacific Ocean July 22, 2014, during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) in 2014.

“Recently, a practical medical service drill organized by the 961st Hospital of the Joint Logistics Support Force was launched at a field comprehensive training ground.”

Beijing’s ability to successfully treat wounded soldiers and sailors would likely be a factor when deciding to enter into most conflicts. A People’s Liberation Army (PLA) source has stated that China could expect 120,000 casualties in an amphibious invasion of Taiwan. Even such a large projected number of casualties is unlikely to deter the PLA from entering into a conflict when it involves the core issue of Taiwan. As such, the PLA is showing a focus on care for the wounded. Authoritative PLA publications provide detailed information on planned battlefield medical support and evacuation of wounded from the company level back to field hospitals and fixed PLA hospitals.[i]

The 961st Hospital of the Shenyang Joint Logistic Support Center in the Northern Theater Command recently held a battlefield medical drill, according to the first excerpted article from the official PRC military newspaper PLA Daily. Casualties were reported at a frontline unit and a field medical team sent a triage team forward. The triage team used a drone to locate three soldiers with minor injuries and a seriously wounded soldier. Three nurses were sent to the slightly wounded troops, and a doctor, nurse, health worker, and driver were sent to evacuate the seriously injured soldier. The seriously wounded soldier was transported to a field medical aid post, likely at battalion or brigade level, where a serious injury treatment team provided a blood transfusion. The team matched and drew blood for transfusion to the injured at the site when the on-hand supply was depleted.

The second excerpted PLA article, published on the Ministry of Defense website, described the Naval Medical University providing training for maritime medical support. The university sent a medical team to a naval unit in the Eastern Theater Command to research maritime medical support requirements and explore new support methods. The team submitted a report to the university proposing solutions. The university report recommended to regularize sending teams to fleets, increase training, and more timely medical support and delivery of medicines. The university strengthened its links with surface ships, submarines, and naval aviation units to track medical requirements and improve military medical education.

The PLA is serious about treating and evacuating sick and wounded personnel from the battlefield as well as providing maritime medical support.[ii] The PLA is also incorporating unmanned aerial vehicles into medical units to locate wounded on the battlefield. PLA medical universities are working with Naval and tactical units to determine requirements and problem areas in medical support to find solutions. Naval medical support is a key area where the PLA publication cited above notes weaknesses in medical treatment at sea.


“联勤保障部队第961医院组织实战化卫勤演练 (The 961st Hospital of the Joint Logistics Support Force Organizes a Practical Medical Service Drill),” PLA Daily (Official PRC Military Newspaper), 22 May 2023.

 “Saving lives is the core task of the field medical team, “Zhu Siqiang told reporters. During the peacekeeping mission, he encountered multiple times when a blood bank was in urgent need. In such a crisis, on-site blood sampling and emergency treatment were used to save the lives of his comrades. In this drill, they set up a training program for difficult and dangerous situations, which is to strengthen the battlefield awareness and emergency response ability of officers and soldiers and ensure that medical personnel can go, be saved, and be cured at critical moments.

“海军军医大学:学用结合,锤炼海上卫勤保障精兵 (Naval Medical University: Combining Learning with Practice, Training Elite Soldiers in Maritime Medical Support),” Ministry of Defense website, 22 May 2023.

“In recent days, a group of members from the Party Committee of the Naval Medical University led a medical team to research medical support needs at the grassroots level in conjunction with the “Delivery of Health to Sea” activity, such as going to high mountains and islands, boarding ship positions, and visiting hospital departments…We need to closely monitor the new challenges and requirements posed by the transformation and development of the Navy for medical support, ensuring that wherever ships navigate, our medical support follows suit; wherever Navy forces are deployed, our medical support follows suit. In the theme of education, the leadership of the school’s party committee and government officials read the original text to understand the principles, follow up on the spirit of Chairman Xi Jinping’s latest important speech, and guide officers and soldiers to love the navy’s construction and dedicating oneself to the navy, promoting the high-quality development of naval medical support work in the new era, and ensuring solid results in theme education.”


[i] 全军后勤学术研究中心 (All Army Logistics Academic Research Center), 作战后勤保障 (Operational Logistics Support), (no publishing data), February 2017, this is an internal publication to inform the leadership.

