17 November 2015

China’s Turn Toward Regional Restructuring, Counter-Intervention: A Review of Authoritative Sources

Timothy Heath and Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s Turn Toward Regional Restructuring, Counter-Intervention: A Review of Authoritative Sources,” Jamestown China Brief 15.22 (16 November 2015): 3-8.

Note: This piece is based on a longer article published in The Washington Quarterly (Fall 2015, available here).

Beginning after the global financial crisis in 2008, and transforming further with Xi Jinping’s ascent to power in 2012, Chinese security policy has undergone a remarkable shift in direction. China’s leaders have directed efforts to strengthen control of disputed maritime regions in the East and South China seas. Chinese maritime law enforcement forces wrested control of Scarborough Reef from the Philippines and scaled up their presence in the East China Sea in 2012. During the past year, China has also augmented features it occupies, adding port facilities capable of harboring small naval combatants, and building three military-grade airfields. Meanwhile, China’s leaders have proposed security mechanisms, based on Chinese-led organizations such as the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building (CICA) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as alternatives to the current security order dominated by U.S. alliances. At the operational level, Chinese forces continue to invest heavily in military capabilities that serve anti-access/area denial (A2/AD), or counter-intervention, purposes; such as the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), DF-26 intermediate range ballistic missile (which has an ASBM variant), YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM), HQ-9 surface-to-air missile (SAM), and J-20 stealth fighter—some of which China displayed prominently during its September parade commemorating the country’s victory over Japan in World War II. … …

Conclusion

Within the past decade, China’s security policy has undergone some of the most profound changes of the entire reform and opening-up period. The most recent changes, stemming from around 2010, seek to orient defense policy toward the tremendous task of supporting an expansion of national power, albeit in an as peaceful and stable a manner as possible. At the strategic level, this requires a highly coordinated military and non-military effort to restructure the security order by weakening the U.S. alliance system and establishing in its place an alternative based on Chinese-led multilateral institutions, an effort that can be summarized as “regional restructuring.

Beijing hopes to achieve its goals without resorting to force, but is realistic enough to realize its peacetime expansion may incite friction or pushback from others. As Chinese scholars themselves note, the risk of a militarized crisis is thus increasing, and the possibility of a military clash, however improbable, cannot be ruled out. As one way to prepare for such a possibility, China is pursuing counter-intervention at the operational level. Rather than seeking war, counter-intervention seeks—through development, deployment, and doctrinal support of asymmetric weapons—to make U.S. intervention in its island and maritime claims disputes so risky and potentially costly that Washington will recalibrate its policies and deemphasize its alliance commitments. Should deterrence fail, Beijing envisions counter-intervention capabilities as a backstop to compel the United States to cease hostilities and pursue a negotiated settlement or other off-ramp.

Both “regional restructuring” and “counter-intervention” should be regarded as Western terms designed to describe Chinese behavior, but these concepts draw heavily from ideas and directives provided in Chinese authoritative sources. Making the distinction between these two levels can help policy makers and planners distinguish between important but substantially different challenges to U.S. policy. Regional restructuring, for example, offers both challenges and opportunities. Chinese efforts to build multilateral efforts to combat transnational threats or to increase infrastructure investment do not inherently threaten U.S. interests, and may offer opportunities for collaboration. However, efforts to weaken the alliance system directly challenge the foundation of U.S. power and threaten regional stability. The U.S. must resist such efforts, while developing countermeasures to pace China’s deployment of counter-intervention capabilities.

Here is the original Washington Quarterly article on which this piece is based:

Timothy Heath and Andrew S. Erickson, “Is China Pursuing Counter-Intervention?The Washington Quarterly 38.3 (fall 2015): 143-56.

The term “counter-invention” has become burdened with conflated meanings and thus controversial in describing aspects of Chinese national and military strategy. Yet, the term should be retained although refined in two ways to help U.S. policymakers and planners devise appropriate responses to Chinese behavior aimed at undermining U.S. leadership in Asia.

The term “counter-invention” has become controversial in describing aspects of Chinese national and military strategy. For some, the concept of “counter-intervention” remains useful to describe ways in which Beijing seeks to impede Washington’s ability to use its own military forces in the Asia–Pacific theater. For others, the term is a Western invention that does not accurately describe Chinese behavior at all. In this article, we aim to clarify the concept by differentiating two distinct but complementary ideas. At the national strategy level, evidence strongly suggests that Beijing seeks to weaken the U.S.-led security architecture, which it perceives as an obstacle to its long-term ambitions—an idea that we believe is better captured by the phrase “regional restructuring.” At the military operational level, the evidence likewise leaves little doubt that Beijing is developing a broad range of capabilities aimed at deterring—or if necessary, defeating—U.S. intervention in any conflict involving China, an idea best expressed by refining the meaning of “counter-intervention.” 

