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Über dieses Buch

This book offers a timely and compelling explanation for the deterioration of U.S.-China security relations during the Obama Presidency. The U.S.-China relationship has become one of (if not the most) vital features of contemporary world politics, and with arrival the Donald Trump to the White House in 2017, this vital geopolitical relationship sits at a precarious and dangerous crossroads. This book assesses a wide array of sources to systematically unpack the policy rhythms, drivers, and dynamics that defined the course of Sino-American security relations during the Obama-era. It fills several gaps in the literature on international security and conflict and offers a nuanced and innovative comparative approach to examine individual military domains. The case study chapters draw on recent Chinese and English sources - on military doctrine, capabilities, and defense strategy - to build a clear understanding the main sources of U.S.-China misperceptions, and highlight the problems these assessments can create for the conduct of statecraft across strategically competitive geopolitical dyads. The book builds a sobering picture of U.S.-China relations that will appeal to specialists and generalists alike with an interest in future warfare, emerging military-technologies, military studies, arms control, and foreign policy issues in the Asia-Pacific region more broadly.



Chapter 1. Introduction: Obama’s ‘Pivot’ to Asia and Air–Sea Battle

The first chapter outlines the book’s overarching arguments, rationale, and contribution to the broader discourse pertaining to contemporary United States–China security relations. It begins with a background and context section that elucidates the genesis, criticisms, and strategic objectives underlying the Obama administration’s signature ‘pivot’ (or rebalance) to Asia policy. Next, it introduces the military and defense dimensions of the ‘pivot’ (notably the Air–Sea Battle concept), which received an outsized amount of attention from both scholarly and policy-making communities. Specifically, this chapter highlights the ways in which the ‘pivot’ unnecessarily (and even inadvertently) antagonized Beijing and worsened United States–China relations. The chapter ends with a brief section detailing how the book’s chapters are structured and sequenced.

James Johnson

Chapter 2. Conceptualizing the United States–China Security Dilemma

This chapter contextualizes the security dilemma concept to view contemporary United States–China relations. It begins with a brief theoretical overview of the security dilemma theory that includes the concepts’ shortcomings, misuses, and contemporary revisions. Next, it contextualizes the application of the security dilemma by scholars and policy-makers to elucidate United States–China security relations and, in particular, the emergences of a ‘China rise’ discourse. Finally, it proffers a conceptual framework of analysis for applying the dilemma concept to view United States–China military and defense relations during the Obama era, and addresses several gaps in the existing literature.

James Johnson

Chapter 3. Washington’s Perceptions and Misperceptions of China’s Anti-access Area Denial ‘Strategy’

Chapter 3, the first of four case study chapters, builds on the current (albeit limited) literature that elucidates the key driving forces behind U.S. analysts’ interpretations of the Chinese anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) challenge in East Asia. The Obama administration became increasingly concerned that China’s A2/AD capabilities would put at risk U.S. military assets operating in the Western Pacific, which could allow China to deter, delay, and deny U.S. intervention in future regional conflicts and crises. This case study demonstrates how U.S. perceptions of Chinese A2/AD-influenced U.S. decision-making and defense planning in the Asia-Pacific. In particular, it focuses on the strategic ambiguities associated with A2/AD which provided fertile ground for U.S. misperceptions of Chinese strategic intentions to grow. This chapter concludes that the analytical baselines (or framing assumptions) used by U.S. analysts to interpret Chinese A2/AD were overly reliant on pure material risk assessments to determine Beijing’s strategic intentions that overlooked the evolution of Chinese operational and doctrinal preferences. Specifically, U.S. defense analysts frequently and often erroneously conflated a Chinese operational capability with an underlying strategic intention, which conceptualized the United States as its primary (if not sole) target. This chapter demonstrates that the strategic ambiguities and opacity associated with China’s A2/AD capabilities reinforced Washington’s reliance upon capacity-based assessments, which in turn exacerbated misperceptions, confounded by the cognitive bias of Beijing’s strategic intentions.

