- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Strategic Asia 2012-13: China’s Military Challenge - Book Launch Event

NBR launched the twelfth volume in the Strategic Asia series on October 3, 2012, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Select contributors from Strategic Asia 2012-13: China’s Military Challenge presented research findings that assess China’s growing military capabilities, regional responses to China’s increasing military strength, and the implications for U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific.

Event Video


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Welcoming Remarks

Robert M. Hathaway, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Richard J. Ellings, The National Bureau of Asian Research


Ashton B. Carter, Deputy Secretary of Defense
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Travis Tanner, The National Bureaus of Asian Research


Land Forces: Priorities and Capabilities

Roy Kamphausen, The National Bureau of Asian Research

Naval and Air Force Modernization

Andrew S. Erickson, U.S. Naval War College

Long-Range Precision Strike

Mark A. Stokes, Project 2049 Institute

Space, Cyber and Information Warfare

Kevin Pollpeter, Defense Group Inc.


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J. Stapleton Roy, Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars


Asia Responds to China’s Growing Power

Ashley J. Tellis, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Preserving U.S. Extended Deterrence

Dan Blumenthal, American Enterprise Institute

Praise for NBR’s Strategic Asia Series

“As America bolsters its engagement with Asia there has never been a more pressing need for careful and thorough analysis of the world’s rising military power, China. The National Bureau of Asian Research has answered that call with its latest volume, building on the excellence of previous volumes. Strategic Asia 2012–13: China’s Military Challenge is absolutely essential reading for policymakers, government officials, and military officers alike who seek a greater understanding of what China’s expanding military capabilities mean for the United States and our relationships throughout the region.”
Dennis C. Blair, Former Director of National Intelligence and Former Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

“This is an especially important time in America’s security relationships in the Asia-Pacific. NBR’s Strategic Asia Program provides the vital expert insights necessary to understand new policies, new positions, and the strategic dynamic challenges emerging in the region.”
Thomas B. Fargo, Former Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, and John M. Shalikashvili Chair in National Security Studies, The National Bureau of Asian Research

“NBR’s Strategic Asia series is an unparalleled resource for the classroom, the board room, and the situation room. My staff used it at the NSC and it is serves as a core text for courses I now teach at Georgetown.”
Michael J. Green, Former Senior Director for Asian Affairs, National Security Council, and Professor, Georgetown University

“For those interested in Asia, NBR’s Strategic Asia series is invaluable in identifying and clarifying the strategic imperatives that our nation must confront in dealing with the most vibrant region of the world.”
Carla A. Hills, Chair and CEO, Hills and Company International Consultants, and Chair, National Committee on United States-China Relations

“Now well into the Asia-Pacific century, it is critical that U.S. policymakers, academics, and citizens understand the salient forces driving events in the region. For the past twelve years I have relied upon NBR’s Strategic Asia Program for clear and penetrating studies that provide me a handle on what’s going on now and what’s likely ahead. This year’s volume, Strategic Asia 2012–13: China’s Military Challenge, addresses the core issue in the region with extraordinary results, making it once more a must read for practitioners as well as analysts and students.”
Jon M. Huntsman Jr., Former U.S. Ambassador to China and Former Governor of Utah

“The balkanized American governing system needs help in grounding policy in sound strategic assessments—Strategic Asia is an essential tool in this task. The Strategic Asia series offers deliberate and precise analyses for scholars, students, and policy makers. Twenty years from now, we will look back at this moment in Asia as one that required wisdom—this series is wise.”
David M. Lampton, Professor and Director of China Studies, Johns Hopkins–School of Advanced International Studies

“At a time when the world’s attention is increasingly focused on the ramifications of China’s rapid military modernization and the implications of America’s growing strategic emphasis on East Asia, this latest volume in the insightful Strategic Asia series will be an essential reference for scholars, students, and policymakers, seeking to understand these momentous developments.”
James B. Steinberg, Dean, The Maxwell School of Syracuse University, and Former Deputy Secretary of State

“At this time of immense global change and challenge, NBR’s Strategic Asia series delivers the complex perspectives that will well serve our nation’s decision-makers. Their latest volume, Strategic Asia 2012–13: China’s Military Challenge, in particular, masters the topic upon which Asia’s future security balance pivots.”
Robert F. Willard, Former Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

Event Summary

China’s military modernization has now reached a level that could disrupt the current balance of power in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. Moreover, Chinese military spending is expected to continue rising, while the U.S. defense expenditures is likely to come under increased pressure due to budgetary constraints. How China is investing in its military capabilities to match its economic might, and what that could mean for the stability of the region are the latest subjects examined by the National Bureau of Asian Research’s annual report, Strategic Asia 2012-2013: China’s Military Challenge.