[ii] For more on planned battlefield medical support, see: Kevin McCauley, China Maritime Report No. 22: Logistics Support for a Cross-Strait Invasion: The View from Beijing, US Naval War College China Maritime Studies Institute, July 2022.

Image Information:

Image: The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), top, and the People’s Liberation Army Navy hospital ship Peace Ark (T-AH 866) transit the Pacific Ocean July 22, 2014, during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) in 2014.
Attribution: Public Domain, U.S. Department of Defense

Chinese Officials Justify Reaction to Western Presence in Taiwan Strait

Monument of Recognition of Taiwan on Hainan Island, (Tai Wan Dao – Taiwan Island)

“[Chinese Foreign Minister] Qin Gang pointed out that the Taiwan issue is the core of China’s core interests, the most important issue in Sino-US relations, and the most prominent risk.”

Taiwan is a “core interest”[i] of China’s. As such, recent military operations by the United States and other Western powers near Taiwan have elicited a strong Chinese response. On 26 May 2023, a Chinese J-16 [RG1]  fighter aircraft intercepted an RC-135 American reconnaissance aircraft in the skies above a Chinese naval exercise featuring the Chinese aircraft carrier Shandong. On 3 June, a Chinese naval ship intercepted and cut off the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon while it transited the Taiwan Strait with the Canadian frigate HMCS Montréal.

According to the Global Times, a subsidiary of China’s flagship People’s Daily, a spokesperson at the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command stated that the PLA Navy “tracked and monitored them [USS Chung-Hoon and HMCS Montréal] through the whole course, and handled the situation in accordance with law and regulations.” . This was almost identical to a statement by the PLA Southern Theater Command, which a week earlier claimed that aerial forces were organized to “track and monitor it [the RC-135] through its entire course, with maneuvers in a professional manner and in accordance with law and regulations.”[ii] Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang clarified China’s position on Taiwan to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken while the two met in Beijing two weeks later, according to a statement published on the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Qin told Blinken that, “Taiwan is the core of China’s core interests” China’s recent military actions have been bolder towards both Taiwan and U.S. naval and aircraft operating in the region. Repeated aggressive responses to what China considers provocations, while not necessarily a trend, illustrate its willingness to engage in brinkmanship regarding Taiwan, perhaps to persuade Western powers to rethink military and political support for the island.[iii]


Liu Xuanzun, “PLA handles US, Canadian warships in provocative Taiwan Straits transit amid Shangri-La Dialogue, forcing US vessel to alter course,” Global Times (Chinese daily under the auspices of the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, the People’s Daily). 4 June 2023.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) handled a provocative transit in the Taiwan Straits made by US and Canadian warships on Saturday, with a Chinese destroyer reportedly forcing the US vessel to alter course by cutting in front of it, showing determination and capability in countering the provocation, experts said on Sunday.

Coming against the background of the US failing to arrange a meeting between Chinese and US defense chiefs during the ongoing Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore amid rising tensions, the latest Taiwan Straits transit, led by the US, again showed the US’ lack of sincerity, analysts said.

The US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoonand the Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Montréal made a transit through the Taiwan Straits on Saturday, and the PLA Eastern Theater Command organized naval and aerial forces, tracked and monitored them through the whole course, and handled the situation in accordance with law and regulations, Senior Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesperson at the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement late on Saturday.

Shi’s statement came after the US and Canada hyped their warships’ transit through the Taiwan Straits, including Canadian news outlet Global News releasing a video on Saturday, which showed a PLA Navy Type 052D destroyer picking up speed and cutting in front of the bow of the USS Chung-Hoon from left to right, forcing the US warship to alter course and slow down to avoid a crash as the two vessels were reportedly within 150 yards (137 meters.)

The maneuvers in the Taiwan Straits share resemblances to another recent incident in which a PLA Air Force J-16 fighter jet intercepted a US RC-135 reconnaissance plane when the latter attempted to spy on the PLA Navy Shandong aircraft carrier group’s routine training in the South China Sea on May 26, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Sunday.

