Material contained herein is made available for the purpose of peer review and discussion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense
Christopher P. Twomey
Associate Professor of National Security Affairs
NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL
Online curators of my academic research
The Military Lens: Doctrinal Difference and Deterrence Failure in Sino-American Relations (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010)
In The Military Lens, Christopher P. Twomey shows how differing military doctrines have led to misperceptions between the United States and China over foreign policy--and the potential dangers these might pose in future relations. Because of their different strategic situations, histories, and military cultures, nations may have radically disparate definitions of effective military doctrine, strategy, and capabilities. Twomey argues that when such doctrines--or "theories of victory"--differ across states, misperceptions about a rival's capabilities and intentions and false optimism about one's own are more likely to occur. In turn, these can impede international diplomacy and statecraft by making it more difficult to communicate and agree on assessments of the balance of power.
When states engage in strategic coercion--either to deter or to compel action--such problems can lead to escalation and war. Twomey assesses a wide array of sources in both the United States and China on military doctrine, strategic culture, misperception, and deterrence theory to build case studies of attempts at strategic coercion during Sino-American conflicts in Korea and the Taiwan Strait in the early years of the Cold War, as well as an examination of similar issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict. After demonstrating how these factors have contributed to past conflicts, Twomey amply documents the persistence of hazardous miscommunication in contemporary Sino-American relations. His unique analytic perspective on military capability suggests that policymakers need to carefully consider the military doctrine of the nations they are trying to influence.
“Projecting Strategy: The Myth of Chinese Counter-intervention,” (with M. Taylor Fravel) The Washington Quarterly (Jan 2015)
The understanding in the United States of China’s use of the concept of “counter-intervention” is flawed. In Chinese military writings, counter-intervention is not a military strategy, much less a broader grand strategic goal to oppose the role of the United States in regional affairs. To be sure, China is developing new capabilities that could be used against the United States if it intervened in a regional conflict involving China. Nevertheless, 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. Reducing such misunderstandings of Chinese strategic concepts will require increased engagement with Chinese writings, but will also help to reduce security dilemmas and misperceptions of Chinese strategy and ensure that new developments in Chinese capabilities are properly understood.
“Nuclear Stability at Low Numbers: The Perspective from Beijing," The Nonproliferation Review 20, 2 (2013)
Chinese writings on the workings of nuclear stability, deterrence, and coercion are thin and politicized. Nevertheless, it is possible to glean, from direct and inferential evidence, rather pessimistic conclusions regarding Chinese views of nuclear stability at low numbers. While China has been living with low numbers in its own arsenal for decades, today it views missile defense and advanced conventional weapons as the primary threat to nuclear stability. More generally, China views nuclear stability as wedded to political amity. Because none of these would be directly addressed through further US and Russian arsenal reductions, China is unlikely to view such reductions as particularly stabilizing. While there is little in Chinese writing to suggest lower US and Russian numbers would encourage a “race to parity,” there are grounds to worry about China becoming more assertive as it gains confidence in Beijing's own increasingly secure second-strike forces.
“Chinese Attitudes Toward Missile Defense Technology and Capabilities,” with Michael Chase, in Missile Defense: The Fourth Wave and Beyond, Catherine M. Kelleher and Peter J. Dombrowski, eds. (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2015, forthcoming)
China has long viewed U.S. development and deployment of missile defense systems as the prime threat to strategic nuclear stability, and thus, to Chinese national security. Specifically, Chinese analysts are concerned that U.S. missile defenses could diminish the credibility of China’s growing, but still relatively modest, nuclear deterrent force by threatening to eliminate missiles that would survive a hypothetical disarming first strike against China. From the Chinese point of view, this would be tremendously destabilizing, as the prospect of avoiding Chinese nuclear retaliation through a combination of offensive means and missile defense might embolden the United States to coerce China with nuclear threats in a serious crisis or a conventional conflict between the two countries. As some Chinese scholars argue, Beijing’s concern is that the sense of security afforded by a powerful shield would make it much easier for the United States to attempt to brandish its nuclear sword. Yet even as Beijing continues to object to U.S. missile defense programs on the ground that they are strategically destabilizing, China is developing its own midcourse missile defense intercept technology. The purpose of this chapter is to explore Chinese views on missile defense technology and capabilities and to explain this apparent contradiction between Beijing’s longstanding opposition to such systems and its interest in developing similar capabilities of its own. The paper has three sections. The first explores Chinese concerns about U.S. missile defense programs as a threat to the credibility of China’s nuclear deterrent. The second evaluates China’s own missile defense program. The third and final section assesses the implications of these developments for Chinese and broader Asian security.