In their recent article, “The Myth of Counter-Intervention,” M. Taylor Fravel and Christopher Twomey marshal considerable evidence to support their argument that many analysts misapply the term “counter-intervention.”1 Western writings do indeed burden this term with many meanings that are too often conflated. Similarly, suggestions that the word “counter-intervention” (反侵入 or 反干涉) originates from China also invite criticism for the simple reason that Chinese sources do not use the term nearly as much as some Western analysts imply. Nor is there any evidence that Chinese authorities speak of any grand strategy called “counter-intervention,” or even a military “counter-intervention strategy.” These points are fair and well-made. The misuse of certain words may be justly questioned. However, the widespread use of this term suggests that something about the idea resonates deeply with observers, and it is this concern that deserves serious attention: “Counter-intervention” evokes, however imperfectly, the not unreasonable notion that Chinese diplomatic and military behavior appears aimed, in part, at undermining U.S. leadership in Asia. Clarifying the meaning of terms used to express these concerns can help reduce misunderstanding and avoid distracting debates over the use or misuse of particular words.

[Pull Quote:] Something about the idea of “counter-intervention” resonates with observers and deserves attention.

Setting aside for a moment the question of terminology (to which we will return), Western writings that invoke the term “counter-intervention” focus primarily on two distinct, but similar and related, issues regarding national strategy and military operations. At the level of national strategy, the principal concern centers on the idea that Beijing’s efforts to revise aspects of the regional order constrain the ability of the United States to intervene in a conflict involving China. Since the U.S. ability to project power into East Asia depends on its access to forward basing granted by its allies, we may restate this concern more simply and clearly as the idea that China seeks to undermine U.S. alliances. At the level of military operations, the most prominent concern focuses on the development of military capabilities designed to undermine the ability of the United States to intervene in a conflict involving China and one of its neighbors. These are real and difficult problems which pose substantial challenges to U.S. policy, and which we believe are accurately described as China’s growing “counter-intervention” capabilities.

Chinese Efforts to Reshape the Regional Order

For decades, the security order in the Asia–Pacific has been defined by the U.S. alliance system, often referred to as a “hub and spokes” network with the United States as the hub and its five treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand as the spokes. Through access to forward basing granted by its allies, the United States has helped defend allies from aggression, responded to crises, and facilitated multinational responses to humanitarian disasters and other nontraditional threats. The alliances thus remain critical to Washington’s ability to project power as the guarantor of regional peace and stability.2 Without access to the basing provided by allies, it would be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, for the United States to deploy military forces in a timely fashion and in the strength required to fight a major conflict in East Asia.

For the first few decades following the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, a weak, impoverished Beijing tolerated the role of Washington as Asia’s security leader, primarily because it had so little ability to contest that leadership. But as the country has gained strength, Beijing’s doubts about the need to continue accepting this arrangement have grown. In 2010, China surpassed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy and the region’s economic leader.3 By most estimates, future global economic growth will be driven in large part by Asia, and Asia’s potential to drive that growth will hinge in large part on how effectively the region can integrate economically—with China expected to play a leading role.4 Given this reality, it is reasonable to expect that Beijing would want a greater say in the evolution of the region’s political and security order.

While the desire is understandable, an expansion of Chinese influence would have to come, to some degree, at the expense of U.S. regional leadership. At the very least, China can be expected to challenge those aspects of U.S. leadership that it views as most threatening. And few are as troubling to China today as the U.S. alliance system.

[Pull Quote:] For Beijing, the U.S. alliance system poses a three-fold threat that China seeks to erode.

For Beijing, the U.S. alliance system poses a three-fold threat: first, the persistence of volatile sovereignty disputes between China and countries allied with the United States carries the risk that a localized friction or clash could escalate into a devastating conflict between China and the United States. After all, China continues to face bitter sovereignty disputes with U.S. allies Japan and the Philippines. Taiwan is not a formal U.S. ally, but it remains a close U.S. security partner, and its resistance to Beijing’s demands for unification remains a dangerous flashpoint as well. Second, from Beijing’s perspective, the alliance system encourages and enables U.S. allies to act more assertively than they otherwise would. Third, a robust U.S. alliance system grants the United States the option of assembling an anti-China coalition to contest leadership of Asia should relations sour. Relations between Beijing and Washington remain stable today, but this could change in the future. History demonstrates, after all, that the United States has successfully assembled coalitions to defeat aspirants to regional hegemony in Europe and Asia on multiple occasions.

