China’s Anti Access Future is Here

China’s may already be able to hold U.S. forces in the far western Pacific Ocean at bay, argues DT’s go to China expert and Naval War College professor Andrew Erickson in one of his latest analysis pieces.

While China can’t yet project serious military power around the globe — or even to the farthest corners of the Pacific — it’s massive military buidup may have given the nation enough muscle to create the anti-access/area denial scenario in its own neighborhood that Pentagon planners have been worrying about for several years. As Erickson says, the “the future is now.”

Here’s an excerpt from his piece titled, Near Seas “Anti-Navy” Capabilities, not Nascent Blue Water Fleet, Constitute China’s Core Challenge to U.S. and Regional Militaries.

Concerns about a Chinese “blue water navy” fundamentally mischaracterize the true nature of China’s present and medium-term challenge to the U.S. Navy and other U.S. and allied forces.[vii] Because of the fundamentally different cost dynamics, and China’s very different levels of military capability in the Near and Far Seas, it is important for analysts not to conflate Near Seas high-intensity A2/AD with Far Seas low-intensity presence, and even influence.[viii]

Beijing’s “blue water” naval expansion remains years from posing a serious problem for Washington. Indeed, as a growing great power, it is only natural for China to play an increasing role in this realm, and in many respects it should be welcomed. The U.S. has and will continue to have many viable options to address any problems that might emerge in this area, at least with respect to the potential for high-intensity kinetic conflict.

For instance, Chinese forces themselves are highly vulnerable to precisely the same types of “asymmetric” approaches (e.g., missile attacks) that they can employ to great effect closer to China’s shores. In fact, there is substantial room for cooperation beyond the Near Seas. This potential may even be said to be growing, as China’s overseas interests and capabilities increase, thereby allowing it to contribute in unprecedented ways. In this area, which covers the vast majority of the globe, China appears to be cautiously open to U.S. ideas about “defense of the global system”—which in fact offer excellent opportunities for “free riding” off U.S.-led provision of security for key global sea lanes such as the Strait of Hormuz.

The problem for the U.S. is that in the Near Seas themselves China is working to carve out a sphere of strategic influence within which freedom of navigation and other important international system-sustaining norms are seriously constricted. Thus, China’s already-present ability to engage in A2/AD operations within the Near Seas and their immediate approaches has the potential to seriously undermine U.S. national security interests.

Assisted in part by the land-based Second Artillery Force, anti-satellite capabilities, and global cyber activities, this A2/AD challenge threatens U.S. naval platforms, but is far more than just a Chinese navy-based threat; some U.S. government experts have called it an anti-navy.” It could already be difficult to handle kinetically with current U.S. approaches, and the situation appears to be worsening rapidly. The U.S. may not have years to develop new countermeasures and prepare to address the most difficult aspects of the problem; in that sense, “the future is now.”

Radiating Range Rings, Through the Lens of Distance

The most common source of error in Chinese and U.S. analyses of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) development is the conflation of two factors: scope and intensity. A stone dropped into the water forms waves that radiate outward, gradually dissipating in the process. Close to home, China’s military capabilities are rapidly reaching a very high level. However, they are making much slower progress, from a much lower baseline, further away. The major exceptions to this pattern occur in space, in which China’s capabilities are more evenly distributed and hence more global in nature, and in cyberspace in which physical distances are largely meaningless.

To call this a “tale of two militaries” oversimplifies, since some platforms and weapon systems can contribute in both areas, but it captures the basic dynamic. Many vehicles and armaments are primarily relevant in one area or the other. Cherry-picking the characteristics of either of these “layers” or “levels” to characterize overall Chinese military/maritime power risks fundamentally misrepresenting its critical dynamics.

On one hand, it is a mistake to exaggerate the scope of China’s military buildup: China is not developing a “blue water” power-projection navy nearly as rapidly as it is deploying shorter-range platforms and weapon systems such as missiles for land, air-, sea-, and undersea-based platforms. On the other hand, it is equally misguided to suggest that restraint and limitations in the Far Seas indicate restraint and limitations in the Near Seas, when in fact Chinese actions across the military and diplomatic spectrum strongly suggest the opposite.

