The rise of China is not the only distinguishing structural factor for the strategic environment in which the United States finds itself. Many scholars will discuss the role of terrorism, increased globalization, and non-state actors in the current strategic environment. These are all important, but from a classical view of the structure of the international system, what the U.S. today is facing is not just a rising power, or even a bloc of powers: it is also facing a declining power—Russia.
Since Deng Xiaoping’s Reform and Opening-Up policies, China has modernised to a startling extent. However, this growth has been uneven and has caused severe inequality across the country. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is often seen as promoting China’s influence across the world, but this is not its only purpose. This article looks at how the Belt and Road Initiative is being used as one measure to transform some of the poorest regions of China, and how despite this, China is failing to address some of the issues in its most volatile areas.
China seeks nothing less than to displace the United States as the preeminent power in the Pacific, if not the world. It intends to make a new order that expands the reach of its state-driven economic model. To achieve this vision, China's leaders have characterized the first two decades of the 21st century as a "period of strategic opportunity," during which Xi Jinping's “Chinese Dream” of national rejuvenation can be realized.
The notion of a new era has become pervasive and nearly inescapable in both American and Chinese discourse, and the phrasing may, at first, appear entirely appropriate. After decades in which U.S. policy has been more oriented towards engagement, U.S. strategy today clearly and explicitly recognizes China as a competitor, seemingly undertaking a historic reorientation in ways that can be seen as reflecting a major discontinuity with the past. However, the typical turning to this phrasing of a new era to characterize recent trends in U.S.-China relations, while perhaps rhetorically appropriate, can obscure what is not new, emphasizing novelty at the expense of recognizing the history and relative consistency in certain aspects of U.S.-China relations.
With Taipei’s economic and diplomatic fortunes having gone south (vis-à-vis Beijing’s) in recent decades—coupled with the rising stature of the Chinese armed forces—the story of the original party-army that ruled China proper, indubitably, has been neglected by both popular media and academe alike. In this present context, The Rise and Fall of An Officer Corps is a timely contribution to our understanding of modern China and its military history.
The premise of Michael Pillsbury’s controversial book is alarming yet straightforward. Western strategic thinkers have been the victims of a massive deception campaign perpetrated by a group of Chinese hardliners who have convinced the West that China’s intentions are benign, but who are, in fact, driven by one overriding goal, to overthrow the U.S. as the world’s sole superpower. If this conjures up images of a thriller from the pen of Dan Brown, it may be the intent of the author.
Idealism has clearly failed to grant the United States a stronger standing in the world as it failed to accurately assess the scope and consequences of interventionism, and the strategic intent of rising powers. Great power competition and the international system’s inevitable transition to a multi-polar order calls on us to embrace the challenge with clarity. This challenge should motivate an honest reassessment of U.S. foreign policy tools and processes. Adjusting to facts and reevaluating means and methods is a sign of strength and resilience of this nation.
While Russia and China are known for their lumbering civilian and military bureaucracies, both nations are nonetheless demonstrating that they can be nimble enough to accelerate certain technological developments, along with testing and evaluation. So far, both competitors have proven that they can take specific American elements and apply them to their own unique ecosystems. Nonetheless, using American-style institutional and procedural concepts is still a novel idea for the top-heavy ministries tasked with such breakthrough technological developments in both countries.
Absent a clear understanding of which military problems emergent technologies are required to solve, there is, perhaps, too much confidence in their ability to reshape the character of the next war by enabling decisive battlefield advantage. More troublingly, predictions about machine-dominated warfare risk obscuring the human cost implicit in the use of violence to achieve a political objective. This article examines the integration challenge that continues to limit the military potential of available technology. It will then look specifically at why militaries should be cautious about the role artificial intelligence and autonomous systems are expected to play in future warfare.
As an exporter of professional military education, the U.S. has institutionalized western classics and ideas across the profession of arms around the globe. However, not all of the foundational classics of other civilizations have made their way to the required reading list. A common understanding of a challenge requires an understanding of our own fundamental points of reference for doctrine and strategy and an understanding of others.