Finding ways to weaken or end U.S. alliances thus offers Chinese leaders, in their minds, the hope of dramatically reducing the risk of war with Washington while advancing objectives that Washington opposes most strongly. Ending, or severely curtailing, U.S. access to allied basing would render intervention militarily infeasible. Without the ability to project force from forward bases in allied countries, the cost of intervention would grow so high and the risk so great that Washington’s intentions would become a moot point in light of the impracticality of fielding forces to fight a major conflict in East Asia.

Beijing thus has a powerful incentive to weaken the current security order and promote an alternative one centered on Chinese power. Western observers in recent years have already claimed to detect an increase in Chinese efforts to undermine U.S. alliances.5 But authoritative Chinese sources furnish even more direct proof. Beijing’s vision of an alternative regional security order, promotion of alternative security arrangements, and increasingly harsh criticism of the existing security order all indicate growing Chinese determination to gradually undermine the system of U.S. alliances in the region.

Chinese leaders since the 1980s have upheld the realization of “national rejuvenation” (中华民族复兴) by mid-century as a guide to policy. President Xi Jinping has refined this ideal in his vision of a “China Dream,” but in both cases the goal is the same. National rejuvenation envisions China’s rise as a prosperous, powerful nation in which citizens enjoy an elevated standard of living and the country commands respect as one of the world’s greatest powers. While primarily focused on domestic prosperity and national strength, this ideal carries profound implications for China’s approach to the regional and international order.6 Previous President Hu Jintao outlined a vision for the region known as “harmonious Asia” (和谐亚洲),7 an idea that successor Xi Jinping (2013–current) refined through the ideal of a “community of common destiny” (命运共同). Both archetypes envision an East Asian order in which China, as the preeminent power, leads neighboring countries in managing security affairs.8 In Xi’s words, “It is for the people of Asia to uphold the security of Asia.”9

To implement this vision, Beijing has promoted new initiatives aimed at enhancing an alternative security order featuring dialogues and multilateral cooperation to address shared security threats without a role for alliances. Structures include the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures (CICA), and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).10 Beijing is also building multilateral security platforms which feature a Chinese leadership role in regional maritime security, disaster relief, and humanitarian aid.11 While currently weak, these initial efforts feature a leading role for China and a marginal role, at best, for the United States.

As China has developed these alternative security structures, it has intensified criticism of the U.S. alliance system. Beijing has been quite clear that it does not see stronger U.S. alliances as helpful to realizing Asia’s long-term security. Xi is the first Chinese leader since Mao to make this point publicly. At the 2014 CICA Conference, Xi stated, “It is disadvantageous to the common security of the region if military alliances with third parties are strengthened.”12Official Chinese media frequently criticizes the U.S. alliance system. In the words of a typical Xinhua commentary, the “rhetoric of a peaceful Asia will be empty as long as the Cold War security structure remains.”13

It is true that for the near term, at least, Beijing continues to find value in U.S. leadership of the regional security order, if for no other reason than to restrain its allies in maritime disputes involving China. Beijing also values cooperative relations with Washington for many economic, political, and strategic reasons. But the long-term ambition is clear: China is constructing an alternative security order to complement its dominance of the region’s economy, and part of that effort includes eroding the U.S. alliance system. Because of its dependence on access to allied basing to intervene in any conflict involving China, this effort undermines the foundation of U.S. security leadership in Asia.

[Pull Quote:] “Regional restructuring” better captures the idea that Beijing seeks to revise the regional order.

In the absence of a compelling alternative, some analysts have latched onto the “counter-intervention” label to describe Chinese strategic behavior at this level. While the concern is legitimate, invoking this term is problematic for several reasons. Most importantly, overloading a word widely associated with military capabilities with political-strategic meaning invites confusion. Different terminology would be more helpful. We propose the phrase “regional restructuring” as a more accurate description of this strategic behavior. This term captures the idea that Beijing, at the strategic level, aims to revise many aspects of the regional order to better promote its own interests. While primarily aimed at shaping an order more amenable to the exercise of Chinese power, regional restructuring inherently requires diminishing the U.S. alliance system as an obstacle to those ambitions.