“Counting all the beans” by treating side-by-side comparison of all Chinese and U.S. forces as the key metric, as sometimes done by those who would minimize the PLA’s significance, is only relevant if one assumes that the pertinent scenario is a Cold War-style Sino-American global conflict—a virtual impossibility, fortunately. Rather, China is seeking to further its core interests by pursuing an asymmetric approach that maximizes its advantages in a contingency relatively close to China’s maritime periphery.

Read the rest of Erickson’s analysis at China Sign Post.

35 Comments on "China’s Anti Access Future is Here"

  1. We have lost the will to compete militarily. We are unilaterally dismantling our conventional (see F-22 and JDRAM) and nuclear capabilities(see Minuteman III) while China is greatly and successfully increasing its capabilities. Our defense budget has to increase, not decrease, but it would require broad tax increases for everybody. At least we should demand value for our tax dollars and cancel programs with little value in favor of programs with greater value such as the Virginia Sub program.

  2. in a few years we will have lasers and we have now other missiles to shoot missiles down also jaming pods so whats the big deal? we also we spend way more then them on military so we are ready.

  3. The report over blows China's capabilities. some of there scare over its anti-ship missile would depend on the conflict is the Navy wanted to stick a Carrier Strike ground right off the coast and bomb china well yes that would be hazard by there carrier killer missiles. However to support Taiwan or Philippines against Chinese Red aggression most US Naval forces would be on the other side of the allied nation and would be too far away for Chinese missiles to have range on there own. Put this way there tanks suck there rifles suck now there planes are good not superior to US? European fighters/bombers but are copies of Russian and European planes anyway. China must be contain and monitored but fear mongering over it is overblown and is more political than factual.

  4. This isn't a surprise. China will probably stick with missiles so long as it can free ride of the US's global police policies. The best we can hope for is a laser or railgun systen that can shoot down the missiles before they get to close, of preferable before they even leave the Chinese mainland. If we can find a relatively cost effective, accurate (Read: Railgun Birdshot, round 120 metal pellets travelling at mach 7-10) to shoot down their missiles, we got them by the balls.

  5. For us to leave behind such a temporal effect on not having the most fuel efficient surveillance equipment out there to prevent these freaks from over stepping, will be such consequences that most will turn there nose up at……

    If any country, any country launches a missile, we suspect that contents will go over there borders, the only option we have to incinerate the launch site and the surrounding 200 miles. Leave a mark that they will remember!

  6. Don't worry about China, guys. Romney has declared Russia is our no 1 geopolitical enemy.

  7. Hitting an aircraft carrier in the open ocean running at full steam with spoofing, countermeasures, jamming, decoys, other clutter from escorts, and then BMD missiles and microwave burst from those new massive AESA radars… will not be easy.

    China's new weapons will be a flash in the pan, opening days weapons that I doubt will have much true effectiveness besides being used as a harassing weapon against fixed naval and air base facilities. Their real value will be in targeting supply ships at port or anchor off Taiwan or hitting/harassing naval/air bases in Guam, Japan, S Korea, etc.. Disrupt allied air support in theater and shut down the big airbases of Taiwan while also shutting down the naval resupply or reinforcement of Taiwan. Taiwan has limited stock piles that without big US cargo planes rolling into big long air fields or other big US supply ships rolling into big port facilities it will be a short war.

    China will lose its eyes and ears very early in a war with the US. The US will have some disruption but with the X-37 etc.. programs it will remain only a disruption. Their subs may survive long enough to help but when they come up to make com they will be destroyed. With no tracking to get the missile on top of the carrier the list of defenses will not even be needed.

  8. Why again do US warmongers plan on a serious confrontation with china?
    Considering just how dependent the US everyday-consumer is on made-in-china wares (thanks in major part to all those corporations that took jobs there to begin with,
    more often than not having the blessing of previous politicians to do so…gotta forge better ties with china to stave off the Russian horde threat, etc ad naseum),
    wouldn't such a military confrontation between the US and china be the financial/economic equivalent of mutually assured destruction?
    The longer term a military confrontation, the greater both sides will suffer, not entirely thru military hardware attrition, but on the homefront where that massive balancing act of consumer and supplier is seriously shaken.
    Those can create political repercussions just as much as could public disapproval of another expensive war.

