Washington’s Perceptions and Misperceptions of China’s Anti-access Area Denial ‘Strategy’

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Chapter 3, the first of four case study chapters, builds on the current (albeit limited) literature that elucidates the key driving forces behind U.S. analysts’ interpretations of the Chinese anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) challenge in East Asia. The Obama administration became increasingly concerned that China’s A2/AD capabilities would put at risk U.S. military assets operating in the Western Pacific, which could allow China to deter, delay, and deny U.S. intervention in future regional conflicts and crises. This case study demonstrates how U.S. perceptions of Chinese A2/AD-influenced U.S. decision-making and defense planning in the Asia-Pacific. In particular, it focuses on the strategic ambiguities associated with A2/AD which provided fertile ground for U.S. misperceptions of Chinese strategic intentions to grow. This chapter concludes that the analytical baselines (or framing assumptions) used by U.S. analysts to interpret Chinese A2/AD were overly reliant on pure material risk assessments to determine Beijing’s strategic intentions that overlooked the evolution of Chinese operational and doctrinal preferences. Specifically, U.S. defense analysts frequently and often erroneously conflated a Chinese operational capability with an underlying strategic intention, which conceptualized the United States as its primary (if not sole) target. This chapter demonstrates that the strategic ambiguities and opacity associated with China’s A2/AD capabilities reinforced Washington’s reliance upon capacity-based assessments, which in turn exacerbated misperceptions, confounded by the cognitive bias of Beijing’s strategic intentions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe US-China Military and Defense Relationship during the Obama Presidency
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-75838-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-75837-4
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameNew Security Challenges
PublisherSpringer International Publishing


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