Military Operations: Counter-Intervention in Practice

The term “counter-intervention” is admittedly more commonly used in Western analyses than by demonstrably authoritative Chinese sources, but not unfairly so. Publicly available doctrine rarely offers comprehensive insights into a nation’s strategic thinking and operational development. Nations tend to describe their goals and actions in defensive, normative terms at the expense of transparency and analytical consistency. For instance, China infamously describes its 1979 invasion of Vietnam as a “self-defensive counterattack,” and Beijing’s official media recently denounced the much-weaker Vietnam and the Philippines as “The cronies of the outside instigator … crouching in the shadows [which] are ganging up in an attempt to contain China … these countries have moved to bully China.”14 And even with Chinese nuclear forces now among the world’s most capable, the official doctrine underpinning them remains replete with phrases such as “counter-coercion.” Finding few instances of a word or related phrasing in available doctrinal publications thus does not prove that a government is not thinking about and planning something. One would look in vain, for example, for the word “China” in public U.S. official documents about Air-Sea Battle, its successor Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons, the related Joint Operational Access Concept, or even the joint U.S. Maritime Strategy in effect from 2007–2015. Yet, Chinese observers correctly conclude that these concepts may in fact be quite relevant to China.

As with the concept of “anti-access/area denial (A2/AD),” counter-intervention is arguably imprecise in the sense that the capabilities it describes do not typically prevent access per se, but rather raise the potential risk and cost of intervention. Counter-intervention differs from A2/AD in that it spans peacetime to conflict, and recognizes China’s tradition of political warfare by acknowledging an important supporting role for diplomacy, propaganda, and other non-military functions to military operations aimed at forestalling or defeating foreign intervention. By fielding capabilities to counter military intervention, Chinese decision-makers hope to make the United States rethink and adjust its peacetime policies, thereby precluding the need for the weapons’ kinetic employment. Should the peacetime option fail, the capabilities are designed to inflict a degree of damage sufficient to convince the intervening power that continued prosecution of conflict does not justify the risk or cost of escalation. Given this context, counter-intervention is most appropriate for describing capabilities and operational doctrines to oppose U.S. and allied involvement in a conflict involving China. While official Chinese sources do not use the term “A2/AD,” and do not even use the term “counter-intervention” very much, China is clearly prioritizing buildup of systems that serve these purposes.

Counter-intervention is thus not a strategy, but it is a component of a Chinese operational approach with strategic implications. The appropriateness of counter-intervention as a description of this campaign component may be discerned both deductively, through studying policy statements, and inductively by examining military developments.

Viewed deductively, China’s military strategy descends directly from the Party’s pursuit of “national rejuvenation” by mid-century. To help the country realize this end state, the Party has outlined the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s strategic role as executing a set of “historic missions.”15 These direct the military to protect the nation’s “core interests” and shape a favorable international order to sustain the country’s development.

It is here that we begin to see the intersection of strategy and operational concepts that is at the heart of the idea of counter-intervention. China’s military development is not primarily focused on opposing the United States. The PLA’s focus has expanded to include missions other than war, but the most essential responsibilities remain centered on preventing Taiwan independence and preventing other countries from controlling land, islands as well as other features, and sea areas over which Beijing claims sovereignty. Because of U.S. alliance relationships and security partnerships, the possibility of a U.S. intervention on behalf of any of China’s potential antagonists continues to pose the greatest threat to the successful execution of some of the PLA’s foremost warfighting missions.

This conclusion is relatively common and widely acknowledged by the most senior Chinese leaders as well as in authoritative PLA writings. In a 2014 speech, Xi directed the PLA to “make strategy planning and preparations for dealing with a powerful enemy’s military intervention.”16Xi’s inclusion of this point is noteworthy, and tracks with assessments that appear in important PLA publications, even if they do not use the term “counter-intervention.” The most recent version of a leading doctrinal publication states, “the most likely threat of war is a limited military conflict in the maritime direction, while a relatively large-scale and relatively high-intensity local war in the maritime direction under conditions of nuclear deterrence is the most important war to prepare for” (emphasis added).17 “Maritime direction” clearly implies preparation for potential coercion against, or conflict with, a neighboring sea power and, possibly, U.S. intervention. Since China pledges not to attack non-nuclear states, and would prefer to emphasize conventional over nuclear capabilities if the former are sufficient, “nuclear deterrence” strongly implies dealing with intervention by the world’s sole superpower.

