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China`s Military Power Trajectory
In assessing China’s military power trajectory, this paper will focus on three areas; conventional military capability, strategic nuclear capability, and power projection capability. Traditional Chinese military strategy has been based on the concept of mainland defense and preparation for a Taiwan contingency. This strategy has been based on a defensive use of military force. Throughout the Cold War and up until the 2000s, China’s military planning has been built upon large ground forces to defend its mainland from enemy invasion and missile forces to launch an attack on independent Taiwan and foreign interventionists, most possibly the US military in the region. As of 2015, official Chinese military strategy stated “China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development, pursue an independent foreign policy of peace and a national defense policy that is defensive in nature, oppose hegemonism and power politics in all forms, and will never seek hegemony or expansion” (China’s Military Strategy 2015).
Yet at the same time, Chinese officials increasingly feel the pressure of neighboring countries working to contain China’s growing power and influence in the region, especially the efforts led by the United States in the 21st century. There have been growing Chinese efforts to push back against American encirclement and secure China’s sphere of influence. This strategy has evolved into what is known as Anti-Access Area Denial (A2/AD). China’s A2/AD uses “a series of interrelated missile, sensor, guidance, and other technologies designed to deny freedom of movement” to keep any potential adversaries, including the United States, from intervening in a conflict off of China’s coast or from attacking the Chinese mainland (Biddle and Oelrich 2016). Some see the new Chinese strategy as more aggressive in nature and posing a grave threat to US power projection capabilities in the region. Still, from the Chinese perspective, A2/AD is an effort to defend its core interests close to its mainland, and are not an attempt to engage in any kind of expansionist ventures in and beyond its regional boundaries.
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