Chinese Disaster Relief Operations Identifying Critical Capability Gaps

By Patel, Nirav | Joint Force Quarterly, January 2009 | Go to article overview

Chinese Disaster Relief Operations Identifying Critical Capability Gaps


Patel, Nirav, Joint Force Quarterly


The aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake relief efforts has uncovered significant capability gaps in the ability of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to effectively and rapidly respond to major natural disasters. Exposure of these shortcomings provides a unique insight into China's capability to project power using its ground forces in large-scale contingency operations that require expansive logistics, planning, and interservice cooperation. The lack of an integrated relief campaign between the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) and PLA hindered the execution of the emergency relief orders issued by President Hu Jintao. This immediate and firm response from the Chinese civilian leadership contrasts with the Chinese military's inefficient execution of the relief efforts. The revelation of these capability gaps pierces through an abundance of literature from Chinese news sources and leaders on the "total success" of relief operations to illuminate deficiencies that could affect Chinese military operations from kinetic to nontraditional to future relief efforts.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The now-famous pictures of Premier have been instrumental in allaying Sichuan residents' fears of government neglect and also conferring international praise on Beijing's communist government. When speaking to Chinese strategists on a recent trip to China, I found that respect and admiration for their government were palpable. It was as if China underwent a major political revolution but not through the barrel of a gun. For President Hu, the earthquake relief efforts have taken China one step closer to becoming a "harmonious society." This has also increased Beijing's standing as a "responsible stakeholder" in the international community. Witness, for example, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Loong's statement that the "Sichuan earthquake showed how much China has changed and offered a glimpse of its future: a more open and self-confident nation." (1) Hsieng's praises were echoed by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said that the Chinese leadership's response to the disaster in Sichuan was "nothing short of magnificent." (2)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

There is a growing disconnect between these perceptions about prompt decisions from the central government and the PLA's relief efforts in Sichuan Province. Many of these divergences are attributable to the central government's control over information dissemination, which has made analysis of the operations difficult at best. Government-controlled reports in China showcase successful PLA relief campaigns, while Western media reports (though limited in depth) and eyewitness accounts are citing tremendous shortcomings. (3)

Many of the deficits in PLA relief operations are attributed to a poorly integrated command structure, aging equipment, and personnel who are not trained to deal with humanitarian and disaster relief contingencies on the scale of the Sichuan earthquake. As one Chinese expert noted, the relief efforts were the equivalent of responding to a full-scale war. (4) If this is the case, and on a logistical level it seems accurate, there is much to learn from China's disaster relief operations in terms of PLA capabilities and effectiveness in potential contingency operations.

Fundamental to discussions of a militarily ascendant China is Beijing's ability to project power. The earthquake relief efforts have called into question many assumptions about Chinese capabilities. This article identifies shortcomings in the PLA ability to respond to natural disasters, using the earthquake relief operations as a guide. The first part analyzes the effectiveness of China's decisionmaking authority. The second part seeks to determine capability gaps in the PLA's ability to respond to natural disasters while attempting to correlate these gaps with its ability to project power.

Decisionmaking Authority

It is important to differentiate the formal decisionmaking process from the PLA's response to the disaster itself.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Chinese Disaster Relief Operations Identifying Critical Capability Gaps
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.