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A new study by military analyst Roderick Lee of the US Naval War College raises concerns about the academic selection process for Chinese submarine officers. Lee’s paper, published by the China Maritime Studies Institute, highlights a surprising trend: the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Submarine Academy consistently ranks among the lowest in entrance exam scores compared to other PLA institutions.

The report points out that the PLAN Engineering University, which trains submarine technical specialists, sits near the top in terms of average exam scores. This suggests a clear distinction: while engineers receive a rigorous academic selection, submarine commanders, excluding engineers, may be coming from a pool with lower academic performance.

Western navies typically prioritize top academic performers for submarine command positions, recognizing the critical thinking, leadership, and technical skills required for successful underwater operations. Lee’s findings imply a potential gap in the selection process for PLAN submarine commanders.

The report raises questions about the PLAN’s approach to submarine warfare. Are they prioritizing other qualities over academic achievement? Can lower test scores translate to a less capable submarine force? These are critical issues with significant implications for regional security, especially considering China’s growing emphasis on its submarine fleet.

Further research is needed to understand the full picture of officer selection within the PLAN. However, Lee’s analysis suggests a potential area of concern that deserves close attention.