01 February 2011

China’s Active Defense Strategy and its Regional Impact

CAPT Stacy A. Pedrozo, JAGC, USN, U.S. Navy Military Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, China’s Active Defense Strategy and its Regional Impact,” Statement Before the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission, United States House of Representatives, First Session, 112th Congress, 27 January 2011.

There is no doubt that China is flexing its muscles throughout Asia, sometimes acting unreasonably – its guarded, and arguably inappropriate, reaction to North Korea’s sinking of the Cheonan; its demands for an apology after a Chinese fishing boat captain was arrested for ramming into two Japanese Coast Guard vessels in the East China Sea (ECS); and its declaration of the South China Sea (SCS) as a “core interest,” on par with Taiwan and Tibet. These actions, viewed in conjunction with its increasing maritime surveillance and military exercises in the SCS and ECS, have many Asian nations on edge. Rather than increasing stability throughout the region as it gains military capability, these incidents have created more strategic mistrust and led to suspicion of China’s self-proclaimed “peaceful rise.”

China’s bold assertions regarding its maritime claims have also coincided with actions that suggest a more aggressive posture and presence in SCS, ECS, and Yellow Sea – steps which seem to have sparked a backlash of regional reactions that China may not have anticipated. My remarks will focus on certain aspects of the maritime component of China’s active defense and anti-access strategy and how that has evolved over the past year. I will also discuss how China seeks to exercise authority over its claimed maritime zones differently from the majority of the international community. Finally, I will address some of the regional consequences of that strategy and highlight what I believe are future flashpoints and sources of strategic maritime tension. …

For complete access to one of the sources cited here, see Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, “China Deploys World’s First Long-Range, Land-Based ‘Carrier Killer’: DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) Reaches ‘Initial Operational Capability’ (IOC),” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 14 (26 December 2010).