Janine Davidson

Defense in Depth

Janine Davidson examines the art, politics, and business of American military power.

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As China’s Military Modernizes, Woody Island Deployments Are Just the Beginning

by Lauren Dickey
Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China, on their armoured vehicles equipped with anti-tank missiles, arrive at Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, in Beijing, China, September 3, 2015 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

By Lauren Dickey

China continued to make waves in the South China Sea last week with its deployment of surface-to-air missile launchers and a radar system on the contested Woody Island. While this development undoubtedly challenges both the claims of littoral states and the U.S. regional presence, China’s actions should be thought of as part of a much broader agenda aimed at modernizing the capabilities and operations of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Beyond China’s posturing lies an important process of structural and organizational reforms that will shape the war-fighting capabilities of the PLA for the decade ahead. While a lot remains unknown, President Xi Jinping’s planned comprehensive reforms of the PLA appear to target the development of a leaner, stronger Chinese fighting force, an enhanced power projection capability, and an even greater focus on deterring threats along the periphery.

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Under Xi, China Prepares for Modern Warfare

by Lauren Dickey
Chinese President Xi Jinping waves as he reviews the army, at the beginning of the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, in Beijing, China, September 3, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

By Lauren Dickey

Chinese military muscle was on full display in Beijing this week, with hundreds of new weapons platforms, fly-bys, 12,000 troops, and foreign dignitaries all in the global spotlight of Tiananmen Square. Yet, it wasn’t just the land-based anti-ship ballistic missiles and ground assault units that stole the show. Simmering behind the scenes, and underpinning Chinese President Xi Jinping’s evolving political-military agenda, were the renewed discussions of imminent plans for an overhaul to the operating structure of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

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In World War II V-Day Parade, China Will Show Its Steel

by Lauren Dickey
Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army march with their weapons during a training session for a military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, at a military base in Beijing, China, August 22, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

By Lauren Dickey

Amid a sudden stock market plunge and consequent domestic instability, perhaps no one in China is more eagerly anticipating next week’s military parade than President Xi Jinping. On September 3, the ten lanes of Chang’an Avenue in Beijing will fill with weapons and troops to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of Japan’s surrender to end World War II, otherwise known as “Commemoration of Seventieth Anniversary of Victory of Chinese People’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression and World Anti-Fascist War.” The parade—just one of many festivities planned by the Chinese government—represents not only a bold show of Chinese nationalism, military might and bilateral relationships, but also a necessary distraction from economic slowdown, the recent explosion in Tianjin, ongoing environmental concerns, and corruption at home.

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Greatest Hits: How Serious Is the Rebalance? U.S. Military Record Tells (Part of) the Story

by Janine Davidson and Lauren Dickey
The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) participates in a simulated straits transit. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher B. Janik/U.S. Navy/Flickr)

By Janine Davidson and Lauren Dickey

Defense in Depth will be on “summer slowdown” mode until July 22. In lieu of the Weekend Reader, I’ll be posting some of our best stories and analysis from the past year. Today: Lauren Dickey and I provide an overview of U.S. military elements of the Asia-Pacific rebalance, originally published April 16, 2015.

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China’s Territorial Strategy Is Gradualist, Asymmetric, and Effective. How Should the United States Respond?

by Lauren Dickey and Robert A. Newson
A U.S. Navy servicemen listens to a walkie-talkie in front of a Chinese national flag onboard U.S. aircraft carrier USS George Washington during its port call in the Hong Kong waters June 16, 2014. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

By Robert Newson and Lauren Dickey

China’s recent release of its new military strategy has rightly captured the attention of many in Washington. Now, more than ever before, the Chinese military has made clear its intentions to develop maritime capabilities that will enable Beijing to assert claims to sovereignty in the South China Sea and project military reach far beyond their immediate periphery. In the South China Sea, over the last two years alone, Chinese efforts have expanded the islands around Firey Cross Reef and Mischief Reef by 2,000 acres – equivalent to nearly 1,500 football fields—and counting. This massive “territory” building and the significant Chinese military build-up coupled with the release of strategic guidelines for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has sent clear signals to the Pentagon and U.S. allies in the region. China is a global competitor aggressively pursuing their aims and threatening to upend regional stability.

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Five Takeaways from China’s Bold, New Military Strategy

by Lauren Dickey and Stephen E. Liszewski
Military delegates leave the Great Hall of the People after the first annual full session of the National People's Congress, the country's parliament, in Beijing March 5, 2015. (Carlos Barria/Courtesy Reuters)

By Lauren Dickey and Stephen Liszewski

On Tuesday, the Chinese Ministry of Defense issued its first policy document in two years, a white paper titled, “Chinese Military Strategy.” The document, released amid ongoing Chinese island reclamation and increasingly hostile warnings to U.S. Navy aviation assets operating in the South China Sea, outlines how the Chinese armed forces are expected to support Beijing’s geopolitical objectives.

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How Serious Is the Rebalance? U.S. Military Record Tells (Part of) the Story

by Janine Davidson and Lauren Dickey
The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) participates in a simulated straits transit. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher B. Janik/U.S. Navy/Flickr)

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s travels to Japan and South Korea last week—designed no doubt to highlight the continued U.S. commitment to the region—instead resurfaced concerns that the rebalance to Asia is no longer a priority for Washington. Skeptics worry that world events from Russian aggression in Ukraine, to the continued conflagrations across the Middle East, and negotiations with Iran will continue to challenge Washington’s ability to deploy what Carter referred to as the “next phase of our rebalance.” Debates over the defense budget back in Washington further stoke worries that the military side of the rebalance will remain more talk that action. While there may be other valid concerns about the rebalance (Is it focused sufficiently on Southeast Asia? Overly provocative toward China? Likely to be derailed entirely without the TPP?), concerns that the United States has not prioritized the rebalance do not stand up to the facts. A survey of actual U.S. military activity in the region helps differentiate facts from opinion.

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Amid Ballooning Chinese Defense Budgets, Force Protection Still Comes Up Dry

by Emerson Brooking and Lauren Dickey
Frost covers the mask and part of the hat of a soldier of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as he stand guard near the border of China and Russia in Heihe, Heilongjiang province December 10, 2014 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

A recent report by the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly on investments to outfit and equip Chinese soldiers in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has sparked controversy both within China and abroad—revealing sharp fissures in China’s ballooning defense budget. With a total defense budget estimated at $132 billion in 2014 and 2.28 million active duty soldiers on payroll, the PLA allocates a mere $1,523 (9,460 yuan) in outfitting each soldier, roughly one-thirteenth the value of the average deploying U.S. serviceman’s personal gear. At a time when the combat-readiness of China’s armed forces is already widely debated, costs of the basic infantrymen kit highlight critical shortcomings of the Chinese military.

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Taiwan Wants to Buy U.S. Subs; This Would Be a Bad Deal for Both Countries

by Lauren Dickey
A Dutch-made submarine docks in a military port in Taiwan's southern city of Kaohsiung, November 7, 2005. Taiwan has long sought to buy additional diesel submarines to supplement its aging fleet. (Jameson Wu/Courtesy Reuters)

This commentary comes courtesy of Lauren Dickey, research associate for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. She discusses the new push by Taiwan’s Ma Ying-jeou government to expand and reinvigorate the island’s submarine program by acquiring U.S. technology and platforms. She argues that doing so would serve the strategic interests of neither Taiwan nor the United States.

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