Experience in war provides hard-won lessons that veterans can pass down. Without such experience, there is no one to teach soldiers the brutal realities of combat.
The Chinese military has almost no combat experience, analyst Timothy Heath wrote for the California think-tank RAND. But that inexperience might not matter very much, Heath explained.
“Today, China’s military has an increasingly impressive high-tech arsenal, but its ability to use these weapons and equipment remains unclear. There are reasons to be skeptical.”
The last time the People’s Liberation Army fought a major conflict was in 1979, when “a seasoned Vietnamese military demolished a bungled Chinese invasion,” according to Heath.
At the time, the Vietnamese military was still fresh from its defeat of U.S. and allied forces in the early 1970s. The Chinese Communist Party, by contrast, had gutted its own armed forces through politically-motivated purges.
“The deleterious consequences are evident in the PLA’s reversion to discredited, but low-skill, tactics like the human-wave assault, as well as in the inability of infantrymen to navigate or read maps and the inaccuracy of artillerymen due to unfamiliarity with procedures for measuring distances and calculating firing distances,” Heath wrote.
“The ghost of that defeat still hovers over the PLA,” he continued. “In China, authorities have largely chosen to ignore an embarrassing conflict that fits awkwardly with Beijing’s narrative of a peaceful rise, but the official silence has left many PLA veterans disillusioned about their participation in the war.”