China’s military strategy of “active defense” similarly advocates ideas and principles consistent with counter-intervention. Active defense prescribes not only “defensive operations,” but also “striking and getting the better of the enemy only after the enemy has started an attack”—a trigger that may be defined proactively. Highlighting the importance of whole-of-government efforts, it also seeks to “deter crises and wars” through “close coordination between military struggle and political, diplomatic, economic, cultural and legal endeavors.”18 PLA writings also repeatedly invoke the euphemism “strong enemy” for the United States when discussing “defensive” military preparations and capabilities.19 In preparing for such contingencies, the PLA cannot afford to assume any less.

Authoritative sources thus underscore the point that China’s leaders and military take seriously the need to develop capabilities to counter foreign intervention. But the evidence goes beyond authoritative documents. The actions China’s military has taken to modernize its capabilities speak volumes. Open sources reveal clearly: China is developing, deploying, doctrinally supporting, and training to effectively employ many sophisticated, expensive systems clearly tailored to counter U.S. intervention.

[Pull Quote:] China is developing, deploying, doctrinally supporting, and training to counter U.S. intervention.

While China is pursuing multiple military goals simultaneously, its most prominent, potent capabilities are optimized for counter-intervention. This focus was encapsulated in the 2015 testimony to the House Armed Services Committee of Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s senior weapons developer: “what I’m seeing … is a suite of capabilities that are intended, clearly … to defeat the American way of doing power projection.” While Kendall highlighted ballistic and cruise missiles, crediting China with “going beyond what we have done,” he also emphasized “electronic warfare capabilities … anti-satellite capabilities and a spectrum of things to defeat our space systems … [which] are being developed very consciously to defeat the American way of projecting power.”20

China has deployed advanced missiles on a wide range of platforms including highly-concealable land-based mobile launchers and relatively quiet conventional submarines. Ballistic missiles, ground-based lasers, and on-orbit systems are being developed for anti-satellite missions. These are all elements of Beijing’s astute harnessing of technological factors that are literally changing the ways of war. Foremost among them, the proliferation of long-range precision strike (LRPS) systems whose intelligent sensors and maneuvering capability maximize survivability and strike effectiveness at far lower cost than countermeasures against them. Such systems render fixed facilities and mobile targets in low-clutter environments highly vulnerable. Among the targets most susceptible to these systems are precisely the air and naval bases, surface ships, aircraft, and satellites that undergird U.S. power projection vis-à-vis East Asia. This powerful Chinese marriage of means, ways, and ends understandably concerns U.S. military planners greatly.

To what end is China developing this capability? The history and perceived utility of some of the most prominent, advanced systems stem specifically from Chinese decisions to improve the country’s ability to resist U.S. intrusion in a crisis or conflict on China’s periphery. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm illustrated starkly how U.S. network-centric (信息化 [informatized], in PLA terminology) warfare enabled the U.S. to repel Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait by destroying much of Baghdad’s Chinese- and Soviet-equipped military. The PLA expended considerable energy understanding and addressing these new realities. One response was to assign the Second Artillery Force a conventional mission; it deployed its first such unit in 1993.

Similarly, China’s anti-ship ballistic missile development, a cornerstone of counter-intervention capabilities, dates to at least the 1995–96 Taiwan Strait Crisis, when Beijing proved unable to counter the humiliating deployment of the USS Nimitz and Independence carrier groups near the Strait.21 In the debacle’s aftermath, a senior General Staff Department officer told the U.S. Army attaché in Beijing that China would target U.S. aircraft carriers with ballistic missiles.22Jiang Zemin reportedly instructed key defense industrial institutions to spare no expense in solving problems related to such technologies’ development.23

NATO’s 1999 Kosovo Campaign, during which a U.S. B-2 accidentally bombed China’s embassy in Belgrade—an action Beijing misperceived as deliberate—accelerated counter-intervention efforts. Because of the rough equivalence of Chinese and Serbian equipment then, Chinese leaders feared Beijing lacked the ability to deter or prevent Washington from attacking its key interests. For Jiang’s right-hand military man, Central Military Commission Vice Chair Zhang Wannian, the lesson was stark: “The [forces of] Yugoslavia were always in the position of having to take a beating passively and completely lacked the power to fight back, [not only] because they lacked comprehensive and supporting weapons systems, but especially because they lacked ‘assassin’s mace’ [asymmetric] weapons systems.”24

