Why is the Chinese military viewed so poorly by western countries?
Kam Chuanhui, lives in Singapore
Updated Mar 18 · Upvoted by Eric Johnson, 25 years working in and around USAF F-16s
Because of stuff like this:
(Above: A scene from Taegukgi (film) - Wikipedia)
The Korean War of the 1950s was the first time Western forces had encountered Chinese forces since the Boxer Rebellion.
One of the tactics used was the “human wave” assault. The term was used by Western media and alludes to the idea that Chinese forces lacked the tactical sophistication of their Western counterparts and relies on sheer weight of numbers.
That impression has stuck till now and propagated in the media (evidence above), even though it might not be true. PLA’s modernization has made it comparable to Western military as far as tactics and equipping is concerned (especially for Tier 1 units such as PLA Marine Corp and the Airborne forces)
Roland Bartetzko, former German Army Paratrooper, Croatian Defense Council, Kosovo Liberation Army
I haven’t read or seen anything coming from Western military experts that holds the Chinese Army in low regard.
Views and opinions that the Chinese military is less capable than other Asian military powers more often serve a political purpose than that they are fact-based.
This said, one still has to admit that the Chinese military is much more difficult to assess than other military organizations and this has several reasons:
China is not a democracy and doesn’t adhere to the same principles of transparency like many Western countries do. This is especially true for their military and state security apparatus. Short: Many things are kept secret.
A good way to assess a country’s military capability are joint maneuvers. China, however, rarely trains with Western military forces or sends their cadets to Western military academies.
Many Western countries and Russia are obliged by international arms reduction treaties to publish import data about their military strength. This is not the case for China.
Aside from a failed incursion into Vietnam, the Chinese haven’t fought in a major conflict since the end of the Korean war. Therefore, all assessments regarding their fighting power can only be guesses and speculation. Nobody, not even the Chinese themselves, knows how good (or bad) they would fare in an armed conflict.
Several years ago, China started to modernize its military and has continually risen its military budget as well. The Chinese military of the past was somehow outdated, with Soviet era material and no innovative weapons projects on their own, but this has changed dramatically.
China has become a rich country and their next step is to use some of their money to strengthen and modernize their military. There is still a long way to go and mistakes have been made: For example, the Chinese Air Force’s 4th generation fighter aircraft are plagued by technical problems.
However, one shouldn’t forget that only twenty years ago, China had a 1950’s style “People’s Army” without any modern weapons and no innovative weapons projects. This has dramatically changed in a very short time.
It would be wrong only to point at the Chinese failures: Wherever people are working, mistakes are made.
Instead of ridiculing China’s efforts, most military experts are rather impressed and also more than a bit alarmed by China’s military progress of the last years.