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Category: Asia and the Pacific

Oct. 1, 2016

Chinese Military Reforms: A Pessimistic Take

On the evening of May 21, 1941, the German battleship Bismarck, escorted by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, departed the Norwegian port of Bergen, intending to conduct commerce raiding against Allied merchant shipping in the Atlantic Ocean. The Bismarck was the world’s largest warship in operation at the time and proved to be virtually unsinkable by naval gunfire; it ultimately absorbed more than 400 direct hits from naval guns, roughly a quarter of which were main battery rounds from other battleships, without sinking. And yet less than 6 days into its first combat mission, the Bismarck had nonetheless been sunk. Better armor or a more powerful armament might have made the Bismarck even more dangerous and difficult to sink, but would not have prevented it from being sunk. Similarly, recent changes to the organizational structure of China’s military have made clear improvements, but do nothing to address its most important weaknesses.

Oct. 1, 2016

PLA Reforms and China’s Nuclear Forces

China is in the midst of sweeping military reforms that will affect the force structure, administration, and command and control mechanisms of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The reforms have the dual goals of tightening political control and improving the military’s ability to conduct joint operations. Among the major steps is the creation of the new PLA Rocket Force, which replaced the former Second Artillery in controlling China’s nuclear forces and land-based ballistic and cruise missiles. Despite much attention paid to its new name and higher organizational status, the Rocket Force appears to be the service least affected by the reforms.

Oct. 1, 2016

What Do China’s Military Reforms Mean for Taiwan?

In late 2015 and early 2016, China announced a sweeping set of reforms to the organizational structure of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The reforms not only significantly altered the PLA’s organizational structure but also redefined authority relationships among major components. The PLA Air Force and Navy headquarters, which previously commanded operations during peacetime, were reassigned to administrative roles focused on training and equipping troops. Operational authority moved to a two-tiered system in which decisions will be made by the CMC and carried out by theater commanders.

Oct. 1, 2016

Fighting with Friends: Coalition Warfare in Korean Waters, 1950–1953

In late June 1950, President Harry Truman ordered U.S. forces into combat against the North Korean invasion of South Korea. One of the first units to respond was a combined U.S. Navy–Royal Navy task force with one aircraft carrier from each navy. Throughout the Korean War, British and American naval forces operated together to support the decisive actions on land. Although Anglo-American naval relations were close throughout the Korean War, these ties could be strained and frayed when U.S. Navy commanders operated as though the Royal Navy was a mirror image of their own fleet. This case study in managing multinational operations serves as a timely reminder for commanders and operators of the importance of understanding the history and organizational structure of their coalition partners and of being prepared to adjust practices and procedures based on this knowledge. The experience of Rear Admiral George Dyer illustrates the dangers of mirror-imaging coalition allies, even those as close as the Royal Navy.

July 1, 2016

Securing the Third Offset Strategy: Priorities for the Next Secretary of Defense

Following a process of examining strategy, scenarios, and assessments, this article identifies for the next Secretary of Defense eight capability statements that merit attention as the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) top new investment priorities as part of the Third Offset Strategy in the fiscal year 2018 budget and beyond. Additionally, this article recommends that reforms to the analytical processes informing force planning decisions in general and the Third Offset Strategy in particular be guided by increased selectivity, transparency, and commonality.

July 1, 2016

China's Goldwater-Nichols? Assessing PLA Organizational Reforms

In the past few months, China has announced a series of major reforms to the organizational structure of the People’s Liberation Army. The new PLA C2 structure might best be described as Goldwater-Nichols with Chinese characteristics.

July 1, 2016

The U.S.-China Military Scorecard and China's Military Power

Over the past 20 years China’s military spending, a low priority in the 1980s, has grown, in real terms, at roughly 11 percent per year. At the same time, the focus of China’s military strategy has pivoted sharply from an army-centric “people’s war under modern conditions” aimed to blunt a Soviet attack from the northwest to an air and naval force–centric emphasis on “local wars under informationized conditions” along the country’s long coast, with the United States as the principal adversary. It has been a prodigious transformation, modeled after—and surely provoked by—the U.S. military’s own transformation.

April 5, 2016

China's Goldwater-Nichols? Assessing PLA Organizational Reforms

In the past few months, China has announced a series of major reforms to the organizational structure of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA): the Central Military Commission (CMC) has been revamped, the four general departments dissolved, new service headquarters created, and five new theater commands established in place of the seven military regions (MRs). These changes are part of a sweeping transformation of PLA institutions, force structure, and policy that will be ongoing through 2020. In pursuing these reforms, China’s leaders hope both to tighten central political control over a force that was seen as increasingly corrupt and to build the PLA into a credible joint warfighting entity. Yet important obstacles remain, and it may be years before the implications of these reforms come into full view.

Feb. 1, 2016

Posing Problems without an Alliance: China-Iran Relations after the Nuclear Deal

China is poised to increase economic and diplomatic cooperation with Iran as a result of sanctions relief under the recent Iran nuclear deal, though a close geopolitical alignment between the two states is unlikely.

Feb. 1, 2016

Korean Unification and the Future of the U.S.-ROK Alliance

Security alliances can take many forms. They can be bilateral or multilateral, symmetric or asymmetric, highly institutionalized or largely unstructured. Regardless of form, security alliances as instruments of statecraft, at their most fundamental level, reflect a deliberate commitment among states to aggregate resources in the pursuit of common interests. For over 60 years, the U.S.–Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance has defended South Korea from external attack and, through the combined efforts of both countries, contributed to peace and stability not only on the Korean Peninsula, but also in Northeast Asia, across the Asia-Pacific, and beyond.