Resisting Reflexive Control: A Reassessment of Chinas Strategy and A2/AD
AIR COMMAND AND STAFF COLL MAXWELL AFB AL MAXWELL AFB United States
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The current fixation on anti-accessarea denial A2AD blinds US military planners to the sophistication of Chinas approach to strategy and falls prey to reflexive control manipulation. Reflexive control is an indirect means to maintain control over opponents by influencing their decision-making process. The influence comes from conveying specific information andor actions to drive a predetermined decision. Chinas strategy is a multidimensional approach that adeptly blends non-kinetic forms of warfare with a modernized military that has brought tensions in the Pacific to heights not seen since World War II. The Chinese Communist Partys CCP increasing assertiveness affects several key aspects of US strategic level planning by diverting attention away from Chinas greatest vulnerability-the Indian Ocean. Described by former President Hu Jintao in 2004 as the Malacca problem, the Indian Ocean controls the flow of an estimated 80 percent of Chinas imported oil. The significance of this vulnerability is that the imported energy requirement for the Peoples Republic of China PRC is expected to double in the next two decades. Evidence to support this vulnerability thesis also abounds in the PRCs quiet but extensive relationship building and infrastructure investments in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Burma. These investments all have a single intent-reduce the susceptibility of energy interdiction in the Indian Ocean. The PRCs development of potent A2AD systems is only part of a much more elaborate strategy that exploits Americas instinctive predisposition to solve technological problems with more technology. The United States, however, has neither the fiscal nor military capacity to solve the problem sets inherent in the Pacifics future operational environment. As a result, the United States should examine an alternative strategy that avoids the PRCs A2AD strengths and concentrates on its weaknesses.