In Which Way the Dragon?, CSBA Nonresident Fellow Ross Babbage and colleagues argue for a new, scenario-based approach to defense and security planning in the Indo-Pacific. Drawing upon expert analysis of current conditions, three to four overarching scenarios for China should be considered as potential guideposts over the next 15 years. Each outcome would include a series of lead indicators, allowing analysts to determine which future scenario China is headed towards, prepare for potential alternatives in advance, and make adjustments to strategies, operational concepts, and military and security systems when necessary. The end result should markedly reduce the uncertainties about the strategic environment in the 2035 timeframe and provide greatly improved foundations for confident decisions on security policy and capability development. In short, this approach offers a superior way of addressing the security challenges faced by the Western allies and their security partners in the Indo-Pacific.
Are the Indo-Pacific allies certain that their defence planning for the coming two decades is built on sound foundations? Many Western security analysts assume that a modernised version of their highly networked, combined arms operations will be able to prevail in any major conflict in the Indo-Pacific. 1 But is this right?
If there is to be a major war in the Indo-Pacific, it is likely to involve a struggle between China and a small number of supporters on the one hand and the United States and its allies and partners on the other. The precise sequence of events in such a catastrophe is difficult to predict but it is certain that Beijing will have as much, or even more, say over the shape of the conflict as Washington. This is a serious problem for the West because the core agencies of the Chinese government bring strategic cultures, strategies, operational concepts and priorities to the Indo-Pacific that are markedly different from our own. When viewed in this context, even an advanced version of conventional Western strategies and operations could prove seriously inadequate.
The Western allies need to ensure they plan to deter and, if necessary, to fight and win a future war, not just a part of a war, or even the wrong war.
There are at least ten reasons for doubting that the West’s perception of future war in the Indo-Pacific is sound.
What should the U.S. and its close allies do about China’s strategic expansion into the South China Sea?
Beijing now has overwhelming military, coastguard and maritime militia forces in this theatre and it has seized numerous reefs and dredged up new islands in operations that that the U.N’s Permanent Court of Arbitration has determined are illegal. Major military installations are being built in several locations. Three of these new islands, towards the middle of the South China Sea, will soon be capable of housing regiments of fighter-bomber aircraft and also of supporting sustained operations of significant numbers of ships. The rapidly changing strategic balance in Southeast Asia and the Western allies’ flat-footed response is encouraging several regional states to re-evaluate their long-standing security relationships.
This report argues that it is time for the U.S. and its close allies to clarify their goals in this theatre and develop a coherent strategy to counter China’s expansionist operations. It describes a surprisingly broad range of strategy and operational options that are potentially available for the Trump administration to pressure Beijing to moderate its behaviour, retrace some of its steps and deter the Chinese leadership from embarking on new, potentially more dangerous adventures.
Winning Without Fighting: Chinese and Russian Political Warfare Campaigns and How the West Can Prevail: Volumes 1 & 2 assesses the role of political warfare in Chinese and Russian strategy. The report goes beyond diagnosing the challenge to offer a range of potential allied counter-strategies and proposes a new conceptual approach to such thinking.
Stealing a March: Chinese Hybrid Warfare in the Indo-Pacific: Issues and Options for Allied Defense Planners
Stealing a March: Chinese Hybrid Warfare in the Indo-Pacific: Issues and Options for Allied Defense Planners: Volumes 1 & 2 examines Beijing’s hybrid warfare campaigns, their origins, means and modes, level of success and possible future shape. It also assesses the primary options for U.S. and allied counter-strategy.
Countering Comprehensive Coercion offers policymakers a better understanding of the threat they face. It argues that Russian and Chinese malign activities should be viewed part of a unique form of authoritarian political warfare: comprehensive coercion. Unlike most Western nations, Russia and China have long histories of engaging in political warfare, deep insecurities that have driven them to embrace a particularly aggressive brand of political warfare, and highly centralized governments that enable them to integrate and coordinate the diverse elements of political warfare campaigns.
Meanwhile, democratic nations are particularly vulnerable to comprehensive coercion because the open nature of their societies provides many pathways for rivals to shape and influence, while gaps and seams across government agencies can make an effective response difficult to mount. Nevertheless, Countering Comprehensive Coercion also highlights how the targets of authoritarian political warfare campaigns can better position themselves to compete, not only by reducing their vulnerability but also by adopting more forward-leaning measures of their own.
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