25 April 2017

Just Published in the Spring 2017 issue of International Security: “Correspondence: How Good Are China’s Antiaccess/Area-Denial Capabilities?”

Andrew S. Erickson, Evan Braden Montgomery, Craig Neuman, Stephen Biddle, and Ivan Oelrich, “Correspondence: How Good Are China’s Antiaccess/Area-Denial Capabilities?” International Security 41.4 (Spring 2017): 202-13.

Spring 2017, Vol. 41, No. 4, Pages: 202-213

Posted Online April 25, 2017.


© 2017 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Andrew S. Erickson

Andrew S. Erickson is a professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and an associate in research at Harvard University’s John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies.

Evan Braden Montgomery

Evan Braden Montgomery is Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Craig Neuman

Craig Neuman is a major in the U.S. Air Force and earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force or the U.S. government.

Stephen Biddle

Stephen Biddle is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the George Washington University, and Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ivan Oelrich

Ivan Oelrich served as Vice President for the Strategic Security Program at the Federation of American Scientists, and is Adjunct Professor of International Affairs at the George Washington University.


To the Editors (Andrew S. Erickson writes):

I commend Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich for elucidating a vital topic: China’s antiaccess/area-denial (A2/AD) development and potential U.S. responses.1 Biddle and Oelrich document China’s growing ability to threaten Taiwan with a blockade; the high cost and risks of any U.S. planning predicated on finding and kinetically striking mobile mainland targets; and the value in the United States, Taiwan, and regional allies enhancing their own countermeasures. Geography, technology, and physics matter— and interact powerfully, requiring sober consideration. However, mistaken assumptions and oversimplifications in describing these interactions risk underestimating how far China could extend credible combat power offshore. Emerging anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) capabilities aside, China’s current sea- and air-launched anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) capability already exceeds the seaward limits asserted by Biddle and Oelrich. Thus, contrary to their article’s optimistic projections, the United States and its regional allies already face a more challenging and uncertain military situation.

Part of the problem is conceptual: Biddle and Oelrich conflate A2/AD with outright military control, when it is actually a more easily operationalized concept of sowing doubt through growing risk of denial. Most fundamentally, in categorically dismissing the possibility of China achieving A2/AD beyond 400–600 kilometers seaward by 2040, they not only ignore capabilities that China has already achieved—or is close to achieving, per its Near Seas Active Defense strategy—but, worse, dismiss nearly two and a half decades of potential future Chinese improvement, powered by what is already the world’s second-largest economy and defense budget. Few analysts in 1992 imagined….


  1. Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich, “Future Warfare in the Western Paciªc: Chinese Antiaccess/ Area Denial, U.S. AirSea Battle, and Command of the Commons in East Asia,” International Security, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Summer 2016), pp. 7–48. Further references to this article appear parenthetically in the text.

International Security, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Spring 2017), pp. 202–213, doi:10.1162/ISEC_c_00278 © 2017 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.