China as a Military Power

Mao Zedong, 1949.

TWENTY years ago, as Major John Magruder noted at the time in these pages,[i] the Chinese proudly called themselves pacifists. They have spent the better part of the intervening two decades in fighting major wars, and probably they no longer think of themselves as pacifists any more than others so regard them. The martial spirit of China, indeed, was never dead. It now has been rejuvenated by a renascent nationalism inspired by the Japanese aggressions, and, since the Korean war, by the dialectical rationalization of Communism. Peking, echoing the familiar rodomontade of Moscow, issues a call to arms in "defense" of the Fatherland and stirs the masses with visions of China's latent strength transformed into dynamic political and military energy.

That the world no longer thinks of the Chinese in terms of pacifism is a measure of the change in China. Two decades have exposed China, not only to the surge of nationalism and "anti-Westernism" which so many observers have noted in Asia, but to vast and profound social changes. The oligarchy of wealth and wisdom (or Oriental shrewdness) which once ruled China has gone; the intelligentsia are harnessed to the chariot of Communism, which is essentially a dynamic and aggressive philosophy. The picture we once entertained of the somewhat benign, inscrutable but wise and civilized Chinese, too intelligent for war--an oversimplified caricature 20 years ago--has even less validity today. For the future China is in the hands of peasant stock, of patient men who have shown on many battlefields that they will fight. We have learned this, somewhat to our surprise and at heavy cost, in Korea. There for almost a year American troops, for the first time since the Boxer rebellion (save for skirmishes with river pirates and bandits), have been fighting organized Chinese armed forces. We have met face to face and often hand to hand the modern Chinese soldier, and few Americans who have faced them will deny the Chinese will to fight.

Is the new Chinese soldier

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