The Next Major War: Can the US and Its Allies Win Against China?


This book is the product of two and a half years of intensive research and extensive consultation with leading experts in the United States, Australia and the broader allied community.

What is the Book About?

Key questions the book addresses include:

  • How likely is a major war in the Indo Pacific?
  • How would such a war begin?
  • How are China and the United States preparing to fight such a war? (Actually, very differently.)
  • What would be the driving goals and game plans of each side?
  • What are each side’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • How would such a war progress? What would be the primary phases?
  • How long would such a war last?
  • What would be the supply chain, business and broader economic dynamics of such a war?
  • How ready are the two sides to fight and win such a war in this decade?
  • And how could America and its allies prevail in such a calamitous contingency?

What Do Independent Experts Say?

“A timely, sobering, and essential read for anyone who wants to understand in detail how a major war in the Indo-Pacific would unfold, the strengths and weaknesses of the United States and China along with their partners, the likely economic and business impacts, and the measures that need to be taken now for the United States and its allies to deter China—and if necessary, to prevail. As concern grows that China will invade Taiwan before mid-century, the issues examined in this book are crucial for policymakers, militaries, academics, and business leaders to consider.”
Bonnie Glaser, Director, Asia Program, German Marshall Fund of the US

“In this prize jewel of a book, Babbage provides an eagle-eyed look ahead at the worst political, economic, and military crises in the near future—and, very importantly, a critical blueprint for averting these. Politicians, business leaders, journalists, and everyday citizens should read Babbage’s urgent roadmap for deterring—or, as may be necessary, winning—the war Beijing is cooking up.”
Matt Pottinger, former US Deputy National Security Adviser

“U.S. officials now warn of a growing risk of war with China. But how might such a conflict begin? How long would it last? And what factors would be most important in determining its outcome? The Next Major War is an outstanding book that offers the deepest and most wide-ranging analysis to date of these questions, going far beyond the usual comparisons of weapons systems and operational concepts to explore the economic, political, and societal dimensions of a possible future clash between the Pacific superpowers.” Aaron L. Friedberg, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

“In The Next Major War, Ross Babbage, one of Australia’s foremost strategic thinkers, provides a timely, insightful, and much-needed net assessment of the threat posed by China to the Indo-Pacific liberal international order—and how to meet it. The insights derived from Babbage’s study of the Indo-Pacific geopolitical chessboard and military balance exemplifies Clausewitz’s coup d’oeil—the ability to see the interrelationships among all the major factors shaping the intensifying rivalry between China, and the United States and its allies. The Next Major War is a serious, important, and timely gem that is mandatory reading for all senior officials charged with deterring Chinese aggression and, should deterrence fail, defeating it.”
Dr. Andrew Krepinevich, Jr., President and CEO, Solarium LLC; and Founder, former President, and CEO of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

“Ross Babbage has produced a timely and clear-eyed study of the multitude of challenges posed by a resurgent China across the Indo-Pacific. His examination of alliance weaknesses—and the opportunities available to the US, Japan, Australia, and others in this dynamic environment—is highly relevant to government, military, national security, and scholarly communities across the globe.”
Mick Ryan, Major General, Australian Army (ret.)

“The Next Major War represents an appropriately sober appeal and is a sobering forewarning to the United States and its allies to take seriously the prospect of a major war with China. More than that, it is an urgent call to action to prepare for such an increasingly likely contingency. Babbage’s book will be of intense interest to soldiers and statesmen alike.”
Thomas G. Mahnken, President and CEO, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; and Senior Research Professor, Johns Hopkins SAIS

“The Next Major War is an absolute wake-up call for the national security / foreign policy / political ‘ruling classes.’ There’s a lot more to taking on China than building a 500-ship US Navy and getting the military part right. Changed mindsets in all parts of society are required—this includes leadership in the business world. This book lays out the dangers and what’s required to counter them. It offers perspectives that aren’t readily found in existing literature on the China threat issue. The book synthesizes a wide range of existing information on the topic in a way not done before, including the author’s original earlier research on Chinese and Russian political warfare, which is impressive on its own. This presents a new approach to analyzing and understanding the China threat, which is heavily covered by analysts and pundits, so producing a new or novel approach that stands out is no small feat. A strength of the book is its clarity; some of the topics—financial and economic, for example—can be hard to understand, yet these parts are clearly presented, which is also not easy to accomplish. The various conflict scenarios are easily laid out and flow well—another task that is not easy. As such, this book is a helpful tool for recognizing and understanding the range of issues and influences involved in national security matters—as well as the need for a broad perspective when assessing such topics.”
Grant Newsham, Colonel, US Marines (ret.) and former executive director, Morgan Stanley Japan

More Details and Options for Purchase

This new book is scheduled for publication in February 2023. Early purchase options and other information can be found at:
The Next Major War: Can the US and its Allies Win Against China?

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.

Countering China’s Adventurism in the South China Sea Book Cover

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: Competitive Strategies Against Authoritarian Political Warfare

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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