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JSPES, Vol. 43, No. 1-2 (Spring-Summer 2018)
pp. 33–77

Dispute Control: China Recalibrates Use of Military Force to Support Security Policy’s Expanding Focus

Timothy R. Heath

RAND Corporation

China has been expanding its array of national interests and has sought to increase China’s influence on the regional and global order. Its leaders, led by Xi Jinping, have directed efforts to strengthen its control of this expansion and reform in a manner that minimizes the risk of conflict. As military thinkers grapple with these requirements, the management and use of military force to achieve policy goals has both increased in importance and taken on new points of emphasis. A review of recent Chinese official documents and military writings suggests that the shift in the nation’s security policy towards one of a limited, peaceful expansion has increased interest in the use of non-military instruments of coercion and in the exploitation of militarized crises for strategic gain. Developments in the South and East China Seas suggest this line of thinking may already have informed policy. If so, Chinese behavior in coming years could show a greater willingness to engage in brinksmanship and other risk-taking behavior.