Posing problems without catching up: China's rise and challenges for US security policy

TitlePosing problems without catching up: China's rise and challenges for US security policy
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsChristensen, TJ


what will determine whether China takes actions that will lead to Sino-American conoict will likely be politics, perceptions, and coercive diplomacy involving speciac military capabilities in special geographic and political contexts, not the overall balance of military power across the Paciac or across the Taiwan Strait. Especially if the goal is to prevent conoicts with China, not just design ways to win them on the battleaeld, then it is important to study why politics, perceptions, and new capabilities might encourage China to use force against a stronger United States and its friends and allies.

Four related beliefs or perceptions in some combination could cause the leaders of a relatively weak China to use its military power to challenge American interests and, if deemed necessary, to attack American forces in East Asia: (1) if Chinese leaders believe that they are backed into a corner and that refraining from force is prohibitively costly to the regime; in such an instance, Beijing’s high degree of concern about a particular issue (such as Taiwan) and its perception (probably correct) that it cares much more about the issue than does Washington might lead Beijing elites to decide to use force despite the risk of American intervention; (2) if Chinese leaders believe that they can deter effective U.S. intervention or compel U.S. withdrawal by raising the prospect of casualties or by actually killing or wounding American service personnel, as happened in Somalia in 1994; (3) if Chinese leaders perceive the U.S. military as sufaciently distracted or tied down in other parts of the world that the United States could not or would not take on a belligerent China effectively; or (4) if Chinese leaders believe that the United States can be separated from its regional allies by political persuasion or military coercion targeted at those allies.

Lots about military stuff.