Catching Up: China’s Developing Military Power

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For decades, China has engaged in a fervent game of “catch-up” with U.S. military capabilities. This effort, which has ballooned China’s defense spending to 620 percent of its 1990 level, is beginning to bear real fruit. While still far from achieving military parity, China’s military technology and doctrine are quickly coalescing into a coherent form of warfare, tailored to overpowering the U.S. military in a short, sharp conflict in the Eastern Pacific. This strategy of “informationized” warfare focuses first on eroding U.S. situational awareness, communications, and precision targeting capabilities.

By decoupling sensors from shooters and shooters from their command structures, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could negate the battle networks that have helped make the U.S. military so operationally potent. Without these links, China could reduce U.S. forces in the Pacific from a synchronized force to a collection of isolated outposts that it could more easily defeat one-by-one with its burgeoning reconnaissance-strike complex. China’s display of surveillance, electronic warfare, and precision strike platforms at its 70th National Day parade shows that China is supporting its strategic vision with real hardware.

For the United States to stay militarily competitive in Asia, it must adapt its capabilities and posture to blunt the impact of Beijing’s military developments. It can do so by hardening its battle networks, increasing redundancy within its Information, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Complex, and building more flexible air and missile defenses.

Read the full article at the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs.

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Ian Williams, "Catching Up: China’s Developing Military Power," Missile Threat, Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 6, 2020, last modified April 27, 2021,