Leadership: The One That Got Away


May 12,2008: China has introduced a manual wargaming system for training of commanders at the battalion, brigade and division level. Using maps, and small pieces of cardboard representing units (and with the designation of the unit, its combat power and mobility written on it), battles are fought. There are probability tables for the results of combat, and use of supplies. Previous to this, these training exercise were conducted using the 19th century German "Free Kriegspiel" system, in which umpires would basically estimate the outcome of battles and the movement and supply abilities of units involved. The new system is considered more accurate and easy to use.

Wargaming systems like this were first used by the American military in the 1970s, and the export of such devices, even the ones commercially available (in book stores, alongside books on military history and current affairs), was illegal. The FBI conducted an investigation of illegal export of these commercial wargames in the late 1970s. It turned out that the Chinese had someone ship the wargames to third countries, like Hong Kong or Singapore, and thence on to China. The FBI visited the publishers of the commercial wargames and examined mailing lists, trying to find out who the Chinese agents were. Nothing more was heard about the Chinese use of these systems after that, and it was believed that Chinese versions of these games were only used in secret projects (to develop new tactics to examine the outcome of possible future wars). The new, unclassified, training system shows signs of having been around for a while, apparently as a classified (secret) system.


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