Comments on Rand's report

Entering the Dragon's Lair

--- Chinese Antiaccess Strategies and Their Implications for the United States
© August 2007 by Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong

With China rising, China becomes a potential adversary of the United States. Many research reports are, now, dealing with this important issue. These reports can be very important for America's future. Yet, they can also be very much misleading. I will analyze some of those reports in three directions.

  1. Are their logic consistent internally?
  2. China as a different country with different culture, do they have the basic knowledge to know the subject of their studies? For example, do they have the language ability to read the subtle and the underlying meaning of some important Chinese books?
  3. China might use a different calculator to measure this world. Do they have the ability to enter into the Chinese calculator?
I will begin this project with a Rand's report. The following is its research brief which is download from

I. Rand's report -- Entering the Dragon's Lair

II. My comments:

  1. Its internal logic
  2. About foe's calculator
  3. The basic tools for research
  4. The Rand's conclusion

III. Conclusion


I. Rand's report:
Title: Entering the Dragon's Lair -- Chinese Antiaccess Strategies and Their Implications for the United States

China could employ antiaccess strategies to prevent U.S. military forces from deploying or operating overseas. These actions could result in defeat for the United States, in the sense that China would accomplish its military and political objectives while preventing the United States from accomplishing some or all of its objectives. The United States can take short- and long-term steps to mitigate the Chinese antiaccess threat.

U.S. defense analysts are concerned about the possibility that China -- a potential U.S. adversary in a conflict over Taiwan or South Korea -- could employ an antiaccess strategy to prevent U.S. forces from deploying to a combat theater or to limit the locations from which they could operate. Such a strategy would be more attractive to China -- and potentially more effective -- than a force-on-force battle against the U.S. military, which remains superior to the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) in technology, doctrine, training, and experience.

A RAND Project AIR FORCE (PAF) study of Chinese military doctrinal writings finds that China could employ several types of antiaccess strategies in a future conflict with the United States, including

These actions could result in defeat for the United States -- not in the sense that U.S. military forces would be destroyed but in the sense that China would accomplish its military and political objectives while preventing the United States from accomplishing some or all of its objectives.

The United States can do much to mitigate the Chinese antiaccess threat. The following near-term measures could be taken using existing capabilities:

Taking measures such as these would strengthen deterrence of potential aggression by China.

In the longer term, the United States should consider investing in new or improved capabilities, such as the following:

These measures and capabilities would help ensure that U.S. forces remain capable of responding rapidly and effectively to potential crises in the region.

Note: The above research brief describes work done for RAND Project AIR FORCE and documented in Entering the Dragon's Lair: Chinese Antiaccess Strategies and Their Implications for the United States, by Roger Cliff, Mark Burles, Michael S. Chase, Derek Eaton, and Kevin L. Pollpeter, MG-524-AF, 2007, 154 pp., ISBN: 978-0-8330-3995-8

The entire report has 154 pages. It can be download from Internet free. It also has an 11 page summary. My analysis will be based on this summary.

II. My comments:

1. Its internal logic:

  1. Rand wrote, "For potential opponents of the United States, the motives for adopting an antiaccess strategy are compelling. These countries must plan to face an adversary that enjoys tremendous military and technological superiority, and they undoubtedly recognize that, as long as the U.S. Military can arrive in force and on time, it will almost certainly prevail. Thus, they may seek to impede the deployment of U.S. forces and restrict or disrupt the U.S. military's ability to operate within a theater far from U.S. territory. They may also calculate that, by mounting a credible threat to do so, they will be able to deter the United States from intervening in the first place, or at least limit the scale and scope of that intervention."

    "The possibility that the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) might employ antiaccess measures in a conflict with the United States is the product of the PLA's view of the nature of modern war, its awareness of China's military weaknesses, and its recognition of U.S. military superiority. Because of the rise of important political and economic centers in China's coastal regions, China's military strategy has shifted from defending the continent to defending areas on China's periphery and maritime force projection. Instead of fighting a "People's War" involving human-wave attacks, the PLA is now preparing to fight a "local war under high-technology conditions." PLA strategists expect such conflicts to be characterized by limited political objectives and the use of information technology and by being highly mobile, lethal, and resource intensive. (See pp. 18 -23)"

    "China could employ several types of antiaccess strategies in a future conflict with the United States, including

    " (from the brief)
From the above writings, we get two points.
  1. Rand wrote, "... , an adversary might adopt and attempt to execute an 'antiaccess' strategy intended to interfere with the U.S. military's ability to deploy or to operate within overseas theaters of operation. This concern stems from two features of the post-Cold War world. First is that, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, no country fields military forces comparable in both quantity and quality to those of the United States, and thus there is little likelihood that the U.S. military will be defeated in a conventional force-on-force engagement on the battlefield. The principal threat to defeat U.S. military forces, therefore, is through the use of an asymmetric approach, such as an antiaccess strategy." (from the summary)

From this writing, we again get two points.

