Deng Xiaoping

The Army Should Attach Strategic Importance To Education and Training


Spoken: August 23, 1977
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


China’s four modernizations include the modernization of national defence. At present, there are a number of problems in the People’s Liberation Army. Many comrades are worried about whether the army can accomplish modernization smoothly. Other comrades are worried that unless there is immediate consolidation, the army, which was sabotaged for so long by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, might not be able to go into battle in the event of an enemy attack. These worries are not groundless. Hence the questions: How can we consolidate the army? How can we ensure preparedness in the event of war? How can we run the army well? All these questions must be answered if we want to modernize national defence.

Where shall we begin?

Of course, there should be a readjustment of the leading bodies at various levels, including an interchange of cadres, as suggested by Comrade Mao Zedong. Were it not for the readjustment in 1975, even more persons would have been involved in factional activities, and even more cadres would have been victimized. The 1975 readjustment protected part of our cadres. But its scope was too narrow and there were cases where readjustment and cadre interchange were not carried out as they should have been. Readjustment and cadre interchange were advocated and ordered by Comrade Mao Zedong on many occasions, and they should have continued. Nevertheless, they were stopped before we could complete them.

But when I ask where we should begin, I am referring not only to the readjustment of the leading bodies but to other problems as well. In my speech at the enlarged meeting of the Military Commission of the Central Committee in 1975, I proposed the principle that peacetime education and training should be considered a matter of strategic importance. Historically, our army was tempered and grew through long years of war, and cadres were promoted mainly on the basis of the test of the battlefield. But now that we are not at war, how are we to test our cadres, raise their level, and improve the quality and combat effectiveness of our troops? How else if not through education and training? We have to give substance to the principle, adopted by the enlarged meeting of the Military Commission, that education and training are of strategic importance. This should be done in two ways.

One way is for the army itself to encourage hard study and training. Because of the past period of chaos, discipline in much of the army is lax and the work style poor, and this has partly lowered its prestige among the people. At present, army cadres — some of them, at least — are not particularly welcome in civilian units. The People’s Liberation Army should recognize its failings and restore its prestige through its own efforts. It should intensify the political education of the troops, strengthen their sense of discipline and make sure that they learn the skills required of them through diligent study and strenuous training. Its fine tradition and good style of work should be restored and cultivated, also through hard training. In order to be able to fight, the army must raise its political consciousness and train intensively. Without hard training, skills cannot be improved and accidents may occur. Everybody, from soldiers to cadres, should undergo such training. All cadres, including leading cadres at all levels, should increase their ability as commanders and managers through intensive training. A company political instructor, for instance, should learn how to do his job competently. Many accidents can thus be forestalled. Without hard training, when problems crop up, a company commander or political instructor will not know how to deal with them and may even do things that aggravate the contradictions. And how can a company commander or political instructor be considered capable if he doesn’t know all his men well? How can a commander at the army level direct his unit if he doesn’t know its various companies? It is even more important for cadres at the divisional and regimental levels to understand their subordinate units. Therefore, army, divisional and regimental cadres should all do short tours of duty periodically as privates in the companies so as to learn what conditions are like there. Study of modern warfare and of combined operations by the various services and arms should also be included in the training. The quality of cadres at different levels can be enhanced through study, camp and field training, and military exercises. As for the companies, it is correct for them to learn from the Hard-Boned Sixth Company, because its style of work should not be confined to a single company. All other companies and even cadres at all levels should study and train as diligently as the Hard-Boned Sixth and be imbued with the same kind of political ideology. But it is not enough for the troops to learn from the Hard-Boned Sixth. They must also assiduously study modern warfare and acquire a lot of other necessary knowledge, political, cultural, scientific and technical. What I have been dealing with is the training of troops, which, of course, involves many other questions we can discuss.

