Editor’s Note for Military-Civil Fusion Issue (October 2019)

Publication: China Brief Volume: 19 Issue: 18

In this cartoon from a Chinese government website, a PLA soldier and a civilian worker (holding the book of “technology”) unite hands under the “National Strategy of Military-Civil Fusion” (国家战略军民融合, guojia zhanlue junmin ronghe). (Source: Renmin Zhengxie Wang)

Editor’s Note: 

This is a special theme issue of China Brief, focused on the evolving concept of “military-civil fusion” (军民融合, junmin ronghe), or MCF, a complex set of initiatives by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to share resources between the military and civilian industry. A core focus of MCF is the effort to leverage technological expertise from the civilian sector in order to benefit the development of advanced weapons systems and other equipment for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). However, MCF is much more than that: it also embraces a broad set of organizational changes and information-sharing mechanisms intended to break down barriers between China’s military and commercial sectors—with the ultimate aim of sharing resources and expertise from both sides, while keeping these efforts firmly under state direction. Whether this ambitious program succeeds or fails will have significant implications for the course of Chinese military modernization, as well as for the future direction of China’s high-technology and other emerging industrial sectors.

In this issue, we present four articles (fewer than our usual five, but each one longer than a typical China Brief article). First, author Greg Levesque provides an overview of the MCF concept, as well as examples of how MCF policies are being enacted in China’s commercial sector—with both public and nominally private companies applying their resources towards the pursuit of PRC state goals. Next, retired U.S. Army Colonel and U.S.-China Commission member Larry Wortzel offers an analysis of the practical problems faced by the PLA in its efforts to create reserve and militia units housed within commercial enterprises. Then, my own contribution examines the ways in which the PLA and civilian government agencies in the PRC are attempting to coordinate resources and personnel in order to more effectively manage shared use of the electromagnetic spectrum. Finally, authors Elsa Kania and Wilson Vorndick provide an analysis of the ways by which the Chinese military could seek to leverage the results of civilian research in the field of biotechnology.

Here at the Jamestown Foundation, we modestly hope that this special issue will contribute towards a greater understanding of the PRC’s concept of military-civil fusion—and the complex issues that surround it—for the benefit of policymakers, scholars, military officials, and members of the business community.

— John Dotson (editor, China Brief)