It’s one way to understand China’s maritime strategy in the Western Pacific. It’s also a way for the American sea services to plot strategy to deny China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy control of the sea, defeating Beijing’s purposes; to wrest control of the sea from China, granting the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps the liberty to use the sea lanes for their own purposes; and to project power as necessary to convert victory at sea into wartime triumph.
Deny, control, project.
Why Mao Zedong, one of history’s most bloodstained butchers? Because Chinese Communist Party and PLA potentates found their approach to war-making on the party’s founding chairman, for one thing. In 2015 the Ministry of National Defense released its first official statement of China’s Military Strategy. Proclaims the directive with admirable clarity, “The strategic concept of active defense is the essence of the [CCP’s] military strategic thought.” Active defense was the core of Mao’s approach to military strategy, distilled from “the long-term practice of revolutionary wars.” And it remains the essence of Communist China’s way of war four-plus decades after the Great Helmsman went to his reward.
Not just an interesting or relevant concept, but the essence of the party’s martial worldview. The “complete set of strategic concepts of active defense,” says China’s Military Strategy, boils down to “adherence to the unity of strategic defense and operational and tactical offense.” China’s armed forces might be weaker than an antagonist’s on the whole. Indeed, they were weaker at the outset during Mao’s lifetime—an inconvenient fact that spurred him to devise the concept of active defense. But the CCP chairman pointed out that PLA commanders need not despair. They must not foreswear an offensive fighting spirit and methods in the face of overbearing enemies. Indeed, the Red Army could overpower and annihilate individual segments of a hostile force at a particular place on the map at a particular time.