Minding the Gaps

US Military Strategy Toward China

Published in: Strategic Studies Quarterly, Volume 13, Issue 4, pages 105–121 (Winter 2019)

Posted on RAND.org on December 11, 2019

by Derek Grossman, John Speed Meyers

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China's ongoing military modernization efforts aimed at countering US intervention in a range of scenarios, particularly involving Taiwan or disputes in the South China Sea, have prompted the US national security community to debate the proper military response. Unfortunately, many aspects of the debate remain unresolved. Enduring analytical gaps include an inability to determine which military strategy will best deter Chinese adventurism, an incapacity to evaluate theater-level combat outcomes, little understanding of security dilemmas or competitive strategies, and difficulty in comparing costs across strategies. However, there has been some analytical progress on the risks of nuclear escalation during a US-China conflict. If analysts writing on US military strategy toward China want to improve the public debate, these analytical gaps must be filled.

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