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A Military History of China

A Military History of China

David A. Graff
Robin Higham
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 2
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    A Military History of China
    Book Description:

    Gaining an understanding of China's long and sometimes bloody history can help to shed light on China's ascent to global power. Many of China's imperial dynasties were established as the result of battle, from the chariot warfare of ancient times to the battles of the Guomindang (KMT) and Communist regimes of the twentieth century. China's ability to sustain complex warfare on a very large scale was not emulated in other parts of the world until the Industrial Age, despite the fact that the country is only now rising to economic dominance.

    In A Military History of China, Updated Edition, David A. Graff and Robin Higham bring together leading scholars to offer a basic introduction to the military history of China from the first millennium B.C.E. to the present. Focusing on recurring patterns of conflict rather than traditional campaign narratives, this volume reaches farther back into China's military history than similar studies. It also offers insightful comparisons between Chinese and Western approaches to war. This edition brings the volume up to date, including discussions of the Chinese military's latest developments and the country's most recent foreign conflicts.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3638-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface to the Updated Edition
    (pp. ix-x)
    D. G. and R. H.
  5. Chronology
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Editors’ Note
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
    D. G. and R. H.
  7. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Robin Higham and David A. Graff

    Armed conflict has always played an important role in Chinese history. Most of China’s imperial dynasties were established as a result of success in battle, and the same may be said of the Nationalist (Guomindang KMT) and Communist regimes in the twentieth century. Periods of dynastic decline were marked by great peasant rebellions, and the collapse of central authority repeatedly gave rise to prolonged, multicornered power struggles between regional warlords.

    Questions of military institutions and strategy have always occupied a prominent place in Chinese political thought, and the armed confrontation between the sedentary Chinese state and the nomadic peoples of...

  8. TWO Continuity and Change
    (pp. 19-38)
    Edward L. Dreyer

    From the perspective of military history, Chinese history divides naturally into three periods. The first of these is Ancient China, from earliest times to the end of the Spring and Autumn period (722–481 B.C.E.). Separating fact from later idealizations has long been the major challenge confronting students of this period, but certain things are clear about its military history: The major weapons system was the two-wheeled Bronze Age war chariot, and the aristocratic and “feudal” social order symbolized by the chariot remained the ideal for most Chinese intellectuals throughout the following imperial period.

    The second period is Imperial China,...

  9. THREE State Making and State Breaking
    (pp. 39-56)
    David A. Graff

    In its broadest outline, Chinese history is often understood in terms of a succession of great dynasties—Han, Tang, Song, Ming, Qing—and Chinese military history can be presented as the successive conflicts between those dynasties and the “barbarian” inhabitants of the Inner Asian steppe, such as the Xiongnu, Türks, Jurchen, and Mongols. Like most simplifications, this is also a distortion. The great dynasties were separated by periods of internal chaos and civil war, and for every great dynasty there were many lesser regimes to complicate the chronological tables. Some, such as the Qin (221–206 B.C.E.) and the Sui...

  10. FOUR The Northern Frontier
    (pp. 57-80)
    David C. Wright

    For two thousand years, the primary military and diplomatic preoccupation of the Chinese empire was the northern frontier. From the Xiongnu tribes that menaced the Qin (221–206 B.C.E.) and Han (202 B.C.E.–220 C.E.) empires to the Manchus who conquered China as the last imperial dynasty, the Qing (1644–1912 C.E.), premodern China was harassed, intimidated, and partially or even fully conquered by its northern nomadic neighbors. Indeed, the history of premodern China’s foreign relations is largely a history of war, or preparation for war, with the nomads. Steppe empires built by Xiongnu, Türks, Uighurs, and Mongols menaced China...

  11. FIVE Water Forces and Naval Operations
    (pp. 81-96)
    Peter Lorge

    Naval warfare and operations were crucial to the creation and unification of the Chinese empire for over two thousand years, yet this fact has usually been overlooked in the military history of China. China has generally been seen as a continental power that failed to develop an effective navy. This orientation is frequently contrasted with Europe’s seafaring, outwardlooking attitude, which drove it to explore, exploit, and dominate the rest of the world. Defenders of Chinese culture often bring up the six voyages of the Muslim eunuch-admiral Zheng He to the Indian Ocean between 1405 and 1433, or even Khubilai Khan’s...

  12. SIX Military Writings
    (pp. 97-114)
    Ralph D. Sawyer

    Without doubt, China has the longest continuous tradition of military literature of any culture, dating from about 500 B.C.E. right through the present, with only a brief hiatus during the early twentieth century when various Western doctrines temporarily predominated.

    Military thought, understood as the conscious study of battlefield events and the forces that shape them, may have had rudimentary precursors in the Neolithic (5500–3000 B.C.E.) when battles were fought with stone and wood, but certainly began to evolve in the Longshan period (3000–2000 B.C.E.) with the development of fortification technology and the incipient stage of bronze weapons. Warring States...

  13. SEVEN The Qing Empire
    (pp. 115-134)
    Paul Lococo Jr.

    In the year 1600 the land known to us as Manchuria was nominally a part of the Ming realm. However, Ming control was tenuous, and in fact most of the land was divided into numerous small, semiautonomous territories ruled or administered by traditional clan and tribal chieftains. Nurhachi, a chieftain of the Aisin-Gioro clan, soon came to exert real authority over the land of Manchuria and then turned his energies to China. Over the next two hundred years the Manchus conquered China and established an empire in Asia the size and power of which had not been seen since the...