  9. The article makes some sound points. Taiwan and local influence is of more concern than policing global shipping lanes or any other common force-projection concerns. The US provides global stability elsewhere and they care about Taiwan. Not news to anyone that's kept up with China for the last couple of decades (or centuries for that matter).

  10. Why are all the pro-China comments being thumbed up and all the anti-China comments being thumbed down?

  11. How is China planning on targeting these acclaimed missiles? The ocean is a big place to hide, even within the confines of the South China Sea.

    Last I checked, China had one nascent constellation of naval surveillance satellites with limited coverage, and an extremely small formation of non-SOTA AWACS aircraft. They also don't actively train on air-to-air tanking, so station time would be seriously limited. The satellites could probably be jammed / dazzled with reasonable preparation time, if not totally shot down.

    Also, consider the U.S.' ASAT preparedness. The DoD demonstrated a capability to shoot down a satellite from a mobile platform (!) with greater precision than a land-based Chinese launch. If you can move the launch platform out of Chinese sensor range, how are they going to maneuver their satellites to prevent a hit?

    I think China would likely end up blind in a hurry.

  12. Auyong Ah Meng | March 28, 2012 at 1:37 am | Reply

    Folks, please kindly factor in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan into consideration too…

    China has to neutralize them or take them out 1st before taking on the US….

    The US won't be in this alone…

  13. Meanwhile we are cutting ships and can't fix our plans for future classes of destroyer and cruisers.

    We already have a solid starting point with the Standard Missile 3, new ships could expand upon that capability with new radars, missiles, and directed energy weapons.

  14. This war isn't happening for a long time, if it ever did. The economies of both countries are still heavily reliant upon each other or each others Allies and both would suffer greatly in any conflict economically. China's economy is already showing signs of slowing down, you think cutting exports to the West will help that? They don't want conflict any more then we do, and that will keep them out of any direct conflict. I could see them fighting proxy wars in Africa with ease (they are going to need fertile land badly in the coming decades), but nothing that puts itself in direct confrontation with the West.

  15. tribulationtime | March 28, 2012 at 5:22 am | Reply

    I agree with Auyong thats countries are a powerfull "reef" to get in open waters. In the other hand China military is nothing if they have petroleum and nearest pacific haven´t it. See CIA factbook 2011. So China strategical focus should be in Iran, 2nd Gas a 3rd Oil proben reserves, Cia factbook 2009; secure a land locked liveline between Iran and China is all. But no so easy is keep Iran from westerns invaders. Is more easy keep at bay westerns in eastern coast flooded with civvies.

  16. what is A2/AD?

  17. The only war China can afford to fight is a proxy war, something that the US is very, very practiced at.

  18. No one wins a nuclear war. In a conventional war with China we don't even have to win millitarily, we don't have to attack China directly. We can do the same game of creating an area of anti-access and then simply blockade key points in their geographically limited shipping lanes. That puts a stranglehold on a country that imports 80% of its food supply.

  19. It seems our present Administration is too busy engaging in Social Engineering of our military rather than preparing for future military conflicts.

    I suspect we will be spending more monies on "same sex insurance benefits" than we will be in producing future weapons systems.

    We're going the way of Rome faster than you or I can fathom.

  20. As with most troll comments, many of their fantasies are based upon a true academic philosophy: hold everything constant. While many synchronous capabilities do warrant address, there seems to be an absence of a weighted variable in this equation and that would be the over 75 years of US naval warfare in real capabilities of CBG and Under/Surface warfare. It is good to define your enemies and understand their capabilities. This article address anti-access that 1. won't last long and 2. presumes that China has the ability to outlast a campaign of outer-rim anti access.
    The Chinese economy is about to implode and if this needs explaining you are on the wrong blog.
    Worst case: the US Navy will have to take one on the chin. The repercussion upon the PLANavy and the Chinese economy will be devastating. BTW: Only US Investors (always has been a risk) are dependent on Chinese goods and as the price of oil rises the US market will adjust where goods are manufactured. I don't buy chinese crap. Interesting article, silly troll remarks.

