- How can the United States facilitate a security framework that allows it to pursue its national and common military goals with China peacefully and, when possible, cooperatively?
- How can the United States deter China's use of military force to intimidate its neighbors, and how should it and partner militaries position their forces if China becomes more aggressive militarily?
- What trajectories could Chinese military development follow in the coming years, and what are the implications for U.S. policy and military strategy?
- What capabilities should the U.S. Army develop to support U.S. policy and military interests with regard to China?
For the next 20 or more years, the U.S. relationship with China will be the fulcrum on which the East Asian security order balances. As a result, U.S. policy should seek to prevent the emergence of an overtly hostile U.S.-China relationship while hedging against the possibility that one could nonetheless emerge. Such a strategy must balance between protecting U.S. interests in East Asia, where clashes with China's preferences are most likely, and cooperating with Beijing globally where the two sides have common objectives. Crafting and sustaining such a strategy will be a major challenge. It must have clear and realistic goals flowing from larger U.S. interests and strategy in the region, take into account the need for U.S.-China cooperation on a host of global security and economic matters, be flexible and responsive to Chinese moves, seek to channel Chinese conduct in favorable directions, and reflect the new realities of Asia resulting from China's increased military and economic power. The U.S. Army will have an important role to play in supporting U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific, primarily by providing training and support to allies and partners; helping to defend key facilities from enemy ground, air, and missile attack; providing key enabling support to the joint force; projecting expeditionary combat forces into the theater; contributing to new conventional deterrent options; and helping to encourage China's participation in cooperative military-to-military engagements.
The U.S.-China Relationship Will Be the Fulcrum for U.S. Policy in East Asia
- The United States needs a strategy that recognizes shared interests with China at the global level, the real potential for friction in the Western Pacific, and the challenge of balancing the two. Developing such a strategy will be more difficult in practice than in theory.
- U.S. military strategy will need to be flexible and resilient given China's increased capabilities, which will place significant demands on the U.S. Army.
- Robust military-to-military relations between the United States and China will be a necessary part of the overall U.S. effort to improve understanding and increase transparency. The Army will play an important part in these arrangements.
The Army Will Play Critical Roles in Supporting U.S. Strategy in the Asia-Pacific Region
- The Army will be committed to a wide range of partnership-building activities with friends and allies in the region.
- The Army will be responsible for conducting and supporting joint military operations, which may place significantly greater demands on its combat support and combat service support forces than have recent conflicts.
- The Army will need to explore ways of expanding its role in countering Chinese anti-access/area-denial capabilities.
- U.S. regional engagement strategies should not view China as an enemy. Rather, they should seek to develop ways to promote cooperation and reduce tensions.
- U.S. military strategy will need to be flexible and resilient given China's increased capabilities, which will place significant demands on the Army. It should reflect China's national strategy and endeavor to keep China on a path consistent with international norms in which the incentives for cooperation remain high.
- The U.S. Army should work to enhance military-to-military engagements between the United States and China and between the United States and regional partners. It should also focus on building partner capacity to ensure that regional forces can play a more active role in deterring possible Chinese aggression.
- The Army should be prepared to conduct and support joint military operations, which may place significantly greater demands on its combat support and combat service support forces than have recent conflicts.
- The Army should work to enhance its capabilities by training to operate under conditions of degraded communication and other capabilities resulting from Chinese anti-satellite, cyber, and other attacks. Similarly, it will need to foster anti-access/area-denial capabilities to counter Chinese force projection. It should also consider fielding a capability to reach targets in China to deter and degrade Chinese anti-access/area-denial capabilities, if treaty obligations permit it.
Table of Contents
The Evolving Strategic Environment
Chinese Interests and Strategy
U.S. Interests and Policies
U.S. Military Strategy and Posture
The U.S. Army in Asia
Differentiating Between a "Systemic Continuity" and a "Hegemonic" China
This research was sponsored by the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office and conducted within the Strategy and Resources Program of the RAND Arroyo Center.
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