Since Xi Jinping’s accession to Central Military Commission chairmanship in 2012, United States national security leaders have closely watched his reinvention of the Chinese military. Approaching a new era of military technology where China looks to prioritize civil-military integration simultaneous to a new United States administration, national security strategists must focus on a key question when rewriting United States policy: How will China’s military modernization necessitate a change in United States competitive strategy in Asia? American national security depends on a comprehensive understanding of China’s recent defense reforms and weaknesses so that decision-makers remain aware of how willing Xi may be to go to war and how U.S. strategy in Asia should be adjusted to mitigate this potential.
The primary concern of the new administration’s National Security Strategy in responding to China’s military modernization should be an equivalent focus on military capabilities, through a reinforced defense budget and collaboration with allies, and secondarily, greater efforts to increase high-level talks with Chinese officials on areas of potential collaboration. An increased military budget would allow the United States and its Asian allies and partners to maintain a presence in the South and East China Seas, build up other states’ ballistic missile defense capabilities, and incentivize allies geographically closer to China to develop their own anti-access area denial systems.