Taking Stock of RAND’s China and Indo-Pacific Security Research

A People's Liberation Army (PLA) armoured personnel carrier manoeuvres in woodland at the PLA's Tam Mei base in Hong Kong's rural New Territories, China September 28, 2019, photo by James Pomfret/Reuters

A People's Liberation Army (PLA) armored personnel carrier maneuvers in woodland at the PLA's Tam Mei base in Hong Kong's rural New Territories, China.

Photo by James Pomfret/Reuters

Fueled by decades of extraordinary economic growth, China has transformed itself into a major power on the world stage. Along with its growing economic power, China has been expanding its diplomatic influence, increasing its standing as a scientific and technological power, and strengthening its military capabilities by modernizing and reorganizing the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Chinese leader Xi Jinping has announced ambitious plans to achieve the "Chinese dream of national rejuvenation" and to transform the PLA into a "world class military" by the middle of the 21st century. Xi's military reorganization efforts are building a PLA more capable of conducting regional combat operations in the near term. In addition, China's establishment of its first overseas military base in Djibouti and development of power projection capabilities indicate its determination to protect global interests in the longer term. China's more assertive handling of its maritime disputes, especially its island-building and militarization in the South China Sea, has increased tensions with its neighbors and with the United States. Beijing is not only acting more assertively in the Indo-Pacific region but also pursuing increasingly global interests and objectives, as reflected by its expansive Belt and Road Initiative.

The purpose of this short paper is to summarize existing RAND research on some of the key security issues China and Indo-Pacific states might face as China focuses on great-power competition: As the U.S.-China strategic competition increases, what do we know about China and its grand strategy? What are the implications of domestic developments in China, and of China's approach to engagement and competition with other countries? What U.S. strategies and capabilities would help position the United States for success in a long-term strategic competition with China?

The RAND Corporation has studied China and security issues in the Indo-Pacific region extensively over the past two decades. A brief introductory volume discusses the main findings from RAND's unclassified research in six main areas. This introduction pulls together RAND's unclassified China and Indo-Pacific security research in one collection and highlighting what we have learned, this volume seeks to introduce readers to studies that address these questions.