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Non-Combat Operations of China's Armed Forces in the 21st Century : Historical Development, Current Drivers and Implications for Military Projection

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Author: Strange, Austin Michael
Advisor: Tang, Yanfang
Committee Members: Cheng, Tun-jen; Wilcox, Emily
Issued Date: 7/17/2012
Subjects: China
Military History
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10288/16743
Description: This thesis examines the twenty-first century non-combat activities of China's armed forces as defined in a 2009 official release titled "Building Non-Combat Military Operation Ability”1 in order to understand the historical development, domestic drivers and broader implications of China's contemporary non-combat missions. The paper focuses primarily on disaster relief and domestic stability maintenance, two types of operations that are ideal for examining how the internal drivers of non-combat missions are manifested in practice. Both Chinese and Western PLA analysts frequently view non-combat activities primarily as a component of China's growing international military presence rather than analyzing the domestic scope and causes of these operations. Indeed, participation in international non-combat missions allows China's armed forces to achieve unprecedented operational experience outside of China's immediate periphery and has also helped enhance China's international soft power. This thesis, however, demonstrates that People's Liberation Army (PLA) and People's Armed Police (PAP) twenty-first century non-combat missions are chiefly designed to achieve domestic goals. These include maintaining regime stability, balancing complex civil-military relations, and preserving the PLA's image as an army "serving the people” amid complex internal and external national security environments. I argue that an "outward-looking" approach focused on the international ramifications of PLA and PAP non-combat operations is insufficient to fully understand these missions, and it can potentially distort our view of China's broader military development. As vital conduits for bolstering CCP regime stability, Chinese civil-military relations and the PLA's image as a people-centric force, China's twenty-first century domestic non-combat operations, driven by internal security challenges arising from socioeconomic, military and historical developments in post-reform China, will likely continue to grow in importance and scope as these trends persist and intensify, thereby ensuring that the military retains a prominent role in China. As a result, twenty-first century non-combat operations have the potential to impede outward Chinese military development rather than simply expand Chinese interests abroad as more resources are needed to pursue internal security objectives.
Degree: Bachelors of Arts in Modern Languages

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