01 September 2014

Harry Kazianis Reviews “Fire on the Water: China, America and the Future of the Pacific”

Harry Kazianis, “A Master Plan to Counter China’s Growing Military Might?”; Review of Robert Haddick, Fire on the Water: China, America and the Future of the Pacific (Naval Institute Press, 2014); War on the Rocks, 1 September 2014.

There could be no better time than the present for a new book that not only explores issues surrounding China’s A2/AD weapons and strategy and its overall military modernization, but also digs into the deeper dynamics of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship and what Washington must do going forward. On balance, in his first ever book, titled Fire on the Water: China, America and the Future of the Pacific, Robert Haddick produces a strong volume that lays out not only the historic challenge presented by the rise of China, its growing military and A2/AD strategy, but the history involved when it comes to Beijing rising armed forces.* Haddick even boldly offers his own strategy for managing the strategic dynamic of the U.S.-China relationship and what Washington should do with regards to its own force posture in Asia — something he pulls off reasonably well considering troubling trends in America’s foreign policy decision making. …

I recommend Haddick’s book as it offers something that other volumes sometimes lack — a comprehensiveness that is quite shocking. It presents the state of play in Asia as of today — not in 2013 or even further back. It is clear Haddick has done his homework. Just a cursory review of his endnotes reveals Haddick has studied, analyzed, and dissected the major works and authors in his genre — not an easy task considering the amount of research that is out there and how far back it goes. At the same time, he avoids recycling familiar arguments while presenting his reader with an informed snapshot of the strategic challenges America is facing in Asia. His work clearly draws from the U.S. Naval War College’s “brain trust” of A2/AD and defense experts like Andrew Erickson, Peter Dutton, James Holmes, and Toshi Yoshihara all the way to D.C.-based think tankers and scholars such as Ely Ratner, Bonnie Glaser, T.X. Hammes, and Todd Harrison (some of my favorites, by the way). Haddick breaks it all down while offering his own incisive analysis for the reader to stew on. If I were going to recommend one book to someone who is just starting to explore the strategic landscape in Asia and the challenge America is facing, this would be the one.

For sources related directly to the A2/AD response referenced here, see:

Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s Near-Seas Challenges,” The National Interest 129 (January-February 2014): 60-66.

Andrew S. Erickson, “Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission,” Panel II: “Inputs to China’s Military Modernization,” “China’s Military Modernization and its Implications for the United States” hearing, Washington, DC, 30 January 2014.

Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s Naval Modernization: Implications and Recommendations,” Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, “U.S. Asia-Pacific Strategic Considerations Related to PLA Naval Forces” hearing, Washington, DC, 11 December 2013. Click here for oral statement.