United States and China: Trends in Military Competition

Over the past two decades, China has poured resources into upgrading its military. This modernization, coupled with China's increasingly assertive position in the waters surrounding the mainland, has caused concern in Washington and capitals across Asia. Should a conflict break out, how would U.S. military assets stack up against their Chinese counterparts? What can policymakers do to improve the resilience and response of U.S. forces in the Pacific?

Recently, a team of RAND researchers led by Eric Heginbotham released The U.S.-China Military Scorecard report. This study is the broadest and most rigorous assessment to date of relative U.S. and Chinese military capabilities based entirely on unclassified sources.

In this October 2015 congressional briefing, Heginbotham discusses

  • the evolution of Chinese military capabilities and the overall trend in the regional military balance over time
  • how Chinese relative gains could affect the strategic decisionmaking of Chinese leaders
  • steps the United States can take to limit the impact of a growing Chinese military.

Ultimately, the goal is to avoid war, which Heginbotham does not anticipate and which would be disastrous for both China and the United States.