Table of Contents

Handbook of US–China Relations

Handbook of US–China Relations

Edited by Andrew T.H. Tan

This Handbook addresses the key questions surrounding US–China relations: what are the historical and contemporary contexts that underpin this complex relationship? How has the strategic rivalry between the two evolved? What are the key flashpoints in their relationship? What are the key security issues between the two powers? The international contributors explore the historical, political, economic, military, and international and regional spheres of the US–China relationship. The topics they discuss include human rights, Chinese public perception of the United States, US–China strategic rivalry, China’s defence build-up and cyber war.

Chapter 19: Facing the dragon: debating the US military response to China

Benjamin Schreer

Subjects: asian studies, asian politics and policy, politics and public policy, asian politics, international politics, international relations


Preparing for the possibility of a military conflict with China has become of increasing concern for US strategic policy-makers and defence officials. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has emerged as a significant challenge for US military preponderance in the Western Pacific. In response, as part of the Obama administration’s ‘strategic rebalance’ to Asia, its military has shifted more assets into the region. However, the task confronting US strategic decision-makers and military planners of how to develop a credible military response to China’s evolving military challenge remains largely unresolved. The key question is how the US military could effectively fight and ‘win’ a military conflict with the PLA at acceptable political costs. Against this background, this chapter analyses the scholarly debate about the ‘best’ US military strategy with regard to China. It also explores the evolution of official US military strategy and doctrine. It finds that while the academic debate about US military options against the China challenge is far from conclusive, the Pentagon proceeds with a strategy that seeks to retain full spectrum dominance against the PLA, including through deep strikes against conventional targets on the Mainland. As a consequence, the United States is likely to retain its forward presence in the Asia-Pacific in order to push back against the possibility of a more assertive Chinese strategic posture in the Western Pacific.

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