Cover: Not Ready for a Fight

Not Ready for a Fight

Chinese Military Insecurities for Overseas Bases in Wartime

Published Jun 7, 2024

by Howard Wang, Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga

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The People's Republic of China is brokering international access agreements to expand its security footprint overseas and extend the reach of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). While these bases' utility in peacetime is clear, their utility in wartime is less so.

The authors of this report explore China's military strategy for its overseas bases—specifically, how Chinese military researchers view the utility of overseas bases during a war—based on a review of open-source Chinese military writings. The authors then address the risks that these bases might pose to U.S. military interests through 2030.

Chinese military writings suggest that the PLA has neither the intent nor the capability to use overseas military bases to launch preemptive attacks or other offensive operations on U.S. forces or interests through at least 2030. While Chinese overseas military basing remains important to monitor, the authors' research shows that Chinese bases overseas are unlikely to become threats to U.S. interests and forces during this time frame. The authors also note that any PLA shift toward conducting offensive operations from its overseas bases may be accompanied by specific indications and warnings that the U.S. government can monitor.

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This research was prepared for the United States Army and conducted within the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program within RAND Arroyo Center.

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