Envisioning Future Warfare in China: Tactics, Technology, State, and National Mobilisation, 1914-1937

Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed study will look at how Chinese military officers from different parts of China envisioned future warfare and tried to prepare their forces, states, and societies accordingly between the First World War and the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The First World War witnessed a comprehensive transformation of warfare. The effectiveness of modern weaponry and the massive scale of fighting forced the belligerents to fight a protracted conflict. The pace of technological advancement turned war into a contest not only of military strength but also of research and industrial capabilities. To survive, European states mobilised and controlled all aspects of national resources at an unprecedented level, even in democracies such as France and Britain. The idea that a new understanding of the relationship between the military force, the state, and the society would be required for a nation to fight a modern war prevailed in the postwar world.

This study is a logical extension of the principal investigator’s (PI) previous GRF project on the institutionalisation of modern military science in the Fengtian Army and the Nationalist Army during the 1920s and 1930s. The previous study illustrated that officers from the two armies formed intellectual communities and forged military paradigms for their respective forces instead of merely copying lessons from abroad. This study, in turn, will reconstruct the discussions among the officers over the issues of new tactics, the role of technology in future warfare, and the reforms necessary for the state and society. These discussions were governed by the social, political, economic, and geographical contexts faced by different military factions in China. To illustrate the importance of the regional context, this study will cover not only the above-mentioned armies but also the Guangxi Clique (guixi) and the Guangdong Clique (yuexi). The reform measures taken by these officers will also be studied and evaluated.

By looking at the officers’ vision of future warfare during the 1930s, we can gain a better understanding of the Chinese military between 1918 and 1937, a period that was usually overshadowed by the wars between the Chinese Nationalist and Communist parties and the role of German advisors. It will also allow us to gain a better understanding of the process through which the Chinese officers transformed their military according to foreign experiences and conditions in China, and enhance our understanding of the spread of military science in the world after the First World War.
Effective start/end date1/01/1731/12/19

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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