Best Defense

Fifty to One: Why China Is Weaker Than it Looks Militarily in Maritime East Asia

Defense is dominant in maritime East Asia.

The East India Company's iron steamship, Nemesis, destroying Chinese war junks at the Second Battle of Chuenpi on Jan. 7, 1841. (Wikimedia Commons)
The East India Company's iron steamship, Nemesis, destroying Chinese war junks at the Second Battle of Chuenpi on Jan. 7, 1841. (Wikimedia Commons)

“[D]efense is dominant, at least within maritime East Asia, because precision-guided munitions enable even relatively weak countries to sink surface ships and shoot down aircraft near their homelands…. China’s neighbors can counter Chinese naval expansion asymmetrically, by launching precision-guided munitions from a variety of relatively cheap platforms…. According to a recent study, the average cost of an A2/AD [anti-access/area denial] capability is about one-fiftieth the cost of the power-projection capability that it could neutralize in war.”

— Michael Beckley, in the fall 2017 issue of International Security

This also makes me wonder if focusing on naval platforms — aka a “350-ship Navy” — is wise.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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