For Jiang, Zhang, and other Chinese leaders, the only way to prevent such firepower from being directed into or unacceptably near China was to develop a combination of comprehensive high-technology systems and asymmetric armaments. Jiang directed the “accelerating development of new high-technology weapons”25 and initiated the 995 Program (995 工程) for this purpose.26 Overseeing weapons efforts, Zhang repeatedly invoked Jiang’s guidance: “Whatever the enemy fears most, that is what we should develop.”27 This vision has since materialized in the capabilities China has deployed (such as the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile system), and is developing, such as hypersonic LRPS weapons. Together, these systems allow China to exert increasing influence over its neighbors and its outstanding disputes with them, while raising the cost of U.S. intervention in a potential crisis or conflict. Thus are some of China’s most significant military developments grounded firmly in a purpose best described as counter-intervention.

It is true that the PLA is doing far more than simply preparing counter-intervention capabilities for use in the Near Seas (近海; Yellow, East China, and South China Seas). It is, for example, preparing increasingly to operate in more distant waters, an area the PLA calls “Far Seas” (远海; e.g. the Indian Ocean). While increasingly numerous and useful for peacetime addressing of non-traditional security threats and enhancing geopolitical influence, these capabilities are, however, nowhere close to supporting kinetic conflict against another major military—let alone achieving “sea control.” And China will not soon close that gap: the very advantages it has exploited so assiduously for counter-intervention evaporate further afield. The workarounds that allow the PLA to compensate for lack of jointness and real-time coordination in Near Seas contingencies (such as temporal and spatial de-confliction, high-powered line of sight, and concentrated forces and firepower) are unavailable at distance. Similarly, some of the very types of weapons that China directs so effectively at U.S. and allied forces may increasingly be used by foreign forces to target highly vulnerable Chinese forces operating further afield. Now and for the foreseeable future, therefore, Chinese military modernization efforts reveal an overwhelming focus on China’s homeland, borders, and maritime periphery. Counter-intervention is thus poised to remain a useful concept for analyzing Chinese operational capabilities for years to come.

[Pull Quote:] Counter-intervention is poised to remain useful for analyzing Chinese operational capabilities for years.

The Utility of “Regional Restructuring” and “Counter-Intervention”

We have argued that the use of the term “counter-intervention” should be retained, but refined in two ways. First, the two implied levels of meaning should be separated. “Regional restructuring” seems an appropriate phrase to describe China’s ambition to reshape a regional order that features a diminished role for U.S. alliances. “Counter-intervention,” on the other hand, remains a fair description of the range of primarily military capabilities intended to undermine the credibility of U.S. intervention in a conflict. Second, it should be acknowledged that both “regional restructuring” and “counter-intervention” are Western terms meant to describe Chinese behavior, but that these terms draw inspiration from authoritative Chinese writings, policies, and perspectives.

Adopting the term “regional restructuring” offers several advantages for analysts and policymakers. It highlights the fact that China is actively working to remake the regional order in a fashion that does indeed aim to diminish U.S. influence, but that other aspects of regional restructuring do not necessarily threaten U.S. interests. Chinese investment in Asian infrastructure and connectivity, for example, can facilitate cross-border trade and increase prosperity for all. Efforts to improve Asian cooperation against transnational challenges do not inherently pose a threat either. But efforts to shape a security order that results in diminishing U.S. alliances do pose a serious challenge to U.S. interests and regional stability. Restructuring the regional order does not encompass the sum of Chinese national strategy, but it warrants emphasizing as an aspect of great importance to the United States and its allies.

Focusing the concept of “counter-intervention” in the manner proposed offers advantages as well. The United States will continue to care about retaining military access to maritime regions which play a vital role in the nation’s economy. Moreover, it is almost impossible for Washington to truly remove itself from the fate of its allies. Even if the odds of U.S. intervention on behalf of an ally remain remote, military planners must prepare for that possibility. China understands this point as well, which is why it continues to invest so many resources to counter a potential U.S. intervention. By focusing on the military operational capabilities that pose the greatest threat to U.S. intervention, the term retains its utility and potency for military planners and analysts.