James Johnson

Chapter 4. China’s Vision of the Future Networked Battlefield: Emerging Military-Technological Challenges to the United States

This chapter examines the intersection of China’s evolving C4ISR architecture with the cyber, space, and electronic warfare asymmetric challenges posed by China to the United States on the future network-centric battlefield. Compared to China’s conventional weapon systems, far less ink has been spilt on Chinese thinking in the development of the critical support architecture that enables and enhances China’s technologically advanced war-fighting capabilities. A central argument this chapter makes is that China’s war-fighting capabilities networked by C4ISR posed greater threats to the United States than the sum of their parts. It describes the contours of a discourse within the U.S. defense community that interpreted these ‘systems of systems’ as specifically designed to exploit U.S. military vulnerabilities in the Western Pacific. This emerging C4ISR military paradigm increased the incentives for both sides to strike first and preemptively against the other C4ISR systems, which during the Obama presidency perceptibly worsened strategic stabilizing in the Asia-Pacific.

James Johnson

Chapter 5. ‘Guam Express’ and ‘Carrier Killers’: China’s Asymmetric Missile Threat to the United States in the Pacific

This chapter builds on the military-technological theme and discusses the strategic implications of a new generation of stealthier and increasingly survivable Chinese antiship missiles (ASMs) for U.S. naval surface fleets and carrier strike groups operating in the Western Pacific—especially the ability of these weapons to evade U.S. missile defenses. This chapter argues that the proliferation of China’s maturing precision-strike missile regime could presage a new military-technological paradigm on the future networked battlefield in the Asia-Pacific. It finds that the development and diffusion of these asymmetric precision-strike weapons increase the risks of miscalculation, deterrence failure, military escalation, inadvertent war, and an intractable security dilemma in this highly contested domain—or missile ‘salvo competition’.

James Johnson

Chapter 6. Chinese Evolving Approaches to Nuclear ‘War-Fighting’: An Emerging Security Dilemma?

This chapter explores a relatively under-researched discourse that relates to recent indications that Chinese leaders are considering the deployment of nuclear weapons for war-fighting (or ‘victory-denial’) purposes. It argues that the continued lip service paid to passive and static conceptualizations of Chinese thinking on nuclear and conventional deterrence is no longer appropriate. Recent evidence indicates that these postures are far more integrated, flexible, and dynamic than Beijing’s official rhetoric has suggested; over the past decade, a de facto shift toward a limited nuclear war-fighting posture has already taken place, which has prompted a closer alignment of China’s nuclear force posture with its more offensively configured conventional stance. Specifically, as many of the barriers impeding a limited nuclear war-fighting doctrine are removed, the long-standing doctrine–capabilities gap between China’s nuclear capabilities and the aspirations of many Chinese strategists will likely be reconciled. Moreover, this chapter also posits that the ambiguities and opacity associated with Chinese nuclear policies and doctrines reinforced Washington’s reliance upon worst-case scenario capacity-based defense planning to infer Beijing’s (malign) intentions. Finally, it reflects on the implications of an intense security dilemma in the nuclear domain for United States–China strategic stability, United States’ extended deterrence commitments, and the nuclear balance in the Asia-Pacific.

James Johnson

Chapter 7. Concluding Remarks

The final chapter draws out the book’s key findings, themes, and contribution to the existing literature. It begins with a brief review of the overarching arguments made by each of the case studies. Firmly grounded in the experience of the case studies, this chapter returns to the empirical and theoretical gaps in the literature, described in Chap. 2, and underscores the book’s contribution to the scholarly understanding of United States–China security relations. As a corollary, it affirms the continued relevance of the security dilemma concept to elucidate the deterioration of United States–China military and defense relations during the Obama presidency. Next, the chapter reflects on possible future directions for United States–China relations in the military realm under the stewardship of the new Trump administration. Early indications do not bode well for the trajectory of this crucial security dyad, or for strategic stability in the increasingly volatile, militarized, and crisis-prone Asia-Pacific. Finally, it highlights several implications that follow from the findings of this research, and suggests viable directions future research might take from where this book leaves off.

James Johnson


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