The People’s Liberation Army’s Academic Institutions
By Kenneth Allen, Mingzhi Chen, China Aerospace Studies Institute / Published June 11, 2020
The basis for any military is education and training. Without this foundation, we would just be armed groups of men, marauding our local areas. Education and training allow tactics, techniques, and procedures to be transmitted as lessons learned from one generation to the next. These eventually form the basis for the doctrine and strategy that guides modern militaries. To this end, CASI was tasked with investigating the academic system of the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Liberation Army.
The PLA’s academic system has undergone a number of transformations through its history, not least of which occurred as a result of the 2015/16 PLA reforms. Each reform reveals how the PLA and the Communist Party view the world at the time, and where they need to place emphasis on educating their armed wing. This
round of reforms is no different.
To that end, CASI has thoroughly investigated the current structure of the PLA’s academic system and complied this ‘encyclopedia’ of sorts as a response to the task, and to assist others in parsing out what each part of the system does and how it fits in to the whole. Of note, we did not look into the ‘counterpart’ to education, that is to say the training system. This, as in the United States military, varies greatly based on service, job, and at times location, and deserves a study in its own right. For this volume, we focused just on the academic portion of the PLA.
One of the most significant findings is that, despite the massive reorganization with an emphasis on what we in the West would call ‘joint warfighting’, the only place within the PLA academic system that officers receive any ‘joint’ training is still at their National Defense University. While this may change, and based on a number of recent PLA exchange visits to the U.S is likely under consideration as we write this, to this day NDU maintains the keys to joint education, which means that one must first be promoted to a high enough military grade in order to receive this training. From an American point of view, that poses severe limitations on the ability to ‘grow and nurture’ joint leaders and commanders.
While not intended to be read cover to cover, we hope this study serves as the definitive reference for anyone interested in how the PLA educates its members.
Brendan S. Mulvaney
Director, China Aerospace Studies Institute
Download full pdf (here)