Leadership: Kung Fu Fighting Hangs On


March 4, 2015: In the 2013 the “modernizers” in the Chinese Army finally got the votes to begin dismantling ancient practices in order to make more time available for more practical combat training. Not all brigade and division commanders immediately went along. That was because the Chinese military has been ordered to get rid of archaic practices, including theatrical stunts that have long been used by the communists running the armed forces to “build morale” and keep the troops busy during decades of very little money to conduct actual military training. These theatrical routines were based on classic Chinese stage works (often called “Chinese Opera” in the West), martial arts and sometimes just impressive and entertaining stunts.

Some of these ancient practices were now comical. Some of the regular training often had troops using ancient exercise routines that may have aided men who employed swords but had little utility now. While this martial arts stuff looked impressive, it has no real use in modern warfare. Now, after over a year of change, the diehards have noted that the units that enthusiastically embraced more training for snipers (and marksmanship), maintenance on vehicles, equipment and weapons and lots more pertinent stuff were doing much better on readiness inspections and field exercises. The commanders of these better performing units were getting promoted faster. Message received,

Some Chinese commanders noted that they could retain some of the ancient practices by borrowing ideas from their neighbors. The Russians, who were also admirers of East Asian martial arts, had managed to adapt classic martial arts techniques to the needs of modern combat and produced a new form of martial arts that took useful moves from martial arts but trained troops to use them in realistic combat situations and while dressed as they would be in combat. China is now adopting that Russian approach. One beneficial side-effect of this is that the new Russian style of martial arts made the classical martial arts maneuvers of the traditional Chinese exercises and demonstrations seem silly and, to most troops, a waste of time. Now their commanders had to agree.

Some troops believed the classical stuff still had value, but the bean-counters had their way and in the name of providing more time for demonstrably useful subjects, the traditional exercises and demonstrations were eliminated. Troops who wanted to continue with this sort of thing could do so on their own time, but on duty all attention was on the growing number of technical skills even infantry troops have to acquire and maintain.

The new training methods also led to the disbanding of special “demonstration” (entertainment) units that performed classical martial arts, music, singing and dancing for morale purposes. But young Chinese, having grown up on PCs and the Internet, were not amused, or entertained. So over 10,000 “demonstration” troops are now available to more conventional military tasks. In the process of doing this it was found that these demonstration units were the source of many corrupt schemes, including politicians getting sons and even wives appointed as officers for these units.





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