31 August 2019

Honored to Review Taylor Fravel’s “Active Defense: China’s Military Strategy since 1949” in Journal of Chinese Political Science

Andrew S. Erickson; review of M. Taylor Fravel, Active Defense: China’s Military Strategy since 1949 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019); Journal of Chinese Political Science 24.4 (December 2019): 701-02. (Online 30 August 2019).

Click here to access the full text of the review online.

The print version of the review is available here.

Just in time for the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and several of its military services, Fravel has delivered a tour de force. This pathbreaking volume represents political science at its best, addressing a key empirical question with tremendous policy implications: “when and why China changes its military strategy.” After laying a systematic analytical foundation with clear definitions and methodology, Fravel offers a compelling answer and explanation. Like other socialist states, with their “interlocking directorate” of political commissars and Party committees, the People’s Republic of China has not the civil-military relations common to most nations but rather Party-military relations. When the Party is united and stable, it may delegate the ability to change military strategy to senior military officers. When the Party is divided, there is no basis for changing military strategy.

Fravel substantiates this cogent argument with compelling examples constituting the majority of the volume. Major changes in military strategy occurred in 1956, 1980, and 1993, when Party unity coincided with a major shift in the conduct of warfare. Minor changes occurred in 1960, 1988, 2004, and 2014, when Party unity prevailed absent a major change in the ways of war requiring significant response. 1977 witnessed major changes afoot in the conduct of warfare, but Party disunity precluded the adoption of new strategy. … … …

Order your own copy of Prof. Fravel’s landmark book here!