In discussing Chinese counter-intervention capabilities, U.S. government assessments and policies have struck a reasonable balance. They have tended to recognize the imperative to compete with China to some extent in the Near Seas while seeking opportunities to cooperate in the Far Seas and beyond. Some Chinese Far Seas capabilities further international security, with widely applauded anti-piracy task forces in the Gulf of Aden a leading example. Even Near Seas-oriented capabilities are not intended to drive the U.S. from the region wholesale. In situations where China finds U.S. involvement useful in peacetime, the two militaries may even cooperate in the Near Seas—as seen in bilateral anti-piracy exercises in the South China Sea.28

The paradox of Sino–U.S. relations is that imperatives to increase cooperation and competition between the two countries appear to be accelerating simultaneously. However, a frank admission of the severity of the challenges facing the two countries at the strategic and operational levels offers the most solid foundation for finding ways to navigate the risks of an intensifying security dilemma. Recognizing the depth of Chinese distrust of U.S. leadership in Asia—and the lengths to which it is already moving to reduce its strategic and operational vulnerability—is a necessary and important first step if the United States and its allies are to develop policies which effectively address the roots of Chinese anxieties in a manner that upholds regional peace and stability.

Distinguishing regional restructuring from counter-intervention can help devise appropriate responses.

By distinguishing Chinese regional restructuring from counter-intervention activities, U.S. policymakers and planners can devise responses appropriate to each level that avoids perils that could arise from conflating the two. Recognizing the reality of a changing regional order, the United States could explore options to participate in aspects of regional restructuring which pose less of a threat, such as infrastructure investment and trade initiatives, and perhaps even limited areas of collaboration on security issues of common concern. Doing so could help reassure China and ease some of the drivers for the development of military counter-intervention capabilities. At the same time, efforts to strengthen its alliances and presence would reinforce U.S. determination to remain engaged in the region and encourage China to regard efforts to weaken alliances as futile and dangerously counterproductive. Similarly, either a failure to respond adequately or an overreaction in the form of highly threatening responses to China’s counter-intervention capabilities could embolden Beijing to accelerate the detrimental aspects of regional restructuring. Careful calibration of policies at each level, with an eye on the impact on the other level, will be necessary to manage the challenge. Clearer use of concepts involved in discussing the challenge posed by China will be essential to this effort.

