The CCP Politburo holds “collective study sessions” on a semi-regular basis, in which an outside academic or government expert leads a discussion on a selected topic. Such sessions are important signals as to what issues the senior leadership finds important. The seventh collective study session of the 20th Central Committee Politburo was held on July 24, 2023 and was presided over by Xi Jinping. At this session, Xi delivered a speech on the importance of strengthening military governance to ensure better coordination across departments and services and deepen the integration of military and civil strategic efforts and capabilities.
Zhao Xiaozhuo, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, explains the trajectory of the Ukraine war in terms of two types of warfare: “mechanized warfare,” centered mostly on large-scale platforms such as aircraft and tanks, and “information warfare,” which more systemically integrates such platforms with other tools, including low-cost, dual-use technologies such as drones and social media. Zhao argues that Ukraine has used the latter to its advantage, which has enabled it to—among other things—take out Russian combat platforms through precision strikes.
Zhang Gaoyuan, a security scholar at Peking University, draws lessons for China amid what she terms the digital transformation of intelligence gathering. Zhang argues dual-use technology such as drones and Starlink satellites, open-source social media information, and efforts by non-combatants have been pivotal in guaranteeing Ukraine a steady flow of battlefield intelligence. As a prognosis for China, she promotes greater research into the opportunities and risks digital technologies present for intelligence acquisition and security.
Huang Bin, a former defense industry executive, draws lessons for Beijing from the Russia-Ukraine war, which he sees as worth attention due to rising turbulence in China’s security environment. Huang argues China should increase its military spending as a share of GDP, invest in systems that enhance battlefield situational awareness, step up the production of equipment for special operations, improve its military logistics capabilities, and leverage patriotic education to expand its counterespionage network.
A researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences, the PLA’s main research institute, argues that Russia’s performance in the Ukraine war so far has revealed a range of military deficiencies, including relatively limited battlefield situational awareness, underdeveloped automation of weapons systems, and military personnel shortages. That said, the author argues that Moscow has successfully used nuclear deterrence to discourage NATO from direct military intervention.
Sometimes referred to in shorthand as the “History Resolution” or “Resolution on History,” this document is the Party’s official narrative of its history. The CCP has in total issued three such “resolutions” since its founding in 1921. This resolution follows the 1945 Resolution on Certain Historical Issues [关于若干历史问题的决议] and the 1981 Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China [关于建国以来党的若干历史问题的决议].
Wang Shushen, an expert in U.S.-Taiwan relations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, argues that shifts in the level and nature of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan that began under the Trump administration are forcing Beijing to deploy its own set of deterrence measures. These dynamics, Wang argues, will make it difficult to prevent and control a crisis in and around the Taiwan Strait in the future.
Liu Jieyi, the former director of the Taiwan Affairs Office, expounds on the 20th Party Congress work report to distill Beijing’s overarching strategy for “reunification” with Taiwan. Liu argues it is important to “put [this strategy] into practice,” which includes suppressing voices in favor of Taiwan independence and what Liu terms “foreign interference schemes,” promoting cultural and educational exchange across the Strait, and refusing to renounce the use force to achieve “reunification.”
Zuo Xiying, one of China’s top experts on international security, examines evolving U.S. deterrence strategies in light of rising strategic competition with China. He argues that the gap in conventional deterrence capabilities between China and the U.S. is rapidly narrowing owing to China’s technological and military advances and what he sees as the decline of the U.S. industrial base. As a “stress reaction” to this perceived decline, Zuo argues U.S. policymakers have begun to discuss declining American conventional deterrence capabilities vis-a-vis China more frequently. Zuo warns that Beijing should approach shifts in relative capabilities cautiously, and recognize that the U.S. is expanding its “toolbox” of mechanisms that can be leveraged flexibly to deter China, particularly in the case of heightened tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
Researchers at the PLA’s National University of Defense Technology examine the U.S. strategy of deterrence by denial against China since 2017, tracing developments across the Trump and Biden administrations and assessing likely impacts on China’s efforts to shape its regional security environment. The authors argue that while these strategies have “achieved some of the expected effects,” they will be constrained abroad by the security interests of regional U.S. partners and allies and domestically through disagreement among U.S. political parties and U.S. military branches about how to approach building denial capabilities.
Emphasis added throughout text by editors.