With the end of the Iraq war and decreased troop presence in Afghanistan, there will be a strategic rebalance of U.S. military presence worldwide and the United States will focus more on the Asia-Pacific as part of a “great transition” in defense policy, said keynote speaker U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. As for the possibility of sequestration, he said that such a move would be a “disaster for defense,” adding that the United States must be able to “invest to sustain peace and prosperity.” The deputy secretary pointed out the need for a strong U.S. presence in the Asia Pacific to ensure that the region continues to prosper as it has done since the end of World War II. He also stressed that partnership between the United States and China on military as well as economic and political issues is essential to guarantee stability in the Asia-Pacific.

Questioned about the ongoing territorial dispute in the East China Sea, he emphasized the need for peaceful resolution, adding that all nations with vested interests should “not sacrifice the big game” for smaller victories, as it was ultimately in the interest of every country in the region to promote peace for continued growth.

Yet China’s military strength is clearly rising, both in conventional and non-conventional terms. During the first panel discussion regarding Chinese capabilities, Defense Group Inc’s deputy director Kevin Pollpeter argued that technological advancements in particular will boost Beijing’s capabilities to protect its national interest and project its influence not just in Asia, but worldwide. Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Asian Research’s senior associate Roy Kamphausen noted that while ground forces have been at the heart of the People’s Liberation Army until recently, its current structure and capabilities are not nimble enough to meet the changing needs of military operations moving forward. Granted, the possibility of a collapse in Pyongyang’s iron grip looms large for Chinese policymakers, but Kamphausen argued that “the PLA is not preparing to assist the North Korean leadership in the event of a crisis, but would respond to crises unilaterally.” Meanwhile, China is investing more in the navy rather than ground troops to reflect its growing overseas interests, Kamphausen added.

Certainly, China is investing more in its maritime as well as air power capabilities as it seeks to extend its activities further, including in the Indian Ocean, stated Andrew Erickson, associate professor at the U.S. Naval War College. As for possible U.S.-Chinese military partnerships, Erickson argued that it would be easier for the two nations to cooperate in theaters further away from China, rather than closer to its shores. On China’s long-range capabilities, the Project 2049 Institute’s executive director Mark Stokes said that its growing strength “could not only complicate the U.S. ability to operate in the Asia-Pacific region, but also give the PLA a decisive edge in securing control over the skies around its periphery should territorial disputes erupt into conflict.”

In discussing the regional and U.S. responses to China’s military strength during the second panel, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s senior associate Ashley Tellis pointed out that China’s military strength has challenged the local balance of power, which has “unsettled” neighboring countries, especially Japan and India. At the same time, Tellis stressed that regional expectations for the United States to remain a dominant power and “to make the right decisions” as the last line of protection persists.

As such, the United States needs to boost military spending to “protect its primacy in the Asia-Pacific in order to advance its strategic goals,” and the White House should have a wider range of options to prevent regional tensions from spiraling further, argued Dan Blumenthal, director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He added that the United States should also have the ability to “punish and weaken any aggressor that challenges U.S. primacy.”

By Shihoko Goto
Robert M. Hathaway, Director, Asia Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Ashton B. Carter, Deputy Secretary of Defense, delivered the keynote address at the Strategic Asia 2012–13 book launch event.

In Strategic Asia 2012-13: China’s Military Challenge, leading experts assess and forecast the impact of China’s growing military capabilities. What are China’s strategic aims? What are the challenges and opportunities facing the United States? How is the region responding to China’s military power and to the U.S policy of "strategic rebalancing"? Learn more.


For further information, please contact:

Greg Chaffin
Project Associate, Political and Security Affairs