While China has traditionally been threatened by a predominately domestic separatist movement, it appears that the war in Syria and the global influence and attention of the Islamic State has given China’s domestic terror groups the opportunity to expand and network with other groups in China’s regional neighbors.
The agenda for normalizing U.S.-Pyongyang relations should be modeled after the incremental U.S.-Hanoi approach, yet also take advantage of the momentum created by the April 27 summit between President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un. While the summit produced few detailed plans, both leaders agreed in principle to pursue a permanent peace treaty. This now presents a natural opportunity for the U.S. to support South Korea by setting aside previous ambitions for regime change and championing efforts to turn the 1953 armistice into a peace agreement. Progressive steps would then follow a similar multi-year process used with Vietnam. Pursuing this methodology offers a viable conduit for changing the dynamics on the peninsula and in the region, while Kim Jong Un is provided security as well as access to the resources needed to lead his desired modernization efforts.
Since modern China has always been led by a highly authoritarian regime, is the shift from consensus-based decision making by Party elites to a more personalist style of rule merely a distinction without a difference? Does the consolidation of power under President Xi Jinping matter, particularly to issues of war and peace?
An appropriate grand strategy, one that has a regional focus on deterrence, trade, and values will go a long way towards the peaceful management of the balance of power in the Pacific. Green’s work is timely, and decision makers, practitioners, or students of grand strategy and statecraft would do well to add it to their reading list.
The future of U.S. military competitiveness will depend upon the ability to remain a leader in innovation in these critical technologies through a national surge in science, while also building upon perhaps more enduring advantages in talent and training to advance innovation in concepts of operations.
Just as the leaders and thinkers within the joint force are becoming more dedicated to the notion that a “post-joint” understanding of complex future military operations should be framed by the concept of multi- or cross-domain operations, the Joint Warfighting Department at the Air Command and Staff College has similarly altered its instruction of joint capabilities and planning. The department exchanged the traditional service-centric presentations, and discussions of capabilities and employment of forces, for a series of seminars covering military operations within the various domains of battle. So, instead of viewing military operations through the lens of a service structure, the department is emphasizing holistic joint force capabilities; the manner in which these capabilities facilitate access to, and maneuver within, the battlespace; and the various effects they can achieve by combining and synchronizing actions within and through the land, air, maritime, space, and cyber domains.
The continuum of applied U.S. strategies towards North Korea has failed and will never achieve the desired strategic objectives, as they are currently envisioned. This is because U.S. policymakers remain focused on denuclearization and non-proliferation vice regional stability as the strategic goal. In the 2015 U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) President Obama outlined his vision for leveraging “strategic patience” as a means to force the Kim regime to the negotiating table. In his view, this strategy focused on a “commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” However, because the U.S. continues to fundamentally miscalculate the underlying cultural influences guiding North Korean decision-makers and because China and Russia have failed to consistently enforce economic sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council (UNSC), strategic patience as envisioned by President Obama failed to produce the desired results. Continuing to march towards the same end-state, albeit more aggressively than before, President Trump released his 2017 NSS that asserts the U.S. “will work with allies and partners to achieve complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and preserve the non-proliferation regime in Northeast Asia.” Unfortunately, pursuing a denuclearized North Korea and convincing North Korea to agree to non-proliferation are fruitless endeavors. To understand precisely why these strategies have failed and will continue to fail, it is important to understand the cultural ideologies that influence North Korean national objectives and domestic policy actions.
What does the PLA’s approach so far to the humans behind their unmanned systems reveal about its potential engagement with the challenges associated with the highly automated and autonomous systems it is currently developing? Despite the myth that such systems tend to replace humans, requiring smaller numbers of combatants with lower levels of expertise, there is clear evidence to date that the human challenges of such systems are considerable, often requiring higher levels of specialized training. In this regard, PLA’s active focus on the development of personnel to operate UAVs could constitute an early case that demonstrates that the PLA will likely confront considerable challenges in the process of learning to use such high-tech systems more effectively.