Key U.S. Military, Diplomatic Strategies Are Necessary to Balance China's Growing Regional Strength

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Tuesday
September 2, 2014

Developing a strategy for the United States to address China's growing military strength should not sacrifice future cooperation between the two nations, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

Developing such a strategy will rest on five pillars that support an overall strategy of balancing common U.S. and Chinese goals with the United States' need to support and protect treaty allies and other partners in Asia.

Such an approach would result in a U.S. policy that recognizes China's expanding importance in the world and its legitimate interests, while also keeping U.S. commitments to allies and partners in the region.

The pillars are:

  • the ability of the United States to deliver and sustain combat and support forces, and strike power rapidly to virtually anywhere in the Western Pacific region
  • the U.S. advantage of having some highly capable and reliable local allies, such as South Korea, Japan and Australia, as well as the ability to improve the capabilities of other partners
  • the operational difficulties for China in projecting military force far beyond its borders and over water, in particular
  • the exploitation of technology to reduce the vulnerability of U.S. forces to improved Chinese targeting
  • a range of credible non-nuclear escalation options for U.S. leaders, achieved by exploiting enduring U.S. advantages in global power.

The report rejects the perspective that China should be treated as a 21st century Soviet Union, recognizes China's increasingly capable military and looks for ways for the U.S. to work cooperatively with China.

“China and the United States share common global interests, but the United States is increasingly concerned that its ability to maintain regional stability will be limited or reduced by China's growing military capabilities,” said Terrence Kelly, the study's lead author and a senior operations researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

Researchers say that such an approach would result in a U.S. policy that recognizes China's increased and expanding importance in the world, as well as its legitimate interests, while helping to keep China on a path toward international cooperation.

The U.S. Army, for its part, will have six main roles in supporting U.S. military strategy in the Asia-Pacific. Specifically, the Army will:

  • provide training and support to allies and partners
  • help defend key facilities from enemy ground, sea, air and missile attack
  • provide key enabling support to the joint force, such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services
  • project expeditionary combat forces into the theater, including the ability to execute modest-sized forced entry operations
  • contribute to new conventional deterrent options, such as land-based, anti-ship defenses
  • help encourage China's participation in cooperative military-to-military engagements.

“The greatest challenge is to proceed in a way that does not sacrifice the goal of U.S. - China cooperation at the altar of preventing Chinese aggression,” said Kelly, who is director of the Strategy and Resources Program within the RAND Arroyo Center. “Positive relations between the two countries are so important to U.S. global interests that this goal should be reinforced rather than compromised by any military strategy.”

The report, “The U.S. Army in Asia, 2030-2040,” can be found at www.rand.org. Other authors of the study are James Dobbins, David A. Shlapak, David C. Gompert, Eric Heginbotham, Peter Chalk and Lloyd Thrall.

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office and conducted within the RAND Arroyo Center's Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program. RAND Arroyo Center, part of the RAND Corporation, is a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the U.S. Army.

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Researcher Spotlight

  • Terrence K. Kelly

    Director, Strategy and Resources Program, RAND Arroyo Center

    Terrence K. Kelly

    Terrence Kelly is the director of the Strategy and Resources Program at the RAND Arroyo Center and has been a senior operations researcher at the RAND Corporation for over 12 years. Over the past decade he has worked on counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan; U.S. Department of Defense and…

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