Since the 1949 Communist Revolution, China has devised nine different military strategies, which the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) calls “strategic guidelines.” What accounts for these numerous changes? Active Defense examines China’s military strategy from the mid-twentieth century to today.
In this deep and insightful book Professor M. Taylor Fravel examines the last 70 years of China’s evolving military strategy and strategic thought using an analytic method that provides some fascinating assertions and conclusions ... This is a book for serious national security professionals or graduate students and the author assumes the reader has some background in strategy, political theory, military history, and basic military terminology ... The author concludes with an excellent summary of China’s likely future military strategies and missions ... This is truly a much needed volume for China watchers or any student of international affairs studying how both internal and external influencers can drive a country’s military strategy over time. Well written and comprehensive, it is highly recommended.
Fravel shows that China’s civilian and military leaders have almost invariably followed relatively open processes as they debate and formulate strategy ... Their strategy of active defense has instead been based on 'the principle of "gaining control by striking afterwards" (houfa zhiren).' A useful chapter in Active Defense relates this doctrine ... Fravel makes a strong case that the political stability of the CCP has been a more important stimulus to changes in the strategic guidelines and regulations of the PLA than either foreign military thinking or the evolution of China’s strategic environment ... Active Defense is a classic that is likely to have great long-term influence and be widely admired by academics in the field, but it is not written for a general audience.
...informative ... Fravel approaches his task as if writing a doctoral thesis. He begins with overviews of the book and his argument or theory ... Fravel’s argument or theory has two main components: the motivations for strategic changes and the mechanism for imposing strategic changes ... None of these factors are static. As they change, strategy will change. Fravel understands and writes about these factors, but they tend to get overshadowed by his devotion to political science theory ... This is really a book about Chinese military thought at the tactical and operational level.