China fought three wars in the 20th century: Against U.S. and U.N. forces in the 1950 to 1953 Korean War, a brief war against India in 1962, and another brief war against Vietnam in 1979. The first two wars were generally favorable to China’s mass infantry tactics and benefited from large numbers of combat veterans in the PLA ranks.
The 1979 war against Vietnam, on the other hand, is generally regarded to have been a fiasco. China invaded Vietnam in the spring of 1979, only to discover that its tried and tested tactics worked poorly against the battle-hardened, more experienced Vietnamese Army. China lost an estimated 30,000 killed in action in just one month of grinding combat, with a high proportion of wounded to killed in action and a logistics system that couldn’t sustain even the shortest of supply lines into a neighboring country.
Now, nearly forty years later, some are wondering if history could repeat itself and China could lose the next war for the same reasons: inexperience in the ranks. A new article in Foreign Policy argues that this could be the deciding factor in China’s next war, and that the PLA could be a “force or a flop."