The Island Campaigns and the Founding of China's Navy
New details about the founding of China’s Navy reveals critical historical context and insight into future strategy
From 1949 to 1950, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) made crucial decisions to establish a navy and secure China’s periphery. The civil war had been fought with a peasant army, yet in order to capture key offshore islands from the Nationalist rival, Mao Zedong needed to develop maritime capabilities. Mao’s Army Goes to Sea is a ground-breaking history of the founding of the Chinese navy and Communist China’s earliest island-seizing campaigns.
In this definitive account of a little-known yet critical moment in China’s naval history, Toshi Yoshihara shows that Chinese leaders refashioned the stratagems and tactics honed over decades of revolutionary struggle on land for nautical purposes. Despite significant challenges, the PLA ultimately scored important victories over its Nationalist foes as it captured offshore islands to secure its position.
Drawing extensively from newly available Chinese-language sources, this book reveals how the navy-building process, sea battles, and contested offshore landings had a lasting influence on the PLA. Even today, the institution’s identity, strategy, doctrine, and structure are conditioned by these early experiences and myths. Mao’s Army Goes to Sea will help US policymakers and scholars place China’s recent maritime achievements in proper historical context—and provide insight into how its navy may act in the future.
List of Maps
2. An Overlooked History
3. The East China Navy
4. The People’s Navy
5. The Xiamen, Jinmen, and Zhoushan Campaigns
6. The Hainan and Wanshan Campaigns
7. An Assessment of the PLA’s Seaward Turn
8. Discerning Institutional Continuities
Appendix A. Names in Chinese
About the Author
"Yoshihara, an authority on the Chinese navy, shows how the history of the founding and initial campaigns of the PLAN from 1949 to 1950 can contribute to our understanding of China’s naval development and strategy in the era of Xi Jinping. This book is a must read for those interested in modern Chinese military history or in contemporary Chinese military affairs."—Harold M. Tanner, professor of history, University of North Texas
"Mao Goes to Sea is a unique and extraordinary contribution to understanding the PLA Navy of today. In a time when technology and hardware dominate assessments and comparisons of naval power history inescapably shapes perspectives, culture, and military ethos. Toshi Yoshihara brings that home in his superbly researched narrative of the PLA Navy’s founding and earliest battles. A must and priority read for anyone, student to practitioner, seeking to understand the motivation and maritime ambition of the PRC and the ethos of its modern navy."—Admiral Gary Roughead, U.S. Navy (Retired) , Former U.S. Navy Chief of Operations
"Toshi Yoshihara’s Mao's Army Goes to Sea is another masterpiece, describing all the factors present at the creation of the PLA Navy’s strategic and organizational culture at its birth. This culture is on parade now as China expands its regional and global influence."—Wallace “Chip” Gregson, Lt. Gen. USMC (Ret.), former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs
"Toshi Yoshihara’s superb analysis of the Chinese turn to the sea and naval campaigns in the post-civil war period is a must-read for historians and strategists. Yoshihara’s use of unique Chinese language resources opens windows into how China may approach naval warfare, logistics support and small island warfare today."—Larry Wortzel, Senior Fellow, American Foreign Policy Council
"A must read for those interested in modern Chinese military history or in contemporary Chinese military affairs."—Harold M. Tanner, professor of history, University of North Texas
"A priority read for anyone, student to practitioner, seeking to understand the motivation and maritime ambition of the PRC and the ethos of its modern navy."—Adm. Gary Roughead, USN (Ret.), former US Navy chief of operations
"The biggest drawback of the book is that at only 173 pages with notes, it leaves the reader wanting more...Ultimately, the value of Yoshihara’s work is that he has both uncovered the history and explained why it matters in an accessible volume."—Natural History Magazine
Toshi Yoshihara is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and an adjunct professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. He was previously the John A.van Beuren Chair of Asia-Pacific Studies at the US Naval War College and coauthored Red Star over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to US Maritime Strategy.
176 pp., 6 x 9
176 pp., 6 x 9