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The Chinese people’s liberation army in the 1960’s : ideal and reality Louis, Randolph Vincent Craig


The subject of the paper is the nature of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) during the 1960s. The primary aim is to analyze the basic characteristics of this complex bureaucratic institution, especially its internal nature and its relationship to society. The principal problem explored is whether the PLA in the 1960s developed into a distinct, professionalized military organization (as is the common pattern in the West) or whether it remained relatively close to its particular nature of the pre-1949 People's War era. However, it transpired that the very incomplete state of our knowledge concerning contemporary Chinese society made it extremely difficult to resolve the problem with any certainty or precision. The main contribution of the paper is placing the topic in a conceptual framework which, it is argued, brings us closer to the actual situation in China. The body of the paper is divided into three main parts. The first gives the general conceptual and historical framework used to approach the topic, mainly through a comparison of the PLA's military tradition with those of other areas. The second part explores the ideal nature of the PLA as revealed in three different official sources, both classified government documents and the public Chinese press and from both the national and provincial levels. The third part examines the actual behaviour of the PLA in a precise situation, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in Kwangtung province. The line of argument developed is that the three PLAs examined, the pre-1949 PLA, the ideal PLA of the early 1960s, and the active PLA in the Cultural Revolution, shared a basic common nature. This was closely related to the communist Chinese approach to fighting, to their approach to social development, and to the nature of Chinese society. The general conclusion is that, during the 1960s, the PLA did not develop into a distinct, professionalized military organization. Rather, it remained as a highly active and well-integrated participant in the distinctive social development of the People's Republic of China. The PLA's intensive involvement in society had led to the reflection of Chinese society's trends and characteristics within it.

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