Leadership: Pummeling Provincialism


December 29, 2009: In the last few years, China has been reorganizing its military forces so that they are able to move to different parts of the country, and immediately join in an operation with a unit from another part of the country. This is not how Chinese military units normally function. In a custom going back thousands of years, units, especially army ones, tended to stay at their bases most of the time, and not go very far even for major exercises. By staying put, units developed a unique, to themselves, way of operating. There was no uniformity, except on paper.

To make the new doctrine work, the Chinese built a new military communications system, using a lot of Internet type technology, that not only linked all military units, but also contained data formats (like maps and reports) that were standardized. Thus all units (army, navy and air force, plus the different branches of each service) were able to communicate a lot of information, in formats everyone understood.

But this did not solve the problem of not having common tactics, logistics (supply) and support services. Common tactics and logistics are the two most crucial elements, and this is where the most problems are being encountered. While, in theory, training and tactics have always been standardized, that fell apart in practice. As had long been the Chinese custom, provincial military units tended to go their own way. Personnel rarely transferred to different parts of the country, so the local customs became ingrained, and only vaguely in compliance with the national standards. These local variations extended to logistics and how all manner of support functions were handled. Getting all this standardized is proving much more difficult.


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