Category: China

Opportunism in the South China Sea?

A number of recent analyses have emphasized that China is seizing pandemic-created opportunities to improve its position in the South China Sea as other countries are distracted or otherwise unable to respond.

A key implication of such claims is that absent the pandemic, China would have acted differently and perhaps with more restraint.

In a new piece for the Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage, I argue that China’s actions in the South China Sea so far in 2020 reflect a continuity of its approach to assert historic rights and to challenge the exclusive rights that Malaysia and Vietnam should enjoy in their Exclusive Economic Zones.

China’s “World-Class Military” Ambitions: Origins and Implications

An article based on my testimony last summer before the USCC has been published The Washington Quarterly.

I examine what the concept of building a “world-class military” as mentioned by Xi Jinping since 2016, especially in the 19th Part Congress Work Report.

I argue that the phrase “world-class military” should be viewed as a general, high-level, and
overarching concept for the development of the PLA. That is, it defines what it means to “achieve the goal of a strong army,” an objective that Xi introduced in early 2013 as part of his
“China dream.

At the same time, it does not outline a global military strategy or illuminate China’s global ambitions. Instead, a review of China’s current military strategy of “winning informatized local wars” best answers these questions.

Read the article here.

China and the Border Dispute with India After 1962

I have contributed a chapter to the Routledge Handbook of China–India Relations. Specifically, I review China’s approach to its disputed border with India after the war between the two countries in 1962.

China’s approach has emphasized maintaining stability on its southwestern frontier, defined as preventing the escalation of armed conflict on the border and maintaining a dominant position in the dispute it enjoyed after the war.

For China, its dispute with India has always been a strategic secondary direction and not the primary focus of its military strategy. Dominance on the border and deterring Indian challenges form the basis of stability from China’s standpoint.

Read a preprint here.

Dangerous Confidence?: Chinese Views on Nuclear Escalation

In a new article in International Security, Fiona Cunningham and I explore Chinese views of nuclear escalation.

Our review of original Chinese-language sources and interviews with members of China’s strategic community suggest that China is skeptical that nuclear escalation could be controlled once nuclear weapons are used and, thus, leaders would be restrained from pursuing even limited use. These views are reflected in China’s nuclear operational doctrine (which outlines plans for retaliatory strikes only and lacks any clear plans for limited nuclear use) and its force structure (which lacks tactical nuclear weapons).

The long-standing decoupling of Chinese nuclear and conventional strategy, organizational biases within China’s strategic community, and the availability of space, cyber, and conventional missile weapons as alternative sources of strategic leverage best explain Chinese views toward nuclear escalation.

China’s confidence that a U.S.-China conflict would not escalate to the use of nuclear weapons may hamper its ability to identify nuclear escalation risks in such a scenario. Meanwhile, U.S. scholars and policymakers emphasize the risk of inadvertent escalation in a conflict with China, but they are more confident than their Chinese counterparts that the use of nuclear weapons could remain limited. When combined, these contrasting views could create pressure for a U.S.-China conflict to escalate rapidly into an unlimited nuclear war.

Read the article here.

China as a “World-Class Military”

Yesterday, I testified before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was established to review developments in China.

The hearing examined the ambitions of China’s People’s Liberation Army’s as a “world-class military.”

My testimony reviewed the origins of the use “world-class military” to argue that it should be viewed as a force development concept, not one that outlined China’s global military ambitions. I also argued that, from the standpoint of strategy and warfighting, the PLA will remain focused on East Asia.

Read my testimony or watch the entire hearing.

Active Defense now available

My new book on China’s military strategy, Active Defense: China’s Military Strategy Since 1949, is now available, published by Princeton University Press.

The book offers the first systematic study of the military strategies adopted by the People’s Republic of China since 1949. Overall, the PLA has formulated nine military strategies, three of them which constituted major changes in strategy and sparked the transformation of the PLA’s doctrine, force structure, and training.

Read more about the book here.