"The Security Dynamic,” (with Xu Hui) in Debating China: The US-China Relationship in Ten Conversations, Nina Hachigian, ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013
America and China are the two most powerful players in global affairs, and no relationship is more consequential. How they choose to cooperate and compete affects billions of lives. But U.S.-China relations are complex and often delicate, featuring a multitude of critical issues that America and China must navigate together. Missteps could spell catastrophe.
In Debating China, Nina Hachigian pairs American and Chinese experts in collegial "letter exchanges" that illuminate this multi-dimensional and complex relationship. These fascinating conversations-written by highly respected scholars and former government officials from the U.S. and China-provide an invaluable dual perspective on such crucial issues as trade and investment, human rights, climate change, military dynamics, regional security in Asia, and the media, including the Internet. The engaging dialogue between American and Chinese experts gives readers an inside view of how both sides see the key challenges. Readers bear witness to the writers' hopes and frustrations as they explore the politics, values, history, and strategic frameworks that inform their positions. This unique volume is perfect for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of U.S.-China relations today.
“Asia’s Complex Strategic Environment: Nuclear Multipolarity and Other Dangers,” Asia Policy, 11 (January 2011): 51-78.
Ongoing changes in traditional state-to-state nuclear dynamics are reshaping international security in Asia. Today, Asia is a multipolar nuclear environment in which long-range nuclear weapons are joined by other systems with strategic effect, and in which countries hold different views about the role and utility of nuclear weapons. This article discusses the implications of these shifts from the Cold War to the present for several guises of stability, on the one hand, and for competition and conflict, on the other. Though each of these considerations leads to dangerous outcomes in isolation, their combined effect is even more deleterious. The implications of this analysis are deeply pessimistic, both for peace in general and for U.S. national security interests in particular.
“Introduction: Dangerous Dynamism in Asia’s Nuclear Future,” Roundtable: Approaching Critical Mass: Asia’s Multipolar Nuclear Future, Asia Policy, no. 19 (January, 2015): pp. 1-4
One of the defining elements of the post–Cold War era has been the diffusion of power away from the two superpowers. This has occurred across a wide variety of measures, including nuclear weaponry. In particular, since the end of the Cold War, proliferation across states and increasing arsenal capabilities within some of them have characterized Asia’s international security affairs. Given the importance of nuclear weapons to the development and conduct of the Cold War, we should expect these changes in the post–Cold War era to be similarly important.
The Military Lens: Doctrinal Difference and Deterrence Failure in Sino-American Relations (Cornell University Press, 2010)
Projecting Strategy: The Myth of Chinese Counter-intervention (Washington Quarterly, 2015)
Nuclear Stability at Low Numbers: The Perspective from Beijing (Nonproliferation Review, 2013)
"Chinese Attitudes Toward Missile Defense Technology and Capabilities," in Kelleher and Dobrowski, eds. (Stanford U Press, 2015)
“The Security Dynamic,” in Nina Hachigian, ed. (Oxford University Press, 2013)
Asia’s Complex Strategic Environment: Nuclear Multipolarity & Other Dangers (Asia Policy 2011)
Dangerous Dynamism in Asia's Nuclear Future (Asia Policy 2015)