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Chinese military perspective on the differences in traditional command culture between China and the West. "We must also absorb the beneficial factors from the Western command culture for our own use"

A military PLA perspective on the differences between Chinese and Western traditional command cultures. "Over thousands of years, cruel war practices have created many Chinese and foreign generals with unique personalities and different command styles. Influenced by different cultures, Chinese and Western generals have shown relatively distinct differences in command culture in terms of concepts, subjects, strategies and styles of combat command. At a time when military changes in the world are accelerating, while we inherit our own traditional command culture, we must also objectively absorb the beneficial factors from the traditional Western command culture for our own use".


by Nicola e Gabriele Iuvinale


"Over thousands of years, cruel war practices have created many Chinese and foreign generals with unique personalities and different command styles. Influenced by different cultures, Chinese and Western generals have shown relatively distinct differences in command culture in terms of concepts, subjects, strategies and styles of combat command. At a time when military changes in the world are accelerating, while we inherit our own traditional command culture, we must also objectively absorb the beneficial factors from the traditional Western command culture for our own use.

Command philosophy: benevolence and strength. Command philosophy best reflects the cognitive differences between China and the West in the use of military power. China has always focused on the combination of force and benevolence in war, while the West believes in absolute power. This difference is also externally reflected in the myths and legends that serve as their spiritual sustenance. In traditional Chinese mythology, gods are mostly mortals who achieve enlightenment through benevolence and righteousness, and commanders are mostly rewarded by virtue of benevolence and righteousness. The idols revered in Western traditions, such as ancient Greek Spartan warriors and ancient Roman gladiators, are all representatives of strength. Violently conquer and crush your opponents.

The ancient Chinese sages all emphasized harmony, balance and moderation between man and nature, and between man and man. On the issue of war, they believed that war meant destruction and killing, and advocated that conflicts should be resolved through wisdom and morality as much as possible. Therefore, since ancient times, Chinese generals have paid more attention to controlling the extent of the use of military force in combat command. It is rare to rely entirely on force to completely destroy an enemy country. Instead, they often leave room for leeway, emphasizing the right conduct and winning the world with benevolence and righteousness. , and finally achieve the goal of turning hostility into friendship. This is also the reason why our country rarely launches wars to forcefully conquer other countries in its history. Compared with ancient China, which entered feudal society early, Western countries have experienced slavery society for a longer period of time. In this cruel social system, only absolute power can obtain the opportunities and conditions for survival. This has led Westerners to believe more and pursue greater power. After gaining sufficient strength, Western military generals often emphasize relying on strong power to make their opponents surrender, and even move towards the path of external expansion and plunder.

The main body of command: generals and institutions. Combat command is an extremely complex process that requires the command subject to have sufficient intelligence and mental strength to make decisions. Since ancient times, China has regarded the actual commander of the army, that is, the individual commander, as the main body of commanding operations, and has paid more attention to the selection of generals. Western armies have gradually formed a command feature with staff departments and other institutions as the main body, placing more emphasis on the role of command institutions.

Many military books in ancient China paid great attention to the role of generals. For example, Sun Tzu pointed out in "The Art of War" that "the general who knows the war is responsible for the livelihood of the people, and the master of the country's security." It is believed that good generals are directly related to the security of the country. Views such as "Thousands of troops are easy to obtain, but one general is difficult to find" and "One general is incompetent and the three armies are exhausted" have become the Chinese people's basic understanding of generals. This reflects the special status of generals in the ancient Chinese army in combat command. With the establishment and development of military staff organizations, China is paying more and more attention to the important role of command organizations in combat command. However, generals still play a key role in command decision-making and still have absolute decision-making and command authority over the military's combat operations. . In the Western military, the main body of command has experienced a transformation from the "commander decision-making type" of early wars to the "officer corps decision-making type" of modern wars. In the 19th century, the Prussian army established a general staff, responsible for researching all aspects of war and formulating troop mobility plans and campaign implementation plans. The collective wisdom of the staff officers became an important intellectual advantage for the Prussian army over its opponents. At present, although the staff organizations of Western armies are different, they all take the Prussian Army General Staff as a model. Operations tend to pay more attention to the role of the entire command organization, especially the staff providing suggestions or forming collective decisions, and rely more on systems and platforms. Calculation and other data decisions.

Command strategy: strategy and heavy skills. In war, commanders need correct methods to fully unleash the combat effectiveness of their troops, that is, command strategies. Both Chinese and Western generals regard the use of strategy as an important means to improve their command capabilities. However, during the command process, due to their different cultural backgrounds, they naturally chose different practical paths. Chinese generals are better at winning through strategy and focus on "confrontation"; while Western generals are more inclined to use technological advantages to achieve the purpose of victory and place more emphasis on "technique".

The emphasis on strategy by ancient Chinese generals was deeply influenced by the philosophical thoughts of various schools of thought. Laozi's "Tao Te Ching" is known as the "King of All Scriptures". It is a manual of tactics for defeating the strong by the weak, which has attracted countless military strategists and counselors to draw the power of ideas from it. As China's greatest military book, "The Art of War" is a comprehensive discussion of military strategies. Its classic strategies such as "attack the unprepared and surprise" and "use the right combination to win by surprise" are well-known. In the West, the ideological emancipation brought about by the Renaissance greatly promoted the progress and development of Western science and technology. A large number of new technologies and tools such as muskets, telescopes, maps, etc. were applied in the military field, opening the curtain of military reform in the West and effectively assisting the West in its overseas colonial plunder. In this process, the military of Western countries gradually developed a consciousness of seeking victory through technological superiority, and war was also regarded as a calculable and predictable science. Guided by this understanding, Western combat theories are often based on advanced scientific and technological breakthroughs or the development of advanced equipment.

Command style: cautious versus adventurous. A unique commanding style is a significant symbol of the art of conducting. For commanders, what best reflects the command style is the attitude towards launching military operations in combat command. The different national characters of China and the West determine their respective commanders' command styles of being cautious and adventurous.

The foundation of Chinese civilization is agricultural civilization. In the long-term agricultural production, the Chinese people attach great importance to the natural view of the five elements mutually reinforcing each other and the recurrence of the four seasons. They strictly abide by the laws of production and life of spring plowing, summer growth, autumn harvest, and winter storage, and gradually form a restrained national character. This national character influenced Chinese military strategists’ understanding of war. The opening chapter of "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu points out that "soldiers are important matters of the country, the place of life and death, and the way of survival, and must be carefully observed." The essence of this sentence is precisely a cautious attitude towards military operations. In line with its strict and cautious command style, China's military tradition places more emphasis on defense than offense, especially active defense. The foundation of Western civilization is the maritime civilization represented by the Greek and Greek civilizations. The challenges and rich rewards from the sea have created a common adventurous gene in Western countries. Clausewitz believed in "On War" that "war is similar to gambling in terms of its objective and subjective nature" and "war is an area full of uncertainty, and commanders must accept And be ready to overcome and take advantage of this uncertainty, rather than blindly pursue unrealistic certainty.” This gambling-like uncertainty on the battlefield is more likely to inspire Western generals to take higher-risk military actions. Of course, risk-taking means that if you want to obtain the expected high returns, you must take huge high risks. The results will naturally include wins and losses, and more often than not, you will lose more and win less".

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