Both incidents were caused by US provocations in sensitive regions on China’s doorsteps, followed by US failure to listen to Chinese radio warnings, led to professional PLA tactical maneuvers, which were then hyped by Western media attempting to shift blame to China, hype “China threat” and pressure China on the Shangri-La Dialogue, the expert said.

It showed that the US has no sincerity at all in communicating with the Chinese side, and if any accident happens, it would be the US who must shoulder the blame, the expert said.

“秦刚同美国国务卿布林肯举行会谈 (Qin Gang Holds Talks with US Secretary of State Blinken),” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, 18 June 2023.

Qin Gang said that at present, Sino-US relations are at the lowest point since the establishment of diplomatic relations. This does not conform to the fundamental interests of the two peoples, nor does it meet the common expectations of the international community. China’s policy toward the United States has always maintained continuity and stability. It is fundamentally based on the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation proposed by President Xi Jinping. China is committed to building a stable, predictable and constructive Sino-US relationship. It is hoped that the U.S. side will uphold an objective and rational understanding of China, meet China halfway, maintain the political foundation of Sino-U.S. relations, and handle unexpected incidents calmly, professionally and rationally. The two sides should fully implement the consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and President Biden at the Bali meeting, so as to promote the stabilization of Sino-US relations and get them back on track.

Qin Gang clarified his solemn position and made clear demands on China’s core interests and major concerns including the Taiwan issue. Qin Gang pointed out that the Taiwan issue is the core of China’s core interests, the most important issue in Sino-US relations, and the most prominent risk. Promises are truly delivered.

The two sides had a long period of candid, in-depth and constructive communication on the overall relationship between China and the United States and related important issues.The two sides agreed to jointly implement the important consensus reached at the Bali meeting between the two heads of state, effectively manage and control differences, and promote dialogue, exchanges and cooperation.


[i] The Chinese wording on the statement regarding “core interest” from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs reads as follows: “台湾问题是中国核心利益中的核心.”

[iii] For additional information regarding growing tensions regarding Taiwan, see: Dodge Billingsley, Taiwan Sees ‘Shift’ in China’s Grey Zone Warfare,” OE Watch, January 2021.

Image Information:

Image: Monument of Recognition of Taiwan on Hainan Island, (Tai Wan Dao – Taiwan Island)
Source: Author’s own photo
Attribution: By Author’s permission

Cultivating Joint Talent: PLA Education and Training Reforms (Kevin McCauley)(February 2023)

(Click image to download brief.)


  • Cultivating joint command talent and promoting realistic and complex joint training at
    the campaign and tactical levels is critical to the successful implementation of integrated
    joint operations, transformation efforts, and enhancing the People’s Liberation Army’s
    [PLA] overall combat capabilities. The PLA is implementing a “Triad” military education
    program to address problems with joint talent and training.

  • The implications for the PLA of successful implementation of joint talent cultivation and
    improving joint training are significant for reaching its goal of an advanced military. While
    the PLA’s transformation will likely be a lengthy process, the PLA can still present a lethal
    opponent with its precision long-range strike and information warfare capabilities.

  • The PLA’s modernization effort faces the complex task of integrating mechanized warfare,
    informationized warfare, and intelligent warfare systems and operational methods into the
    force concurrently. Reported difficulties educating officers and staff for informationized
    warfare raise questions about the PLA’s ability to integrate fully intelligent warfare
    technologies and operational methods into the force.

People’s Liberation Army: Army Campaign Doctrine in Transition (Kevin McCauley) (January 2023)

(Click image to download brief.)


  • The PLA develops generic offensive, defensive, and special conditions campaign models
    to support planning and training for operational scenarios it believes are relevant to
    potential conflicts. These generic campaigns provide planning factors, force organization,
    and operational methods for combat.

  • The choice of campaigns reveals that Taiwan and Indian conflict scenarios are the key
    scenarios for which the PLA is planning and training.

  • Some of the campaigns do not appear to represent operational situations the PLA is likely
    to face in the near to mid-term.

  • PLA doctrinal change is evolutionary, and in the past slow. The available PLA sources on
    Army doctrine appear to show incremental change to date due to developing technologies
    such as artificial intelligence or research on operational methods exhibited in recent foreign
    conflicts such as the United States military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.