2. About foe's calculator:

That Mao entered Korea War was not caused by an obligation of friendship with North Korea, nor driven by an emotional reaction. It was an action after a very detailed calculation. The result of that calculation was that China will not lost the war even after nuclear attacks. In Mao's calculator, victory was not a variable. Victory, if came, was just a nice bonus. The only variable was about "losing the war." By staying out of it, the war was lost without fighting. By entering into it, China can never lose the war even under nuclear attacks because "losing" is defined solely by the self while winning is solely defined by the enemy. As long as the enemy does not accept defeat, we can never win the war. As long as we do not accept defeat, we will never lose any war.

With the Utah mine collapse, we have learned that the trapped miners could be subsisted with only a two inch hole. For the Vietnam War, the size of American force (including the nuclear bombs) was not a variable in Mao's calculator. As long as the drips of material in the Ho Chi Minh trail could subsist the North Vietnam, she could get the final victory eventually.

With these two examples, an event can always be calculated by many different calculators which employ different algebra and different algorithm. In the book Diplomacy (ISBN 0-671-65991-X), Dr. Henry Kissinger wrote, "The phenomenon of a totally implacable foe uninterested in compromise -- indeed, seeking to turn deadlock into a weapon -- was alien to the American experience. An ever-greater number of Americans yearned for compromise. But Hanoi's leaders had launched their war in order to win, not to cut a deal. Thus, the categories of the American debate -- the many proposals for bombing halts, cease-fires, deadlines for American withdrawal, and coalition government -- were never relevant to Hanoi's calculations." (page 684)
"At the end of 1966, North Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong told Harrison Salisbury of The New York Times that, though the United States was far stronger militarily, it would lose in the end because more Vietnamese than Americans were prepared to die for Vietnam, and to fight as long as it might take to outlast the Americans. His assessment proved correct." (page 660, ibid)

Obviously, there are also different calculators for the Iraq war.

With these two calculators, who can be the winner? In fact, a simple winning and losing equation can be formulated. Then, what is the variables for China's calculator on Taiwan issue? Without knowing this calculator, all research works are no more than some mumbo jumbo. There are three equations in this Chinese calculator.
  1. The survival of the government -- as long as the government can survive after a US - China war, all other outcomes (winning or losing in the battles) are just costs which are always bearable. In the example of Iraq, however mighty the air power was, a government could not be brought down without the boots on the ground. With the example of Japan in the World War II, two million boots did not bring down Chinese government. Can Chinese government be ousted by internal dissent? Please read the article Governability of China at

    However, can Chinese government survive by ending a war with defeat? If the answer is no, then how can China end the war similar to the Falkland war? China is quite different from Argentina. China can subsist a long term war for 10 years, 30 years or 50 years. If China's calculator spell out the followings,

    Then, the winning or losing in the battle field is no longer a variable in this calculator.

    As a nuclear power, using nuclear weapons is an executable option. In the book Mao -- a life (ISBN 0-8050-3115-4), Mr. Philip Short wrote, " '[Mao's saying] Let us speculate. If war broke out, how many people would die? There are 2.7 billion [over 6 billions now] people in the entire world, and one-third of them may be lost... If the worst comes to the worst, perhaps one-half would die. But there would still be one-half left; imperialism would be razed to the ground and the whole world would become socialist. After a number of years, the world's population would once again reach 2.7 billion and certainly become even bigger.'

