Logistics: The Chinese Way

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November 7, 2005: China has been investing heavily in modernization of its armed forces, a process that has raised concern in some surrounding countries and in the U.S. But all is not necessarily what it seems. Recent "combined" Russo-Chinese exercises in northeastern Asia left the Russian observers with a poor impression of Chinese capabilities. They cited an almost complete lack of jointness among the Chinese services (all of which are technically part of the same service), with poor air-ground coordination, poor staff work, and poor communications. One of the few bright spots that some Russians identified was a surprisingly efficient logistical system. Supplies of food and fuel were adequate and readily available, bringing praise from Russian officers who have to cope with a rickety system that often can't even deliver rations to the troops.

Nevertheless, despite the generally favorable grades given to the Chinese for the logistical proficiency by most Russian observers, some pointed out serious flaws in the system. It seems that the Chinese procured most of their food and fuel supplies from local sources. Prior to the exercises, local provincial officials were told to stockpile supplies and make them available to the troops as required. This, as some of the Russian observers pointed out, is not something that the Chinese are going to be able to do if they have to conduct protracted operations outside of areas with well developed infrastructures. And certainly not possible outside of China. A historian would also note that the Chinese method of arranging military logistics is actually an ancient one, going back over a thousand years. It works for internal conflicts but, as the Russian officers noted, was of little use for operations outside China.

 


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