Within approximately a month of each other this year, both China and the United States published official documents detailing their respective views of the current security environment. China’s assessment was captured in its 9th biennial defense white paper, published in late May, and officially titled China’s Military Strategy. The U.S. view is presented in the National Military Strategy of the United States of America, 2015 (hereafter, U.S. National Military Strategy), published in June. The authoritative nature of each document provides an interesting opportunity to comparatively assess how both nations see the international military and security situation, more clearly understand their similarities and differences, and draw out any relevant implications.Before comparing the views contained within the two documents, however, it is important to clarify that this is not a perfect comparison. Although both documents are official and therefore represent the approved views of the respective government, they are not exact equivalents. China’s defense white paper, while drafted by the Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is actually coordinated with and vetted by China’s foreign policy making community, to most importantly include the Chinese Communist Party.1 Therefore, it represents the view of the Chinese Party-State, not just the PLA. On the other side of the ledger, the Joint Chiefs of Staff is responsible for producing the U.S. National Military Strategy. This document draws closely from other U.S. government statements, most importantly from the President’s National Security Strategy. However, ultimately the U.S. National Military Strategy is a U.S. military document, not a whole-of-government product. As a result, comparing it with China’s Military Strategy is imperfect at best. However, such an exercise is still of value, particularly given the authoritativeness of the two documents combined with the general lack of publicly released official Chinese statements on national defense issues.
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