    There was nothing particularly new in this: Mao had expressed the same view to Nehru in 1954, when tensions over Taiwan had led America to hint at possible nuclear weapons use, and he repeated it in even more cataclysmic terms to a Finnish diplomat a few months later. 'If the US had atom bombs so powerful that ... they would make a hole right through the earth,' he told the astonished envoy, 'that would hardly mean anything to the universe as a whole, though it might be a major event for the solar system.' It was one thing, however, to engage in such airy speculations in private conversation, quite another at a meeting attended by communist functionaries from more than sixty countries. To them, Mao's words were chilling. The Soviet leadership found itself wondering whether a man who spoke of nuclear armageddon with such total unconcern could really be trusted with an atomic arsenal of his own." (page 489 - 490)
    "Three weeks later [in 1960], the Soviet leadership officially informed China that, with immediate effect, all Russian experts were being withdrawn and all Russian aid was being terminated [including nuclear technology]" (page 504 ibid)

    If those words were spoken by anyone else, he could be viewed as insane. As they are Mao's words, they carry some special meanings.

    1. We might hate Mao as an evil person; he was not insane.
    2. Mao has never said a single word which he did not mean it.
    3. Politically, Mao has not said a single word without a detailed and detailed calculation.
    4. Both atomic and hydrogen bombs were developed under Mao's watch.
    5. Mao was the founder of PRC. His sayings are not only studied by many but are still trusted by many.

    During the past five years, at least three high level Chinese Generals mentioned that China would use nuclear weapons in case of a US - China war. Although Chinese government quickly denied that the words of those Generals were not government's policy, those Generals were not reprimanded. There is, in fact, a Chinese nuclear calculator, derived from Mao's nuclear doctrine.

    While Taiwan is only one of the national interest for America, the defeat by America on Taiwan will be the death sentence for Chinese government. At that point, winning or losing is no longer an issue. It is an issue of life or death, and nuclear war will no longer be a taboo any more.

    In the book Diplomacy, Dr. Kissinger wrote, "..., Washington's assessment of the overall international context had made it too preoccupied with Chinese intervention, ignoring Lin Piao's statement that Chinese armies would not go abroad, and which was reiterated by Mao to Edgar Snow, ..., America paid a price for not taking Chinese statements seriously: in Korea, it had ignored Chinese warnings and marched to the Yalu, triggering Chinese intervention; in Vietnam, it disregarded assurances by the Chinese that they would not intervene, causing America to reject the only strategy which might have brought victory." (page 660 - 661)

    My analysis could be wrong. But the words of those Chinese Generals were their convictions. In fact, this survive calculator is very simple.

    Thus, the conclusion of this calculator is very simple. If China is defeated military over Taiwan issue, there will be a nuclear war.

  2. The military equation -- can China win militarily? The Rand report did identify a few death spots (vulnerabilities) of American military power.
  3. The cost - benefit equation -- as long as Chinese government survives after a US - China war, all costs are bearable.
    As long as the American bases in Japan were attacked, the rule of game for the US - Japan relation would have been changed forever.
    As long as America did not gain an one-side victory over China, America would be viewed as loser. That is, America will lose her right to be a hegemon in East Asia.
    In short, America can gain nothing for a US - China war over Taiwan. In the book Diplomacy, Dr. Henry Kissinger wrote, "Militarily, Tet is now recognized as a major communist defeat. ...
    Nevertheless, the Tet Offensive turned into a major psychological victory for Hanoi." (page 670)
    In fact, Tet was the turning point. America's victory on Tet marked the beginning of the final America defeat in Vietnam. If Chinese government survives a US - China war, it will mark the end of America's hegemony in East Asia regardless of the battle field outcomes.

3. The basic tools for research:

Rand's report was obviously written by someone who knows very little Chinese language. Fifty years ago, 80% Chinese were illiterates. Yet, every illiterate Chinese knows more Chinese language than an American student who took 200 hours Chinese course in an American university. Most Western Sinologists' Chinese language ability is no higher than a 4th or 5th grader in China. Even the greatest Sinologists, such as Dr. F.S.C. Northrop and Dr. Joseph Needham, are not doing much better. On Dr. Needham's case, please read the article Culture Energy of China at

In the book The meeting of East and West, Dr. Northrop wrote, "... in the symbols of the Chinese language, where each solitary, immediately experienced local particular tends to have its own symbol.... This automatically eliminates the logical whole-part relation between one symbol and another that occurs in the linguistic symbolism of the West....
... the ideas which these symbols convey particulars rather than logical universals, and largely denotative rather than connotative in character. Certain consequences follow.... the type of knowledge which a philosophy constructed by means of such a language can convey tends necessarily to be one given by a succession of concrete, immediately apprehendable examples and illustrations, the succession of these illustrations having no logical ordering or connection the one with the other....
... Nowhere is there even the suggestion by the aesthetic imagery of a postulated scientific or a doctrinally formulated, theological object. " (page 322)

Dr. Northrop's view was, of course, wrong. Please read the article Chinese Etymology at

There were 20 million Chinese people two thousand years ago. That is, .05% (5 per ten thousand) of the population is 10,000 which was a huge number at those days. It was a governing elite more than enough for the needs at that ancient time. Thus, the education policy then was employing a harsh marathon course in order to separate the elite from the general public. That is, the logic of Chinese written language was not taught. If anyone did discover the word root logic, he would have been obligated to keep it from the public.

