26 October 2012

Examining the New Aircraft Carrier through the PLA’s Revolution in “Organizational” Affairs

David Chen, Examining the New Aircraft Carrier through the PLA’s Revolution in ‘Organizational’ Affairs,” Jamestown China Brief 12.19 (5 October 2012).

With the commissioning of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) first aircraft carrier, more clarity has been provided in terms of the organizational setup of any future PLA Navy (PLAN) carrier strike group. The details emerging about the aircraft carrier Liaoning help illustrate one of the most important elements of the PLA’s decades-long “revolution in military affairs”—the organizational and institutional revolution. David Shambaugh first called for a better understanding of PLA organization in the 1998 RAND study, The PLA in the Information Age, saying, “I would submit that institutional mapping is always necessary, as organizations must be thought of as evolving organisms that need to be carefully tracked.” The field has ably responded with conferences and anthologies on the PLA as an organization, but this author would argue the focus still has largely remained on structure and technical capabilities, whether hardware or the “software” of human capital. The “institutional mapping” of how things get done that Shambaugh refers to has been largely lacking. The application of modern political science tools to what is essentially a learning organization with guns still has a wide horizon to pursue. This article will follow up on one of these questions by looking at the new carrier and putting it in the context of PLAN and PLA joint force structure. …

For one of the articles cited here, see Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, “Introducing the ‘Liaoning’: China’s New Aircraft Carrier and What it Means,” China Real Time Report (中国实时报), Wall Street Journal, 25 September 2012.