This thesis shows that the doctrine of Active Defence has been the overriding concern of the PLA since 1950 and not any form of People’s War. Active Defence is based on three basic principles: no provocation of other nations; no bases anywhere on foreign soil; and no seizure of territory. The PLA’s articulated doctrine in the 1950s was to ‘Protect the North and Defend the South’. In the 1960s this changed to ‘Lure the Enemy Deep into the Country’ in order to crush him with ‘People’s War’. In the 1970s, this became ‘Prepare to Fight Early and Fight Big’. By using examples of the PLA in battle this thesis shows how the doctrine changed in light of failures in battle. The post-Mao reorganisation of the PLA to rectify these faults turned it into a modern military force, building on this legacy by transforming itself into a hardened and networked military. The PLA has now reached a stage of its history where it can fully implement its operational art that took root in the theories espoused in the 1920s and 1930s through the Soviet model, and tried to be implemented in the 1950s and 1960s only to be thwarted by the Cultural Revolution. The People’s Liberation Army’s operational art, this thesis demonstrates, has now come of age.

Year Manuscript Completed



People's Liberation Army; China armed forces

Primary Language of Manuscript


01Front.pdf (116 kB)