03 May 2011

China Expert Richard Desjardins on “Acquiring Expertise on the Chinese Military”

Richard Desjardins, Acquiring Expertise on the Chinese Military,” Canadian Military Journal 11.2 (Spring 2011): 63-66.

A snapshot of Chinese military research in the West today reveals that virtually all of the research on the Chinese military is conducted in the United States. … I am therefore offering a few tips and routes to explore so that the Canadian Forces can tackle the issues linked to the emergence of China in the military domain. …

Annual conferences sponsored by U.S. research institutes act as a springboard to examining the Chinese military. The Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, an institute of the U.S. Army War College, has organized annual conferences for a number of years now. …

A newer institute is the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) founded at the U.S. Naval War College in October 2006. Unlike the SSI, the CMSI focuses primarily on the naval element of the Chinese military. The quality of its publications is exemplary. Like the SSI, the CMSI organizes annual conferences on the Chinese navy and publishes the results in book form. The first of the two volumes published to date examines the Chinese submarine fleet. The second volume, published last year, discusses the impact of energy needs in China (particularly oil) on modernization and naval missions. A third volume is slated for publication later this year. These books are published by the Naval Institute Press; they are not available for free but can be purchased. The Naval War College also publishes the Naval War College Review (four issues annually). From time to time, this review contains essays on the Chinese navy. It is available free on the college website (www.nwc.navy.mil/press/review/reviews.aspx). …

Institutes, expert groups and foundations would not be able to offer rich sources of information on China without the work of researchers. These researchers have developed expertise in increasingly specific fields. Although the work of researchers is sometimes featured in the publications of the above-mentioned institutions, that is not always the case. All informed experts must keep up to date with what certain specialists are publishing, as these specialists do not always publish via the institutions or in the publications mentioned above.

For the readers’ benefit, I will mention only the most prominent researchers and their areas of expertise. This list is by no means exhaustive. Nevertheless, it should give readers a good picture.


Bernard Cole (National War College), Andrew S. Erickson (Naval War College), Lyle J. Goldstein (Naval War College), Eric McVadon (retired), William S. Murray (Naval War College).

Air Force

John Wilson Lewis (Stanford University), Xue Litai (Stanford University).


Dennis Blasko (CNA Corporation), James Mulvenon (Defense Group Inc.), Andrew Scobell (Texas A&M University).

In addition to these experts, one person stands out in particular through his unparalleled contributions to the development of research on the Chinese military. David Shambaugh, professor at George Washington University, has initiated a number of research projects on China and has contributed to a variety of work on all elements of the Chinese armed forces. When he was editor of the British journal The China Quarterly, he published a special issue in June 1996—the first of its kind—on the Chinese military. …