The Myth of China’s Counter-intervention Strategy

Chris Twomey and I have just published an article in The Washington Quarterly on Chinese military strategy.

Increasingly, journalists, policy analysts and scholars as well as selected U.S. government documents describe China as pursuing a ”counter-intervention” strategy to forestall the U.S. ability to operate in a regional conflict.  Moreover, the concept of counter-intervention (fan ganyu) is attributed to the writings of Chinese strategits, as a China’s own version of an anti-access / area denial strategy

Nevertheless, as we show in the article, China does not actually use the term counter-intervention to describe its own military strategy, much less a broader grand strategic goal to oppose the role of the United States in regional affairs.  When Chinese sources do refer to related concepts such as “resisting” or “guarding against” intervention, they are describing as one of the many subsidiary components of campaigns and contingencies that have more narrow and specific goals, especially a conflict over Taiwan.

This misunderstanding or misreading of China’s military strategy is consequential for several reasons: it overstates the U.S. role in Chinese military planning, it can divert analysis from other aspects of China’s military modernization and it exacerbates the growing security dilemma between the United States and China.

The article can be downloaded here