The second way to approach the problem of training cadres is through the schools. We should not close our eyes to the fact that our cadres at various levels are deficient in the ability to direct modern warfare. To admit shortcomings and inadequacies is the starting point for solving problems and overcoming weaknesses or failings. For example, if our country were to recognize that it is backward in certain respects, there would be much hope. We have been held back for some time because we refused to recognize this fact. Now we simply have to admit that by international standards, our science and technology have a long way to go. We must also admit that our army is not sufficiently capable of conducting modern warfare, and that although it is numerically strong, it is of relatively poor quality. It was of very good quality during the war years and the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea. Indeed, given quality of that kind, our army could fight even with its present weapons and could learn to adapt itself to the conditions of modern warfare and defeat the powerful imperialists. The point is that because of the interference and sabotage by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, the quality of our army just isn’t as good as before. In particular, the cadres at the various levels do not have the requisite ability to command and manage. None of us, including the veteran comrades, is sufficiently capable of directing modern wars. We must recognize this fact.

With few exceptions, the former schools should be restored. More cadres should be sent to them for training. There are now very few schools for training political cadres, and their number should be increased. From the beginning of the War of Resistance Against Japan [1937-45], we felt a shortage of political cadres, and we did so again during the War of Liberation [1946-49]. It is relatively easy to select military commanders but quite hard to select political cadres. At least this was the case with the Second Field Army of the People’s Liberation Army, and I believe it to be true of our armed forces as a whole. A number of intellectuals were recruited during the anti-Japanese war, and later on political cadres were selected from this group, the so-called “1938 vintage”, as well as from among veteran Red Army men. How many qualified company political instructors do we have now? Battalion political instructors? Regimental, divisional and army-level political commissars? Some comrades say that in the struggle against Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, more political cadres were duped — or even “trapped in the quagmire” — than others. If this is true, we must certainly be vigilant. Since the number of political cadres at company level and higher almost equals that of military cadres at the corresponding levels, more provision should be made for training political cadres. This can be accomplished either by using the same schools to train both military and political cadres, or else by establishing separate political schools. This is a question worth studying. Moreover, the technical and specialized schools of the various services and arms should all be reopened. Their numbers can be increased if necessary, and some might also be amalgamated.

How are the various schools to function? I think three things are required of them. First, they should train, select and recommend cadres. They should act as a kind of collective political department, or collective cadre department. Second, they should help the cadres to conscientiously study modern warfare and combined operations involving various services and arms. Not only high-level cadres, but also cadres at company and platoon levels, should study so that they will all know what modern warfare is. I have said that to be a company commander nowadays means much more than just raising a Mauser and shouting: “Charge!” How will you command if you are given tank and artillery support and if ground-to-air and other telecommunications contacts are required? Even a single company may find itself in this position, not to mention battalions, regiments, divisions and armies. Third, our schools should restore our army’s traditional style of work. To put it briefly, this means working hard, seeking truth from facts, and applying the mass line. This style of work must be cultivated in the schools and put into practice in the army units. Schools must not be run as they have been in the past few years, but must teach something useful. I have suggested three requirements — perhaps there should be additional ones. I hope you will give this matter some thought.

Schools in the army are divided into those at higher, middle and lower levels. Higher-level schools include the military academies, political academies and logistics academies. The Military and Political College should be split into two institutions, one offering military training and the other political. Both the navy and the air force should have higher-level schools, as should the various special and technical arms. They should also have middle-and lower-level schools. Each division should have a training corps for training squad leaders and platoon officers. The greater military regions should take charge of training company and battalion cadres, and the higher-level schools should train cadres at the regimental level and above. This general division of labour is appropriate.

Our army schools must meet the three requirements I’ve mentioned. I think that within five years or a little longer we will be able to achieve the following objective: the creation of a generally better and more capable cadre corps which is also younger in average age — especially in the combat forces — all of whom will have mastered some knowledge of modern warfare and have a good style of work. Cadres recommended by army schools must have first, a knowledge of modern warfare and the ability to command and administer, and second, a sound ideology and style of work. The ranks of our cadres, and particularly those of the combat forces, should be renewed basically according to these requirements.

