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Will It Be Possible To Deter China Into The 2020s?

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by Richard Fisher, Jr.
Published on July 24th, 2014

China’s broad and accelerating modernization of its military forces, at first seeking to dominate the East Asian region and then to project power globally, sparks considerable anxiety over whether the United States, either alone or with allied support, can continue to deter China from using force to change what Beijing views as an unfavorable “status quo.” This anxiety is compounded by the fact that China is not just an emerging military superpower, but is also gaining economic superpower status which in the view of many helps to legitimize its quest for greater military power. China has used its military and economic power to threaten and constrain Taiwan in the 1990s and 2000s and continues to accumulate forces and capabilities for attacking or invading the island democracy. In the current decade China may decide it can use limited force against Japan and the Philippines to enforce maritime area claims, which would damage Washington’s regional military leadership while prompting many states to consider strategic deterrent capabilities. Into the 2020s and beyond it will no longer be a question of deterring Chinese military might in Asia alone, but also those Chinese forces that can be deployed globally to influence conflicts that would affect Western or democratic interests.

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