THE CHINESE ARMY TODAY: Tradition and Transformation for the 21st Century

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THE CHINESE ARMY TODAY: Tradition and Transformation for the 21st Century, Dennis J. Blasko, Routledge, London and New York, 2006, 228 pages, $34.95.

In The Chinese Army Today, Dennis Blasko set out to write the kind of book he wished he'd had available when he was assigned as a military attaché to China. The book's purpose is to provide a concise but thorough picture of Chinese ground forces as they face the challenges of the 21 st century.

By way of orientation, Blasko provides a short history of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) from its origins as a guerrilla organization fighting for social transformation to its incarnation as a conventional army in the late 20th century. But his focus is on the current transformation of the PLA as it prepares to meet the challenges that are sure to emerge as the People's Republic flexes its economic and political muscle in Asia.

The current push for transformation in the Chinese military originated with the desire of Mao's successor, Deng Xiaoping, to bring China into the 20th century with his four modernization programs for agriculture, industry, science and technology, and national defense. Wisely, in light of the low nationalsecurity threat to their country in the last two decades of the 20th century, the Chinese communist leadership decided to subordinate military modernization to economic development, a more basic national need.

Taiwan's rapid modernization and economic prowess, and the increasingly defiant statements issued by the leaders of what is perceived by China as a "break-away province," led to a renewed emphasis on the modernization of the Chinese armed forces. …