from Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies

Chinese Military Power

Task Force Report
Analysis and policy prescriptions of major foreign policy issues facing the United States, developed through private deliberations among a diverse and distinguished group of experts.

The rise of China has long been a growing concern among U.S. foreign policymakers. Of particular concern is the strength of Chinese military power and its relation to U.S. military capability. This important report assesses the situation and concludes that China is at least two decades behind the United States in terms of military technology and capability. If the United States continues to dedicate significant resources to improving its own military forces, as expected, the balance between the United States and China, both globally and in Asia, is likely to remain decisively in America’s favor beyond the next twenty years.

Adam Segal

Ira A. Lipman Chair in Emerging Technologies and National Security and Director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

If current trends continue (for example, if Japan continues to eschew a role as a major regional military power), China will become the predominant military power in East Asia, the Task Force report concludes. China’s current force structure provides effective defense against any effort to invade and seize Chinese territory. The Task Force notes, however, that while China will have the enduring advantage of proximity to Asia, the United States traditionally has the edge in maritime, aerospace, and technological dimensions of military power. As a result, an ongoing and robust U.S. naval and air presence can offset Bejiing’s capacity to leverage future military capabilities into advantage against U.S. and allied interests in the Asia-Pacific region over the next twenty years, if not longer.

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The one area of near-term concern, the report concludes, is in the Taiwan Strait. Here, China is more likely to use new technologies and asymmetric strategies—not to invade Taiwan outright but to achieve political goals such as forcing the resumption of political dialogue between the two sides on the mainland’s terms. Going forward, the rise of China will continue to be a cause for concern among U.S. policymakers. 

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Task Force Members Up

Task Force Members:

KENNETH W. ALLEN is a senior analyst in Project Asia, the Asian security studies center at the CNA Corporation. He served twenty-one years in the U.S. Air Force, including assignments in Taiwan, Japan, China, and Headquarters Pacific Air Forces.

DESAIX ANDERSON is a writer and artist. He served as executive director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization as well as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia, covering Japan, China, and Korea.

PAUL BRACKEN is a professor of management and political science at Yale University.

HAROLD BROWN, chairman of the independent Task Force on Chinese military power, is a partner at Warburg Pincus and Counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served as secretary of defense during the Carter administration and was the first secretary of defense to visit the People's Republic of China (in 1980).

THOMAS J. CHRISTENSEN is a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

BERNARD D. COLE is professor of international history at the National War College. He previously served for thirty years in the U.S. Navy.

RICHARD N. COOPER is Maurits C. Boas professor of economics at Harvard University. He previously served as chairman of the National Intelligence Council and was undersecretary of state for economic affairs.

C. RICHARD D'AMATO is vice chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a former delegate in the Maryland General Assembly, and a retired Navy Reserve captain. He previously was foreign policy director for the Senate Democratic leader and staff director for Senators Abraham Ribicoff and Jim Jeffords.

JOHN DEUTCH is Institute professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He previously served as director of central intelligence, deputy secretary of defense, undersecretary of defense for acquisitions and technology, and undersecretary of energy.

WILLIAM H. DONALDSON is chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He co-founded Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette, is a past chairman and chief executive officer of the New York Stock Exchange, and served as undersecretary of state for security assistance in the Nixon administration.

JUNE TEUFEL DREYER is professor and chair of the political science department at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. She is currently a commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

DAVID M. FINKELSTEIN is the director of "Project Asia" at the CNA Corporation. A retired U.S. Army China foreign area officer, he served in multiple China-related assignments throughout his career, including assistant defense intelligence officer for East Asia and the Pacific in the Pentagon, on the Joint Staff, and teaching Chinese history at West Point.

THOMAS S. FOLEY is a lawyer with the firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld and a former U.S. ambassador to Japan. Prior to becoming ambassador, he served in Congress from 1965 to 1994.

JOHN FRANKENSTEIN is a research associate and adjunct faculty member of the Weatherhead East Asia Institute, Columbia University.

BATES GILL holds the Freeman chair in China studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

BONNIE S. GLASER has served as a consultant on Asian affairs for the U.S. government since 1982. She is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and at Pacific Forum, CSIS.

