Patterns in China’s Use of Force

Evidence from History and Doctrinal Writings

by Mark Burles, Abram N. Shulsky


Full Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 4.3 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.


Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price Price
Add to Cart Paperback113 pages $12.00 $9.60 20% Web Discount

The People's Republic of China has often used force in ways that surprised and perplexed other countries. The Chinese appear to believe that, by carefully designing military operations to achieve maximum political effect, they can successfully use force even when the overall military balance is unfavorable. China's past successes in using force in this way while avoiding a massive reaction from its adversaries may give it confidence that it can succeed in the future as well. And China may feel that it can afford to accept greater risks. Many of the past uses of force occurred when China either was not a nuclear power or did not have a secure nuclear second-strike capability. The possession of strategic nuclear weapons may enable the Chinese leadership to run risks that it otherwise could not. This is tempered however, by the facts that China ran its past risks when it had some degree of support from one superpower against the other and that, after decades of economic development, China now has more to lose if it underestimates the risks.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Patterns in the PRC’s Use of Force

  • Chapter Three

    Chinese National Military Strategy

  • Chapter Four

    Chinese Use of Force in the Future

  • Chapter Five

    Local War Under High-Tech Conditions

  • Chapter Six

    Application of the Strategy: Dealing with the United States

  • Chapter Seven


  • Appendix

    A Note on Chinese Strategic Culture

Research conducted by

This research was conducted within RAND’s Project AIR FORCE.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

Permission is given to duplicate this electronic document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Copies may not be duplicated for commercial purposes. Unauthorized posting of RAND PDFs to a non-RAND Web site is prohibited. RAND PDFs are protected under copyright law. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit the RAND Permissions page.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.