The context of the Asia-Pacific rivalry between the United States and China has evolved over the last 5 or 6 decades. Issues associated with territorial dispute resolution, response to a bellicose nuclear-armed North Korea, and partner concerns over China’s increasingly assertive foreign policy now challenge the relationship, once characterized by strong elements of cooperation and economic growth. This report examines U.S.-China gray zone competition in the Asia-Pacific, and identifies land forces capabilities and initiatives necessary to advance U.S. national interests in the face of that competition. The report offers nine specific recommendations and a two-tier implementation plan to integrate those recommendations into defense management processes.
According to many analysts of China’s military, when an officer of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) suggests new forms of operations, expanded domains of warfare, or new weapons systems, American security planners can dismiss these projections as merely “aspirational” thinking. This assessment of the PLA Academy of Military Science publication Long Distance Operations and other military publications of this genre propose that suggestions for forms of future warfare capture currents of thinking among mid-grade officers and also reflect how the senior political and military leaders in China want the PLA to evolve. Among the trends identified in this Letort Paper is the requirement for a capacity to more effectively attack a distant adversary, such as the United States, and to hold that adversary’s population at risk. This analysis also shows that a number of military analysts in China perceive that the populace is at risk from attacks by stronger, distant states. In the past 5 years, the PLA has exercised to develop force projection and expeditionary capabilities. As described in brief in this analysis, in the past 6 months, the PLA has changed its own force structure and posture in ways that will facilitate expeditionary operations.
The U.S.-Indian security relationship has markedly improved since the Cold War with increased cooperation in a range of areas. The two countries have established stronger military, economic, and political ties based on mutual interests in combating terrorism, promoting democracy, preventing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation, and addressing China’s rise. Their bilateral defense engagements now include a range of dialogues, exercises, educational exchanges, and joint training opportunities. The partnership benefits both countries, enabling them to realize their core security goals. Yet, U.S. and Indian national security leaders must take new steps to ensure that the relationship realizes its potential.