This policy is still in place in terms of Chinese written language. The native Chinese college graduates (not specializing in Chinese written language) learned about 6,000 Chinese words which is 10% of all Chinese words. They, in fact, can never truly comprehend the Chinese Classic. With 1.3 billion people today, China needs only .0005% (5 per million) of the population to be the governing elite. For China, this is the best governing theory, as those who are semi-illiterate on true Chinese culture have no legitimate right to rebel.

That is, even with the helps of some native Chinese scholars in America, those Sinologists are still blind leading blinds. Without getting helps from those .0005%, Western Sinologists have little chance to enter into China's calculator.

Rand wrote, "Although the Chinese military doctrinal writings we examined for this study do not explicitly discuss antiaccess as a separate and distinct strategy, ...
Potential Chinese actions that could affect U.S. access to areas around China were identified through the analysis of Chinese military doctrinal writings. These included books on military doctrine, articles from Chinese military journals, reports from Chinese strategic thinking." (From summary)

In 1987, PLA published L (Collection of Chinese books on Art of War, Encyclopedia of Chinese art of war). It has 50 volumes, with 1,000 pages for every volume. That is, it has a total 50,000 pages. It collected over 200 books, from 1,000 b.c. to 1,900 a.d.. The photo of its book cover can be viewed by click here.

Among these 200 books, five of them are the backbone of Chinese military doctrine.

  1. ] l L k -- author, ] Z , around 300 b.c.
  2. d l L k -- author, d _ , around 300 b.c.
  3. ] L k -- author, ] , around 200 b.c.
  4. -- author, , around 1,000 b.c.
  5. T -- author, , around 100 b.c.
All other books are elaborations of these five books. In 5,000 year Chinese history, the military doctrine emphasizes only the defense strategy, and the antiaccess approach is the best defense strategy. There are many sayings on this. That is, the antiaccess strategy is nothing new. Although the new musical instruments are invented constantly, the principle of music does not change over the thousands years. It is the same for the military doctrine. I am very surprised that Rand did not mention about these five Chinese military books (which are the must read books for every Chinese general) at all. The text of these five books cannot be understood by native Chinese with a college degree if he is not helped by a tutor. It is quite understandable that these five books are far out of reach by those Rand researchers.

We will never believe that a person can be a physicist if he knows not calculus. We will never believe that a person can be a Shakespeare opera performer if he cannot read and speak English. Yet, those who know not much Chinese language can still be great Sinologists. Can they really be? How can anyone who knows not the basic Chinese art of war (the five books mentioned above) analysing the Chinese war strategy?

4. The Rand's conclusion:

In Rand's writing, it did not formally give a quantitative assessment on the probability of China's success on her antiaccess strategy. However, Rand did write, "The chances of success of an antiaccess strategy are increased by the second feature of the post-Cold War world: The absence of a single dominant adversary makes it impossible to predict where U.S. military forces will next be needed and, thus, makes it likely that the United States will have relatively few forward-deployed forces in the vicinity of a conflict about to erupt.
"The net result of these effects could be that the United States would actually be defeated in a conflict with China -- not in the sense that the U.S. military would be destroyed but in the sense that China would accomplish its military and political objectives while preventing the United States from accomplishing some or all of its political and military objective." (from summary)

Rand also pointed out two vulnerabilities (death spots) of American military.

  1. America is too heavily relying on the GPS system for her weapon systems. Note: China shot down one of her own satellite three months before this Rand report.
  2. Rand wrote, "..., like the 1999 conflict with Serbia over Kosovo, requires significant U.S. forces and that timing a military operation for when the United States was already engaged could mean that the United States would not have enough forces available to respond to China's actions."

    That is, American generals do not have any experience on the Asy(II) warfare. However weak China is, she can always muster a very powerful local Asy(I). American generals might not have the experience to fight against an Asy(I) war.

