CMSI China Maritime Reports


Roderick Lee



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The way the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) selects and manages its submarine officers increases the likelihood of human performance errors onboard a PLAN submarine. First, PLAN submarine officers are selected from applicants with among the lowest college entrance examinations of any PLA educational institution, suggesting that PLAN submariners are among the service’s least talented officers. Second, the Party Committee system at the apex of decision-making aboard PLAN submarines may be less agile than other approaches to command, at least in certain circumstances. Lastly, while the policy of embarking flotilla leaders senior to the submarine captain may reduce some of the negative effects associated with the first two conditions, it could lead to reduced performance when senior leaders are not present. If external events during wartime stressed these factors, the likelihood of human-induced error events in the PLAN submarine force could increase substantially.

Publication Date

June, 2023


China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S Naval War College


Newport, Rhode Island


China, China Maritime Studies Institute, CMSI, People’s Liberation Army, PLAN, submarine, officer, leadership

China Maritime Report No. 27: PLA Navy Submarine Leadership - Factors Affecting Operational Performance