Exploring the Course and Consequences of a Sino-U.S. War
Jul 28, 2016
In the event of a Sino-U.S. war, intense conventional counterforce attacks could inflict heavy losses and costs on both sides, so leaders need options to contain and terminate fighting. As it takes steps to reduce the likelihood of war with China, the United States must prepare for one by reducing force vulnerabilities, increasing counter–anti-access and area-denial capabilities, and using economic and international effects to its advantage.
Thinking Through the Unthinkable
|PDF file||0.5 MB||Best for desktop computers.|
|ePub file||2.4 MB||Best for mobile devices.
On desktop computers and some mobile devices, you may need to download an eBook reader to view ePub files. Calibre is an example of a free and open source e-book library management application.
|mobi file||6.1 MB||Best for Kindle 1-3.
On desktop computers and some mobile devices, you may need to download an eBook reader to view mobi files. Amazon Kindle is the most popular reader for mobi files.
|PDF file||0.2 MB|
Chinese language version (Executive Summary)
|PDF file||0.3 MB|
Arabic language version
|PDF file||0.6 MB|
|Add to Cart||Paperback116 pages||$20.00||$16.00 20% Web Discount|
Premeditated war between the United States and China is very unlikely, but the danger that a mishandled crisis could trigger hostilities cannot be ignored. Thus, while neither state wants war, both states' militaries have plans to fight one. As Chinese anti-access and area-denial (A2AD) capabilities improve, the United States can no longer be so certain that war would follow its plan and lead to decisive victory. This analysis illuminates various paths a war with China could take and their possible consequences.
Technological advances in the ability to target opposing forces are creating conditions of conventional counterforce, whereby each side has the means to strike and degrade the other's forces and, therefore, an incentive to do so promptly, if not first. This implies fierce early exchanges, with steep military losses on both sides, until one gains control. At present, Chinese losses would greatly exceed U.S. losses, and the gap would only grow as fighting persisted. But, by 2025, that gap could be much smaller. Even then, however, China could not be confident of gaining military advantage, which suggests the possibility of a prolonged and destructive, yet inconclusive, war. In that event, nonmilitary factors — economic costs, internal political effects, and international reactions — could become more important.
Political leaders on both sides could limit the severity of war by ordering their respective militaries to refrain from swift and massive conventional counterforce attacks. The resulting restricted, sporadic fighting could substantially reduce military losses and economic harm. This possibility underscores the importance of firm civilian control over wartime decisionmaking and of communication between capitals. At the same time, the United States can prepare for a long and severe war by reducing its vulnerability to Chinese A2AD forces and developing plans to ensure that economic and international consequences would work to its advantage.
Weighing the Costs: Military, Economic, Political, and International
Findings, Recommendations, and Concluding Observations
Economic Effects in the Severe Case, 2015
This research was sponsored by the Office of the Undersecretary of the Army and conducted by the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.
This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit www.rand.org/pubs/permissions.
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.