JOHN L. HOLDEN is president of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. He was based in Beijing and Hong Kong for fifteen years while doing business in China.

ALASTAIR IAIN JOHNSTON is the Governor James Albert Noe and Linda Noe Laine professor of China in world affairs at Harvard University.

ARNOLD KANTER is a principal and founding member of the Scowcroft Group. He served as undersecretary of state from 1991 to 1993 and is currently a member of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

ROBERT A. KAPP is president of the U.S.-China Business Council, the principal organization of U.S. companies and firms conducting trade and investment with China.

CHARLES R. KAYE is co-president of Warburg Pincus.

MICHAEL KREPON is the founding president of the Henry L. Stimson Center. His most recent book is Cooperative Threat Reduction, Missile Defense, and the Nuclear Future. (Palgrave, 2003).

NICHOLAS R. LARDY is a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics.

DEBORAH M. LEHR is chairman of MBP Consulting and previously served as deputy assistant U.S. trade representative at the U.S. Trade Representative Office and director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council.

KENNETH G. LIEBERTHAL is professor of political science and William Davidson professor of business administration at the University of Michigan. He previously served as special assistant to the president for National Security Affairs and senior director for Asia at the National Security Council.

WINSTON LORD is co-chairman of the International Rescue Committee. He previously served as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs in the Clinton administration, ambassador to the People's Republic of China in the Reagan and Bush administrations, and president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

MICHAEL A. MCDEVITT is director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the CNA Corporation and founder of CNA's "Project Asia." A retired Rear Admiral, he served in Asia policy positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and as J-5 at Pacific Command.

JAMES C. MULVENON is the deputy director of the RAND Center for Asia-Pacific Policy.

MICHAEL PILLSBURY is a consultant to the Defense Department, a research affiliate at the National Defense University, and a councilor of the Atlantic Council. He formerly served as assistant undersecretary of defense for policy planning and as special assistant for Asian affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

JONATHAN D. POLLACK is professor of Asian and Pacific studies and director of the strategic research department at the Naval War College.

JOSEPH W. PRUEHER, vice chairman of the independent Task Force on Chinese military power, is a consulting professor and senior adviser on the Stanford-Harvard Preventive Defense Program. He previously served as U.S. ambassador to China, is a retired Navy admiral, and was formerly commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Command.

ERVIN J. ROKKE is president of Moravian College. He is a retired Lieutenant General and former president of the National Defense University.

ROBERT S. ROSS is a professor of political science at Boston College and a research associate of the John King Fairbank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard University.

J. S. ROY is managing director of Kissinger Associates, Inc. He previously served as assistant secretary of state and U.S. ambassador to China.

ANDREW SCOBELL is associate research professor and a specialist on Asia at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College.

ADAM SEGAL, director of the independent Task Force on Chinese military power, is the Maurice R. Greenberg senior fellow in China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

DAVID SHAMBAUGH is professor and director of the China policy program in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, and a nonresident senior fellow in the foreign policy studies program at the Brookings Institution. He is presently on leave as a 2002-2003 fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC.

SUSAN L. SHIRK is a professor in the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego, and research director at the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. She also served as deputy assistant secretary for China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State from 1997 to July 2000.

WALTER B. SLOCOMBE is a member of the Washington, DC, law firm, Caplin and Drysdale. He served as undersecretary of defense for policy from 1994 to 2001 and was principal deputy undersecretary for policy from 1993 to 1994.

KAREN SUTTER is director of business advisory services at the U.S.-China Business Council. She previously served as the director of the Atlantic-Pacific Program at the Atlantic Council of the United States.

MICHAEL D. SWAINE is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) and co-director of CEIP's China Program. He was formerly a senior political scientist and first recipient of the Asia research chair at RAND.

G. R. THOMAN is a managing partner of Corporate Perspectives, LLC. He managed Chinese businesses in four companies as a former chief executive officer of Xerox and is a past group executive of IBM, Nabisco Foods, and American Express.

LARRY D. WELCH is currently the president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, DC. Before assuming his current position, he served for thirty-nine years in U.S. military forces, from private in the U.S. Army National Guard to Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force.

DONALD S. ZAGORIA is project director of the U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations Program at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.

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