In This Review

The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996–2017
The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996–2017
By Eric Heginbotham, Michael Nixon, Forrest E. Morgan, Jacob l. Heim, Jeff Hagen, Sheng Li, Jeffrey Engstrom, Martin C. Libicki, Paul DeLuca, David A. Shlapak, David R. Frelinger, Burgess Laird, Kyle Brady, and Lyle J. Morris
RAND Corporation, 2015, 389 pp.

Heginbotham and his colleagues synthesize a great deal of information that is otherwise hard to find and understand. They develop detailed, rigorously reasoned scorecards that assess how Chinese and U.S. forces would perform against each other in a confrontation over Taiwan or the Spratly Islands. They consider each side’s likely ability to cripple its adversary’s air bases, sink its surface ships, blind its space satellites, shoot down its fighter planes, and disable its computer networks. The results are not surprising, but they are alarming for Washington: U.S. dominance is a “receding frontier,” although the gap between Chinese and American abilities varies from scorecard to scorecard. The fact that the United States is far away from the potential battlefields protects the homeland but gives China an advantage in sustaining military operations, especially in the Taiwan scenario. The rand scholars make a number of controversial recommendations, among them that Washington needs to reconsider the positioning of U.S. military bases in Asia, which are heavily concentrated within Chinese missile range in Japan and South Korea; invest more in cruise missiles that could disable Chinese airfields; and develop smaller aircraft carriers that are less vulnerable to Chinese submarine and missile attacks.