Small Wars Journal

China potpourri

Here is a collection of recent essays on China:

Evan Medeiros of RAND wrote a book-length report on China's international behavior. Medeiros concludes that China is a status quo power. According to Medeiros, China's leaders are focused on China's internal problems and development and are using China's increasing economic and diplomatic presence in the global community to improve China's domestic situation. Medeiros asserts that China does not seek to push the U.S. out of east Asia and that China does not foresee a conflict with a major power within a 15-20 year planning horizon. However, he believes China will resist actions the U.S. might take which would constrain China's options, especially in the Asian region.

Avery Goldstein of FPRI and the University of Pennsylvania discusses the ongoing struggle between the U.S. and China over China's military "transparency." U.S. military leaders can't reconcile China's stated benign intentions with China's high level of secrecy regarding its military doctrine and investment. China's military leaders, by contrast, are highly nervous about U.S. military intelligence collection capabilities. Goldstein believes that greater military diplomacy might bridge this gap, at least somewhat. Goldstein also discusses popular nationalist pressure China's leaders must deal with and attempt to restrain.

John Lee of the Hudson Institute makes an interesting case why the U.S. will remain the preeminent Asia-Pacific power. Lee argues that (Guam excepted) the lack of actual U.S. territory for military bases in the western Pacific and east Asia works to America's benefit. According to Lee, the countries in the region that permit U.S. military operations from their soil are comfortable doing so because they know they can terminate U.S. operations from their territory if they feared the U.S. was becoming too dangerous. Thus, U.S. territorial weakness in the region is actually a strength. It thus follows, Lee asserts, that these countries will favor U.S. military dominance and resist the same from China. Since China is in the region and always will be, the other countries can't throw China out as they could with the U.S. Their power over U.S. basing gives them a "balancing" lever over the U.S., something they cannot achieve with China. Thus, according to Lee, those countries that host U.S. military forces will continue to do so, especially when it balances Chinese power.

Another report from RAND calculated that China's ballistic and cruise missile inventories have become so large that China's missile and air forces now have the ability to sweep away Taiwan's air force and air defenses. However, the report also asserts that Taiwan could still defend itself from a Chinese amphibious assault through the employment of land-based anti-ship cruise missiles, sea mines, anti-tank missiles, and indirect fire. Based on RAND's conclusions, one can question whether Taiwan should invest any more in high-end conventional platforms such as fixed wing aircraft (the report also calls into question what role there would be for USAF or USMC tactical air power in a conflict with China). In the future Taiwan may need to invest in its own hardened ballistic missile force and purely irregular warfare capabilities for its ground forces. In addition, what do the report's conclusions on amphibious assaults indicate for USN/USMC investments in amphibious warfare?

Finally, I will link to this post I wrote in July citing David Finkelstein's study of China's grand strategy.


Tim H (not verified)

Fri, 09/11/2009 - 5:19pm

thanks for this quick summary. articles on U.S.-China relations are typically not a major SWJ topic, but undoubtedly will become increasingly relevant.