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One aspect of Chinese military planning that is seldom discussed by Western analysts or scholars is the role of political warfare in improving combat effectiveness as a force multiplier.
Previously, China and Taiwan both had comprehensive political warfare systems within their militaries. China and Taiwan both had senior-officer level political warfare academies. (The US has neither) Political warfare played a critical role in Chinese and Taiwanese military planning.
Now it appears that political warfare is a central feature of Chinese military planning but not Taiwan’s.
At the most basic level political warfare is the explicit consideration of the political goals and potential political consequences of every military action. Every written tactical battle plan includes a political warfare annex. The American plan includes an intelligence annex that includes some of the same information, but they are different in the way they integrate political factors.
Vietnam provides an example of incorporating political warfare into a battle plan. When the Viet Cong attacked a hill, the main purpose was often not to kill American troops or even to capture the terrain. It was to make the front page of The New York Times. American officers never understood this approach to warfare and ultimately it is part of what defeated them.
Understanding China's approach to political warfare and how it differs from an American approach to combat is critical to an understanding of how various scenarios might play out in the Taiwan Strait.
Just knowing that nearly all Chinese military actions are designed more for the political consequences than for military results will help to predict future military actions and to prevent serious miscalculations in a future conflict. It is especially important in understanding motivations and actions at the beginning of a conflict to prevent too rapid an escalation.
Political warfare approaches have a profound impact on war fighting scenarios. Political warfare efforts prior to a conflict often provide clarity to the rationale for the conflict for a military’s own troops and for opposing forces by rationalizing the military policies that lead to conflict.
An example is a Central Military Commission document in 1999 which purports to be a basis for PLA action to recover Taiwan. While this document has been judged to be false, nonetheless it is still a good example of this type of political warfare effort and the type language used to indoctrinate ones own troops, especially the officers.
- Excerpts from Strait Talk, Chapter Four: The Military Factor
There are several war fighting scenarios conjured up by military planners to provide a basis for the development of force structure, weapons systems, and specialized tactics/strategies to be used in a particular situation. This process of scenario development is heavily influenced by the basic approach to military planning. The Chinese and the Taiwanese give more weight to the intent whereas American planners give more weight to the capability of enemy forces and the result is different scenario perspectives. From our view, the most realistic scenarios are focused on the use of naval and air power in the Taiwan Strait area accompanied by a political warfare campaign to force Taiwan to the negotiating table. For the U.S., military planners understand the naval and air component, while the political warfare portion of the campaign is the least understood.
- Excerpted from Strait Talk, Chapter Four: The Military Factor
Types of Warfare
EAPASI has identified several forms of warfare. We are developing the list.
U.S. experts and some Taiwanese experts refer to public opinion warfare (舆论战), psychological warfare (心理战), and legal warfare (法律战) as the “three warfares” (三战).
Definitions of Warfare