Thursday, January 1, 2015


One of the very few credible articles on Chinese SOF (The only other that I can recall was by Dean Cheng in Special Warfare Magazine a couple of years ago.  

 In addition to the excerpts highlighted below (and I recommend reading the whole article) I would highlight the section on psychological operations/information warfare and note that these activities, including the "Three Warfares" are not part of SOF but controlled by the General Political Department.  I think this is an illustration of the importance that China places on these activities.  (we should recall the history of how US PSYOP ended up in USSOCOM in 1987 - GEN Lindsay (in addition to recognizing the historical and important linkage of psychological warfare and unconventional warfare) believed that failure to incorporate PSYOP into USSOCOM would have led to all US PSYOP capabilities placed in the Reserve Component and we would have lost important PSYOP capabilities for the nation.)  The Chinese on the other hand place such priority on these activities that they are controlled (and synchronized) at the national level.


Despite its early history as a guerilla organization, the PLA does not include irregular and unconventional warfare among the types of campaigns the force may be assigned. Special operations are an “important campaign activity” to be integrated into operations along with information warfare, firepower, maneuver, and psychological warfare capabilities. “Campaign special operations” are defined in the textbook The Science of Campaigns as
irregular operational activities conducted by specially formed, trained and equipped crack units (and small units) using special warfare to achieve specific campaign and strategic goals. The main purpose of its objectives are to assault enemy vital targets, paralyze enemy operational systems, reduce enemy operational capabilities, and interfere, delay, and disrupt enemy operational activities to create favorable conditions for main force units.
SOF units concentrate on special reconnaissance, raids, sabotage, and harassment while other non-SOF units conduct most special technical warfare tasks such as computer network attack.
And we should heed the message about mirror imaging SOF. Dennis makes an important contribution by comparing Chinese SOF missions with the US military Title 10 SOF mission

PLA SOF units and capabilities are not a black box to outside observers as Chinese SOF units frequently interact with foreign counterparts. For example, PLA and PAP SOF personnel and units have participated in numerous training exercises with foreign militaries, special operations competitions, and in-country training at foreign schools. Chinese SOF teams often have had excellent results in international competitions. As a result, Chinese SOF units have demonstrated their capabilities in many types of small unit commando-type direct action and reconnaissance missions, the first two Title X core SOF activities.
Though most analysts assume Chinese SOF would be used in Taiwan contingency operations (including support to and by “Fifth Column” fighters already on the island), there is little open source evidence that SOF units are organized or trained to conduct Title X unconventional warfare activities. Likewise, though the PLA provides training for foreigners in its system of schools in China, it does not appear to have recent experience in overseas foreign internal defense activities. No PLA SOF units are known to be organized and tasked similar to U.S. Army Special Forces (“Green Beret”) units.
The PLA also does not have units equivalent to U.S. Civil Affairs units. Most national-level civil affairs operations conducted by the PLA requiring intergovernmental coordination fall under the purview of the General Staff and General Political Departments and are domestically oriented. PLA headquarters are part of the local government structures from the provincial to the county levels of government and commanders and staffs of these headquarters routinely work with their civilian counterparts. However, when it comes to governance functions, local civilian government and party officials are in control while local PLA officers focus on military matters. SOF units would not be involved in these functions.


January 1, 2015 · in 
The PLA’s special forces: secrets revealed,” promised Want China Times, a Taiwan-based English-language website. The article describes China’s “10 major special operations forces, each with its own unique characteristics and code names” and was based on a translation of an earlier blog posting on the PLA Daily website with photos and descriptions of several People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Armed Police (PAP) special operations units.
In fact, little in the article was new and no real secrets were revealed. Over the past decade, the official Chinese military media, both in Chinese and English, have paid copious attention to Chinese special operations forces (SOF). Based on this evidence, much more can be said about these units, their missions, and capabilities.
Unsurprisingly, Chinese SOF units are quite different from their U.S. counterparts and demonstrate most often capabilities similar to those of U.S. Army Ranger units. In particular, Chinese SOF units lack many of the dedicated special mission support capabilities found in the U.S. military.
Unfortunately, by the repeated use of the terms “special operations” and “SOF” some foreign readers might assume Chinese SOF units are like ours. In other words, readers might assume Chinese SOF are tasked to perform theten Title X SOF core activities defined by the U.S. Congress (direct action, strategic reconnaissance, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, civil affairs operations, counterterrorism, military information support operations [formerly known as psychological operations], humanitarian assistance, theater search and rescue, and activities specified by the president or secretary of defense). According to publicly available PLA doctrine, many U.S. SOF Core Activities are not included among PLA SOF missions.
This essay outlines the structure and doctrine of the Chinese armed forces involved in special operations and discusses their capabilities in each of the ten core activities based solely on information from Chinese sources. But first it is necessary to put the Chinese armed forces into the context of the entire government security structure.
The Chinese Security Apparatus
(Continued at the link below)

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