Some preparation is needed before we can establish schools. First, we have to decide what kind of schools we are going to establish and where. What if no school buildings are available? If schools could be run in the cave dwellings of Yan’an, why can’t we now use tents or simple houses? Second, we must carefully select school cadres, including teachers. This is essential. These cadres are more important than those in other army posts. We should select outstanding men who are willing to familiarize themselves with actual conditions, work hard and set an example to others by their own deeds. Those in charge of the schools must know their students well. Otherwise, how can they recommend cadres? How can they act as a collective political or cadre department? School cadres must be chosen carefully and if a man is suitable for work in the schools he might even be transferred from his current post. Third, we have to draw up teaching materials. This is also essential. Teaching materials should be uniform. I have talked with comrades from the Academy of Military Sciences and the Military and Political College, asking them to take charge of compiling materials. The contents should enable the students to learn both about ourselves and about the enemy, to become especially familiar with our own combat experience and to understand modern warfare — the use of tanks and planes, operations in the air, on the ground, on and under the sea, combined operations by the various services and arms, and so on. In short, the teaching materials should impart some systematic knowledge. Fourth, it is essential to select students carefully. What kind of people should be enrolled? In other words, what kind of cadres should be transferred for study? We must select from among the good cadres. There should be some slight changes in the composition of the upper-level student bodies. At present, those receiving training in the Military and Political College are mainly cadres at army and divisional levels, while cadres at regimental level account for only 20 per cent. In the future, the proportion of regimental cadres should be increased. I suggest that the students of the upper-level schools be mainly regimental cadres plus some outstanding cadres at battalion level. At the same time, these schools should train army-level and divisional cadres. There are now large numbers of regimental cadres who have had combat experience, having served as squad or platoon leaders or company commanders during the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea. I’m afraid not many battalion cadres have ever fought in a war, but nevertheless there are outstanding cadres at that level also. And in the special army units there are quite a few battalion cadres who have taken part in combat operations.

Why am I proposing that the majority of students be regimental cadres? So that we will have young or relatively young commanders for the combat forces. I think we can reach this goal in five years if we are ready to try our hardest. Political cadres can be older, but not by too much — say, three or four years. The year before last, I said that company political instructors could be somewhat older, with more accumulated experience and the ability to do meticulous ideological work. By the same token, political cadres at various levels can be somewhat older than military officers. In general, military commanders should be a little younger, but we should not rule out somewhat older individuals if they are in good health. Military schools at various levels may devote 70 per cent of their teaching hours to military subjects and 30 per cent to political subjects. The students should pursue military knowledge earnestly, including knowledge of the types and characteristics of planes and tanks and how to combat them, and how to direct combined operations by the various services and arms. Political schools may devote 60 per cent of their teaching hours to political subjects and 40 per cent to military subjects. Political cadres must also study military affairs. Teachers are crucial and should be selected carefully. There should be a contingent of good teachers. Leading school cadres can teach part time, as can leading comrades of the greater military regions and their subordinate departments.

The schools may recommend those students who have done well in their studies, who have good command and administrative abilities, a knowledge of modern warfare and a fine style of work, and who are ideologically sound. Battalion cadres meeting these requirements can be promoted to the regimental level, and regimental cadres to the divisional. Of course, most of the students will have to return to their original posts because we have only a fixed number of armies and a fixed number of divisions. After working in the units for two years, these outstanding divisional and regimental cadres can undergo further training, that is, study for another year mainly to deepen their knowledge of modern warfare. Then, good divisional cadres can be promoted to the army level and good regimental ones to the divisional level. In this way, inside of five years or a little more, we can reduce the average age of cadres in the combat forces. The same approach should be followed for the naval and air force commanders.

(Excerpt from a speech at a forum organized by the Military Commission of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.)