Getting Ready for a Long War with China

Dynamics of Protracted Conflict in the Western Pacific

  • The United States may be planning for the wrong sort of war with China. A Sino-American conflict is likely to be long rather than short; it is likely to sprawl geographically rather than remain confined to the Taiwan Strait.
  • Most modern great-power clashes have been long wars, lasting months or years rather than days or weeks. And as great-power wars go long, they frequently get bigger, messier, and harder to untangle.
  • A Sino-American war would feature far higher risks of conventional and nuclear escalation than many observers recognize.
  • A protracted war in the western Pacific would present the United States with severe challenges—and some unexpected opportunities. American officials must begin to think through six key issues: endurance, resilience, coercion, termination, exploitation, and continuation.

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