  21. So do candy bars and bread. Inflation always drives cost up, the question is proportionality to inflation… or rather in comparison to GDP, which produces automatically inflation adjust ratio.

  22. China is leveraging focus in the huge area of energy, while simultaneously turning the marketing of their goods inwards. They plan to move 350 million people into the middle class within 5 years. This will displace Americans literally on a one-to-one ratio, making us irrelavant. They've used our military as the high seas police force, our industry as their repository of knowledge, our universities for technical training, our weapons development as their low-cost effective laboratory, our consumption as their driver for industrial infrastructure… this is the Chinese way… passive confrontation…(Wu Ying Dao = The Formless Way). Like water they seep into every crack that provides little resistance, and as the temperature drops the water becomes ice, cracking the huge boulder.

  23. Their oil consumption will grow by 5-7 million barrels a day by 2015, India's will grow by 7-10 million a day. Where will this oil come from? World production peaked in 2008-09 at 93mbd, and now stands at 88mbd. __China is seeking to enlarge it's sphere of influence, this would be the most dangerous scenario possible.__Using proxy combatants is how the Korean, and Vietnam wars worked.__If 80% of the Asian countries aligned with China, the energy consumption alone would wipe us out. … __What Erickson is REALLY saying is: "There are more that two ways to skin an american cat."

  24. Whitewalls? Really? Tuck and roll in the interior?

  25. Marcellus Hambrick | March 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Reply

    China wants to turn the Pacific into a Chinese lake. They want to particularly rule there part of the Pacific. Their main weapons are denial weapons where they want to deny America access. They have continued to harass the Phillipines, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, abd Vietnamese interests in the area. They recognize that more and more US budget dollars is going to non-defense items such as social programs. Plus, they have over $1.3 TRILLION in US debt that in the event of hostilities they could demand immediate payment.

  26. Marcellus Hambrick | March 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Reply

    China wants to turn the Pacific into a Chinese lake. Their main weapons are denial weapons where they want to deny America access. They have continued to harass the Phillipines, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, abd Vietnamese interests in the area. They recognize that more and more US budget dollars is going to non-defense items such as social programs. Plus, they have over $1.3 TRILLION in US debt that in the event of hostilities they could demand immediate payment.

  27. China wants to turn the Pacific into a Chinese lake. Their main weapons are denial weapons where they want to deny America access. They have continued to harass the Phillipines, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, abd Vietnamese interests in the area. They recognize that more and more US budget dollars is going to non-defense items such as social programs. Plus, they have over $1.3 TRILLION in US debt that in the event of hostilities they could demand immediate payment.

  28. If China somehow succesfully invaded Taiwan, would the US keep the war going? I imagine the US Navy, especially its subs could eventualy destroy much of the PLAN and cut them off from Taiwan, followed by a US invasion/liberation of Taiwan. Any thoughts on the plausibility of that? The USN could most likely cut off China's Iranian oil shipments. Would Australia be involved in this war?

  29. Guys, guys, why the need to be able to invade and defeat every country? The US armed forces should be about defending the USA, not attacking other countries. This idea that the USA should be able to quickly defeat everyone has helped to bankrupt the country.

  30. TPTB will eventually combine a commie force to take down the free world (and the commies too).

  31. The worst part is that China will sell these systems. It's not a matter of if but when. Money, power, influence, seeing an American Carrier battle group go up in flames.

    If the US does not act, we could lose access to the pacific and the PRC will act like Imperial Japan, only with nukes.

  32. "…it’s massive military buidup…"

    So, this is a typo, right?

  33. Isnt this exactly what the Aegis Combat System was made for? and isnt that on every Ticonderoga Class and Arleigh Burke Class ships? which all together we got almost 100 of those wonderfully powerful ships.

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