M. Taylor Fravel

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Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, October 2019. Thomas Peter / Reuters.

Among the many issues surrounding China’s ongoing military modernization, perhaps none has been more dramatic than its nuclear weapons program. For decades, the Chinese government was content to maintain a comparatively small nuclear force. As recently as 2020, China’s arsenal was little changed from previous decades and amounted to some 220 weapons, around five to six percent of either the U.S. or Russian stockpiles of deployed and reserve warheads.

Since then, however, China has been rapidly expanding and modernizing its arsenal. In 2020, it began constructing three silo fields to house more than 300 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). A year later, it successfully tested a hypersonic glide vehicle that traveled 21,600 miles, a test that likely demonstrated China’s ability to field weapons that can orbit the earth before striking targets, known as a “fractional orbital bombardment system”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chinese soldiers guarding the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 2022. Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

As the growth of China’s economy slows, politicians in the West are increasingly concerned that Beijing will lash out to deflect domestic attention from its internal problems. In August 2023, for example, U.S. President Joe Biden described China’s economic difficulties as a “ticking time bomb”, suggesting that China’s woes might propel its leaders to “do bad things”.

Scholars and analysts have reached similar conclusions. Richard Haass, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has argued that in response to China’s economic slowdown, Beijing could embrace “even more aggressive nationalism” as a basis for legitimacy and accelerate efforts to unify Taiwan with China.…  Seguir leyendo »

A military exercise in Pingtung, Taiwan, July 2022. Ann Wang / Reuters.

As tension rises between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan, strategists on all sides seem to have forgotten what the American game theorist Thomas Schelling taught years ago: deterring an adversary from taking a proscribed action requires a combination of credible threats and credible assurances. Instead of heeding that lesson, a growing number of U.S. analysts and officials have called for the United States to treat Taiwan as if it were an independent state and to abandon the long-standing policy of “strategic ambiguity” in favor of “strategic clarity”, defined as an unconditional commitment to use military force to defend the island in the event of a mainland Chinese attack.…  Seguir leyendo »

People Liberation Army soldiers and tanks are shown during military disengagement at the India-China border in Ladakh. (Indian army/AFP/Getty Images)

A one-sentence statement from China’s Ministry of National Defense on Feb. 10 announced a simultaneous disengagement of Indian and Chinese forces at Pangong Lake on their disputed border. Ten days later, the disengagement was complete, with a buffer zone separating troops on the lake’s northern bank.

What happened?

The disengagement may be a sign of easing tensions along part of the India-China border dispute known as the western sector. Also called Ladakh or Aksai Chin, this area comprises roughly 12,7000 square miles (excluding areas of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir that India also claims as part of this sector). In multiple areas, China and India hold conflicting views of where the Line of Actual Control (LAC) lies, which creates numerous smaller disputes within the larger territorial conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

In early May, Chinese and Indian troops got into a fistfight on their border at Naku La Pass adjacent to the Indian state of Sikkim. A few days earlier, a brawl among border guards at Pangong Lake sent troops to the hospital. In recent weeks, Chinese soldiers also crossed the “line of actual control” (LAC) around the Galwan River valley.

Here’s what we know — and don’t know — about China’s recent actions in this long-standing territorial dispute.

1. China hasn’t taken this type of action in at least a decade

The territorial dispute along the China-India border falls across three different areas.…  Seguir leyendo »