Leadership: China Creates Better Battle Groups


August 4, 2008: China is reorganizing its ground combat units and adopting new training methods for the troops. Ground combat would now be based around a battalion "battle group." This is a technique that Western armies have been using decades ago, and was first developed back in World War II. A Chinese battalion battle group would contain 700-800 troops, most of them infantry or tanks. But there would also be artillery, engineers, electronic warfare and other specialist detachments. In the West, battalion battle groups tend to be a bit larger, at a thousand or more troops. Previously, China had based its battle groups on regiments, borrowing much of this from the Russians (who developed it from their World War II experience.) This created much larger (over 2,000 troops) units that were not very flexible.

China is also exercising more centralized control over combat training. There will be more inspections, and tests will be administered to insure that units have achieved their training goals. Commanders of units that do better with training, will be promoted faster. These techniques were also developed in the West over the past half century, although some of the earliest instances of this occurred in ancient China.

This system of standards and test doesn't work so well in military organizations that have a lot of trouble with corruption. China does, although anti-corruption efforts are constant and well publicized. But the corruption persists. This makes it difficult for the government to know which units are really good, and which ones paid off corruptible training inspectors.

China is also training its troops to handle irregular warfare, and odd situations in general. This will come in handy when troops have to be called out to deal with civil disorder, foreign peacekeeping, or domestic disaster relief. Not all divisions will get the full treatment with the new training. It's simply too expensive, especially with the price of oil skyrocketing. But each province will have some troops trained to the new, higher, standards, and there will be an additional reserve of several divisions, tuned up to the new standard, and ready for big emergencies.


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