STRATEGIC ANALYSIS

Rereading Mao’s Military Thinking

Prashant Kumar Singh is Associate Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • September 2013
    Volume: 
    37
    Issue: 
    5
    Articles

    Although the nature of warfare has changed beyond recognition since the 1920s and 1930s when Chairman Mao Zedong penned his main military writings, his military thoughts are still a point of reference for any discussion on military thinking in modern China. Developments in warfare have superseded Mao’s operational principles and tactics visualised in his three-stage warfare; however, his philosophical and political understanding of war has value that transcends time and space. The present article shows that the political and military situation in China in the 1920s and 1930s shaped Mao’s military thoughts, and his military ideas were an original contribution to Marxist thought. The extent to which pre-existing non-Marxist Chinese and Western scholarly traditions of strategic thinking influenced his ideas is uncertain. Mao’s military ideas continue to provide normative direction in China, with the potential of opportunistic philosophical manipulation by the government. In addition, the righteous convictions of his military thoughts continue to capture the imagination of anti-system dissenters worldwide.

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