The US Response to China's Military Modernization

This publication is a chapter in 2012-2013 volume published by the Strategic Asia program at the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR). This year's volume, China's Military Challenge, is edited by Ashley Tellis and Travis Tanner. The full chapter is available for purchase on NBR's website. Watch Mr. Blumenthal's presentation at NBR's book launch here.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

This chapter will argue that the U.S. must protect its primacy in the Asia-Pacific in order to advance its strategic goals in the face of China’s military modernization.

Main Argument:
Since the end of World War II, U.S. strategic aims in the Asia-Pacific have included maintaining a forward defense of the homeland, enforcing a great-power peace, stemming the tide of WMDs, and creating a liberal political and economic order. The U.S. has accomplished these goals through a strategy of primacy that is underpinned by the U.S. military’s preeminence. However, the rise of China and its increasing military capacity are undermining American primacy and thereby the broader Asian order. The current U.S. response to this strategic problem, manifested in part by the operational concept called air-sea battle (ASB), is inadequate in several respects. First, cuts to the defense budget will make it difficult to resource ASB. Second, ASB is an operational concept detached from a strategy. Finally, the concept underemphasizes the need for nuclear deterrence. As a result, the U.S. is both making commitments to Asia that it may not be able to afford and articulating a high-risk operational doctrine that does not answer basic strategic questions.

Policy Implications:
• The president should have a range of options to control the escalation
of conflict.
• The U.S. military must be able to master the main military domains—air,
sea, and space—should they come under threat.
• The U.S. should be able to wrest back control of contested zones that China
sets up closer to its shores.
• The U.S. must have the capacity to punish and weaken any aggressor that
challenges U.S. primacy.

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About the Author

 

Dan
Blumenthal
  • Dan Blumenthal is the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on East Asian security issues and Sino-American relations.  Mr. Blumenthal has both served in and advised the U.S. government on China issues for over a decade.  From 2001 to 2004, he served as senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the Department of Defense.  Additionally, he served as a commissioner on the congressionally-mandated U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission since 2006-2012, and held the position of vice chairman in 2007.  He has also served on the Academic Advisory Board of the congressional U.S.-China Working Group. Mr. Blumenthal is the co-author of "An Awkward Embrace: The United States and China in the 21st Century" (AEI Press, November 2012).

  • Phone: 202.862.5861
    Email: dblumenthal@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Shannon Mann
    Phone: 202-862-5911
    Email: Shannon.Mann@aei.org

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