A major policy document published by the United States Defense Department on Friday identifies China as the emerging world power most likely to threaten US status as the world's only superpower. More important, perhaps, the document calls for several steps to counter that potential threat.
Especially relevant to China watchers are pages 27-31 of the report. That section focuses on the third of four priorities listed in the document: "Shaping the choices of countries at strategic crossroads." While the rest of the document focuses largely on the new stragegic environment where threats come from "decentralized network threats from non-state enemies" and asymmetric threats, this section deals with deterrence, including that tailored for "near-peer competitors" (I guess using such obvious, yet indirect wording to refer to China is really no different than China and Russia using the supposedly generic title of "hegemon" to refer circuitously to the United States).
And how does the United States hope to influence Chinese decision-making?
U.S. policy seeks to encourage China to choose a path of peaceful economic growth and political liberalization, rather than military threat and intimidation. The United States’ goal is for China to continue as an economic partner and emerge as a responsible stakeholder and force for good in the world. (29)
Such a goal should come as a surprise to noone. America's desire to shape Chinese decision-making faces a great challenge, it would appear:
The outside world has little knowledge of Chinese motivations and decision-making or of key capabilities supporting its military modernization.
Strengthening America's ability to deter (and if that should fail, to win) conflicts involves strengthening partnerships with allies, altering its basing in accordance with the Global Defense Posture Review (explained here), and "prompt and high-volume global strike" capabilities (presumably long-range bombers, SSGNs, etc.). Also mentioned is an increase in language training, further explained on pages 78-79 of the report, including Mandarin Chinese.
There is really nothing new in this report, at least nothing that is relevant to China. For someone who hasn't followed the U.S. military and needs to be brought up to speed, this document might be useful. For someone who watches the news regularly and pays attention to the acquisitions and reforms underway in the Defense Department, this report is just more of the same. Forthcoming "follow-on roadmaps" will further explain some aspects of the report, including irregular warfare and intelligence, may offer new insight into those fields.
For an alternate view of what the Quadrennial Defense Review should say, see the Center for American Progress's report (pdf). They are much more pessimistic about Iraq and Afghanistan and declare the Raptor, Virginia-class submarine, DD(X) Destroyer, and some other weapon systems unnecessary. On the subject of China:
Ultimately, China will pursue its own strategic interests with or without U.S. support, and the United States will need to be prepared for conflict with China if necessary. (15)