  14. EIGHT The Taiping Rebellion: A Military Assessment of Revolution and Counterrevolution
    (pp. 135-152)
    Maochun Yu

    Rarely in the course of human history do we see a mighty empire decline so precipitously and helplessly as the Qing dynasty (1644–1912) of China. This dramatic decline manifested itself most poignantly in the mid-nineteenth century through a number of devastating popular uprisings all over the country, severely shaking the foundation of Manchu rule over this vast nation. In the southwest, the ethnic Miao rebelled in Guizhou province, and the Hui Muslims took up arms against the government in Yunnan from 1855 to 1873, establishing a small but violently defiant peasant government at Dali. In the north and northwest,...

  15. NINE Beyond the Marble Boat: The Transformation of the Chinese Military, 1850–1911
    (pp. 153-174)
    Richard S. Horowitz

    In the northwestern suburbs of Beijing locals and tourists throng the Imperial Summer Palace, now a public park. At the center of the park is a picturesque artificial lake, and by the northern shore stands a pavilion carved out of stone (said to be marble) in the shape of a boat. The gaudy palace and the marble boat were both creations of the Empress Dowager Cixi, built in the 1880s and 1890s. As every Chinese schoolchild learns, building the palace was an expensive undertaking, accomplished by diverting funds needed to purchase warships. In the end, the story goes, the Empress...

  16. TEN Warlordism in Early Republican China
    (pp. 175-192)
    Edward A. McCord

    The emergence of warlordism, a condition under which military commanders exercise autonomous political power by virtue of their personal control of military force, made the early Republican period (1912–1927) a dark chapter in Chinese history. Warlordism arose as the consequence of a militarization of politics that accompanied the fall of China’s last imperial dynasty. Unlike military interventions in many countries, military rule did not appear suddenly in China as the result of a military coup. Rather, warlordism emerged over a period of time as the application of military force in political struggles over the creation and control of the...

  17. ELEVEN The National Army from Whampoa to 1949
    (pp. 193-210)
    Chang Jui-te

    Following the founding of the Republic in 1911, the Guomindang adopted two approaches in its efforts to gain power. On the one hand, the KMT attempted to work within the parliamentary system to gain control of the National Assembly through electoral victories. On the other hand, the party recognized the limits imposed on the legislature by the very real power of the warlords, and accordingly adopted a policy of allying with certain less objectionable warlords in order to overthrow others. Both approaches failed, however, and even the warlord Chen Jiongming, whose career had flourished under Sun Yat-sen’s patronage, eventually fell...

  18. TWELVE The Sino-Japanese Conflict, 1931–1945
    (pp. 211-228)
    Stephen R. MacKinnon

    The origins of China’s National War of Resistance (or the Sino-Japanese War of 1937–1945) go back at least as far as the late nineteenth century, when tensions over control of the Korean peninsula exploded into the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895. Japan decisively defeated China on land and sea, took control of Korea, and colonized Taiwan. For China’s elites it was a devastating, traumatic loss, to be humiliated by another—and heretofore minor—Asian power. For Japan, of course, the meaning was the reverse. Japan had come of age as a great power and had begun to build an...

  19. THIRTEEN “Political Power Grows Out of the Barrel of a Gun”: Mao and the Red Army
    (pp. 229-248)
    William Wei

    That Mao Zedong was a military genius is a myth, although a powerful one. It is one that has been embraced by many people, from those seeking to explain how the Chinese Communists came to power in 1949 to those seeking to emulate them. Intimately associated with this Maoist myth is the image of a Red Army invincible once it had subscribed to Mao’s military ideas. Accordingly, Mao’s military writings have come to serve as the blueprint for many liberation movements in the so-called Third World. For example, Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese general responsible for defeating the French at...

  20. FOURTEEN Always Faithful: The PLA from 1949 to 1989
    (pp. 249-266)
    Dennis J. Blasko

    At the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the People’s Liberation Army was 5.5 million strong. Its twenty years of experience in guerrilla fighting against both the Nationalists and Japanese had culminated in large-scale conventional operations during the Civil War. China’s senior military leaders were also its senior political leaders and the army pledged its loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party above all. For the next forty years, China’s enemies would change; the PLA’s size, force structure, doctrine, equipment, and role in society would vary; and the balance between “red” (politics) and “expert” (professionalism) would...

  21. FIFTEEN China’s Foreign Conflicts since 1949
    (pp. 267-284)
    Larry M. Wortzel

    China’s leaders have tended to use force as an instrument of foreign policy when they believed it was important to take a strong stand on matters affecting sovereignty, including reinforcing territorial claims; to maintain safe buffer zones, free from what Beijing perceived as foreign intervention; and to back up strong diplomatic threats with the coercive power to make other countries take China seriously. This approach is deeply rooted in Chinese history, where strong states established relations of suzerainty over weaker ones, regarding them as “vassal states” (shuguo) and punishing them with military expeditions when they failed to do the bidding...

  22. SIXTEEN Recent Developments in the Chinese Military
    (pp. 285-304)
    June Teufel Dreyer

    The elderly party leaders who gathered together the morning after the military quelled demonstrations at Tiananmen Square and a hundred other cities in China in June 1989 must have been profoundly disconcerted by the events they had witnessed. Immediately dubbed the Eight Immortals, after the Daoist deities of Chinese legend, several of them remembered the demonstrations against the Chinese government in May 1919 that had been instrumental in the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Now they, the survivors of the revolutionary era, had become the target of a new generation of rebellious youth.

    Moreover, the reaction of the...

  23. Chinese Place Names
    (pp. 305-306)
  24. About the Contributors
    (pp. 307-310)
  25. Index
    (pp. 311-330)