Rand's report is seemingly hinting that America will be defeated if its recommendations are not implemented. Yet, its recommendations do not address of how to mitigate the two vulnerabilities above.

III. Conclusion:

  1. Antiaccess is a defensive strategy while it needs a very strong force projection capability in order to execute and to success.
  2. Antiaccess is nothing new but a central pillar of Chinese military doctrine for thousands years.
  3. Antiaccess is not an asymmetry strategy. There are two types of asymmetry strategies.
  4. Rand's researchers and their Chinese advisers (if any) are obviously not familiar with the basic doctrines (the five books) of Chinese art of war. However, their conclusion that America might be defeat in a US - China conflict is a fair assessment although the reasons and the logic they employed in their analysis have little to do with that conclusion.

For analyzing the US - China relation and the Taiwan issue, it needs 1,000 pages or one million pages. However, its conclusion can never go beyond the following two questions:

By not answering these two questions, America today becomes a puppet following the internal power play drama in Taiwan, as someone in Taiwan knows all too well that Taiwan is a detonator for a US - China nuclear war. In all cases (even if China will still be a problem for America without the Taiwan issue), we Americans should get rid of this Taiwan problem. That is, there is, at least, one problem less in dealing with the China issue. We can defuse this atomic detonator while enjoying the current benefit or more by freezing Taiwan issue, such as, with a UN resolution which encompasses two points.

  1. China - Taiwan reunification must be done peacefully.
  2. Taiwan is formally recognized as a part of China by UN.
With such a UN resolution, the self-declaration of Taiwan independence is no longer a reason for China to act with military as that declaration has no legal power anywhere in this planet (the humanity). The internal monkey play in Taiwan is no longer a concern of anyone, not China, nor America.

With such a UN resolution, any military action against Taiwan from China will be a violation of the resolution. America will, then, be on a moral high ground to oppose such an action.

Will China accept such a UN resolution, she definitely would, although reluctantly. For China, Taiwan can never swim away. Taiwan cannot abandon Chinese language over night. It would take more than 50 years if it is ever possible. Taiwan will be part of China 100 years, 500 years or 1,000 years from now. For Taiwan reunification, China is not in any hurry. Furthermore, any chance of avoiding a nuclear conflict with America is a good chance.

Furthermore, without the issue of life-or-death, China would not challenge America's hegemony, and there are two reasons on this.

  1. The title of number one superpower is not attractive to Chinese. In fact, there is a G philosophy (the number two is the best) in China. Please read the article Chinese culture and the world security at
  2. With a friendly number one on the top, the number two could shoulder very little responsible while enjoys high prestige. Of course, if the number one is a malignant tumor for the number two, then it is a life or death issue.
With such a UN resolution, America can play the Taiwan game for hundreds years without risking any side-effect.


Dr. Paul Kennedy is not a Sinologist. Yet, I would like to quote one of his saying as the conclusion of this paper. In the book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Dr. Kennedy wrote, "Although the United States is at present still in a class of its own economically and perhaps even militarily, it cannot avoid confronting the two great tests which challenge the longevity of every major power that occupies the 'number one' position in world affairs:
whether, in the military/strategical realm, it can preserve a reasonable balance between the nation's perceived defense requirements and the means it possesses to maintain those commitments;
and whether, as an intimately related point, it can preserve the technological and economic bases of its power from relative erosion in the face of the ever-shifting patterns of global production.
This test of American abilities will be the greater because it, like imperial Spain around 1600 or the British Empire around 1900, is the inheritor of a vast array of strategical commitments which had been made decades earlier, when the nation's political, economic, and military capacity to influence world affairs seemed so much more assured. In consequence, the United States now runs the risk, so familiar to historians of the rise and fall of previous Great Powers, of what might roughly be called 'imperial overstretch': that is to say, decision makers in Washington must face the awkward and enduring fact that the sum total of the United States' global interests and obligations is nowadays far larger than the country's power to defend them all simultaneously." (on the back of the dust jacket)

In plain words, that is, America spends too much energy chasing flies on a tail and pays not enough attention on the functions of heart. Taiwan issue is such a fly on a tail. Furthermore, the allying between the number one with the number three is not a guarantee to maintain the number one position. The only guarantee is that the number two is not challenging the number one, that is, the number two is the ally of number one. On this point, please read Solution on North Korea Nuke at