Notes

1. M. Taylor Fravel and Christopher P. Twomey, “Projecting Strategy: The Myth of Counter-Intervention,” Washington Quarterly 37, no. 4 (Winter 2015), pp. 171–187,https://twq.elliott.gwu.edu/sites/twq.elliott.gwu.edu/files/downloads/Fravel_Twomey.pdf.
2. Victor Cha, “Complex Patchworks: US Alliances as Part of Asia’s Security Architecture,” Asia Policy, no. 11 (January 2011), pp. 27–50.
3. “China GDP Surpasses Japan, Capping Three Decade Rise,” Bloomberg, August 16, 2010, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2010-08-16/china-economy-passes-japan-s-in-second-quarter-capping-three-decade-rise.
4. Multipolarity: The New Global Economy, (Washington, DC: Global Development Horizons 2011, World Bank, 2011), http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTGDH/Resources/GDH_CompleteReport2011.pdf.
5. Helen Cooper and Jane Perez, “U.S. Sway Imperiled as China Challenges Alliances,” The New York Times, May 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/31/world/asia/us-sway-in-asia-is-imperiled-as-china-challenges-alliances.html; “In Asia, Old Alliances Face New Strains amid China’s Influence,” Reuters, November 8, 2014, http://www.cnbc.com/id/102167038.
6. 中国共产党章程 [Chinese Communist Party Constitution], 共产党新闻网 [Website of the Chinese Communist Party], updated as of November 14, 2012,http://dangshi.people.com.cn/n/2012/1119/c234123-19618241.html.
7. “The 11th Meeting of Chinese Diplomatic Envoys Convenes in Beijing,” Xinhua, July 20, 2009.
8. Timothy Heath, “China Overhauls Diplomacy to Consolidate Regional Leadership, Outline Strategy for Superpower Ascent,”China Brief 14, no. 24 (December 19, 2014),http://www.jamestown.org/programs/chinabrief/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=43216&cHash=60479b6085735414b7361aaae5d32287#.VNODZlo4SM4.
9. “Remarks at the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures (CICA),” Xinhua, May 21, 2014, http://www.china.org.cn/world/2014-05/28/content_32511846.htm.
10. Liu Jianchao, “China’s Asian Security Concept,” China Today, June 23, 2014, http://www.chinatoday.com.cn/english/news/2014-05/23/content_620550.htm.
11. “Spotlight: Chinese FM Expounds on New Asia Security Concept,” Xinhua, August 11, 2014.
12. “Remarks at the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures (CICA),” Xinhua, May 21, 2014, http://www.china.org.cn/world/2014-05/28/content_32511846.htm.
13. “Xinhua: China Voice: New Concept to Be Proved Effective for Asia’s Security,” Xinhua, May 20, 2014.
14. “Hanoi’s Latest Provocation” (Op-ed), China Daily, May 23, 2014,http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2014-05/23/content_17535302.htm.
15. The “historic missions” order the PLA to “Provide an important guarantee of strength for the party to consolidate its position as governing party; provide a strong security guarantee for safeguarding the period of strategic opportunity for national development; provide a powerful strategic support for safeguarding national interests; and play an important role in safeguarding world peace and promoting common development.” 刘明福, 程钢, 孙学富 [Liu Mingfu, Cheng Gang, and Sun Xuefu], “人民军队历史使命的又一次与时俱进” [The Historical Mission of the People’s Army Once Again Advances with the Times], 解放军报 [Liberation Army Daily], December 8, 2005, p. 6.
16. “建设一支听党指挥能打胜仗作风优 良的人民军队” [Establishing Party Command Capable of Creating a Style of a Victorious Army], 人民网 [People’s Daily Online], July 14, 2014,http://opinion.people.com.cn/n/2014/0714/c1003-25279852.html.
17. 寿晓松 [Shou Xiaosong], chief ed., 战略学 [The Science of Military Strategy] (Beijing: 军事科学出版社 [Military Science Press], 2013), p. 100.
18. “Defense Policy,” People’s Republic of China (PRC) Ministry of National Defense website, http://eng.mod.gov.cn/Database/DefensePolicy/index.htm.
19. “海军 372 潜艇越是险难越严训创造战备训练14个第一” [Through More Dangerous and Severe the Training, PLA Navy Submarine 372 Achieves 14 First Time Breakthroughs in Military Preparation], 解放军报 [PLA Daily], December 19, 2014, http://military.people.com.cn/n/2014/1219/c1011-26237420.html.
20. “A Case for Reform: Improving DOD’s Ability to Respond to the Pace of Technological Change,” Testimony by the Honorable Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, & Logistics), Before House Armed Services Committee Hearing, January 28, 2015, http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/hearings-display?ContentRecord_id=2B2ED9D8-1537-4657-A9C7-AEEB584FE4F4.
21. Andrew S. Erickson, Chinese Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Development: Drivers, Trajectories, and Strategic Implications(Washington, DC: Jamestown Foundation, 2013), 27–34, 73–76.
22. “Hearing on the Implications of China’s Naval Modernization for the United States,” U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission, Washington, DC, June 11, 2009,http://www.uscc.gov/Hearings/hearing-implications-china%E2%80%99s-naval-modernization-united-states.
23. Discussion with Chinese arms control experts, 2009.
24. 张万年传 [Zhang Wannian], “敌人害怕什么, 我们就发展什么” [We Must Develop for Ourselves That Which the Enemy Fears], speech given November 5, 1999, in 张万年著 [Zhang Wannian, ed.], 张万年军事文选 [Selected Military Writings of Zhang Wannian] (Beijing: 解放军出版社 [People’s Liberation Army Press], 2008), p. 733.
25. 江泽民 [Jiang Zemin], 中国人民解放军国防大学军队建设研究所 [China People’s Liberation Army National Defense University Military Construction Research Institute], 江泽民国防和军队建设思想学习读本 [A Study Reader of Jiang Zemin’s Thought on National Defense and Military Construction], 中国人民解放军国防大学 “十五”科研规划课题 [China People’s Liberation Army National Defense University Research and Planning Issues for the Tenth Five Year Plan], (Beijing: 中共党出版社 [Chinese Communist Party Press], 2002), pp. 164–65.
26. Tai Ming Cheung, “Science and Technology in Chinese Thinking on Security and Development: Techno-Nationalism and S&T Innovation as Seen Through its Technology Development Programs,” Presentation at IGCC 2012 Summer Training Workshop on the Relationship between National Security and Technology in China, La Jolla, CA, July 10, 2012.
27. “张万年传” 写作组 [“Biography of Zhang Wannian” Writing Group], 张万年传 [The Biography of Zhang Wannian], 下册 [Volume 2] (Beijing: 解放军出版社 [Liberation Army Press], 2011), p. 419.
28. Information Office of the State Council, PRC, “China’s National Defense in 2006,” 31–33.
  • https://www.facebook.com/david.lloydjones.391 David Lloyd-Jones

    But we know American Policy on all of this: it was settled by the Guano Islands Act of 1865.

    American Policy is the same as Chinese policy.

    -dlj.