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Vol. 3 No. 1 | AY 2015 - 2016
Development Ch...

Development Challenges and Tools in Conflict Environments

Todd Diamond
(Candice Villarreal/U.S. Navy)

For at least a generation, conflict resolution has been predominantly the domain of international development practitioners seeking to use their skills and tools to avert war and reduce the suffering of civilian populations. More recently, the U.S. military added similar exercises to its planning efforts, primarily for the strategic purpose of reducing its own potential future deployments around the world. Working occasionally in parallel and at other times seemingly at cross-purposes, the military, donors and non-governmental organizations have begrudgingly come to accept that in any given crisis each can play a role.  The nature and extent of each actor’s role depends on the circumstances and the severity of the situation.


As the military concludes the longest war in U.S. history in Afghanistan, and as pressure mounts to intervene in additional conflicts in the Middle East, it is worth examining what role development can play in reducing that pressure, who should be responsible for providing that assistance, and what form it should take. In most cases, whether in a pre-conflict environment, an active conflict, or a post-conflict phase, development agencies and their partners are well placed to provide warnings and respond to civilian crises, though not without coordinating and collaborating in certain instances with their military counterparts...


As a longer article, this piece will only be offered in PDF format for easier reading. Download the PDF to read more.

Todd Diamond 


Todd Diamond is a development analyst and practitioner with more than 20 years of experience reporting on post-conflict emergencies and implementing assistance projects for USAID, the State Department, and the Defense Department. He has worked in Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Balkans, Latin America, and Africa, and he has also briefed U.S. Army units on implementing development assistance in conflict-affect environments.

The Role of Spe...

The Role of Special Operations Forces in a Sustainable U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy

Moving Beyond Kinetic Targeting in the Future Operating Environment

Anthony Gilgis
(U.S. Navy photo/MC2 Martin L. Carey)



For the past two decades, the United States military and the national security apparatus have focused their energy and capabilities on confronting Islamic terrorism as a kinetic target.  Much of U.S. counterterrorism policy today consists of lethal raids and unmanned aerial vehicle strikes against targeted individuals. The U.S. government has come to rely heavily on the Special Operations Forces (USSOF) in particular for lethal raids, also termed “Direct Action” assaults, one of the ten “Core Activities” that Title X identifies for USSOF.  Unfortunately, Direct Action has come to overshadow the broad array of missions that USSOF was originally intended to conduct.  Unconventional Warfare, for example, is a core USSOF mission intended to prevent radical ideology from taking root in a society with a range of activities to build local good will towards friendly forces and animosity towards extremists.  The U.S. can more effectively incorporate USSOF into a “whole-of-government” approach to counterterrorism by refocusing attention on non-kinetic, counter-ideology operations.


To move beyond the recognized battlefields of the past decade, U.S. officials must embrace a multidimensional operating environment that requires simultaneous focus along multiple lines of effort. Future warfare will include complex, adaptive systems of ideology, economy, physical infrastructure, governance, and energy — which cannot be defeated through kinetic operations alone. The USSOF will need to transform its operations accordingly. 


During the last two decades of the twentieth century, a paradigm shift occurred in the realm of transnational terrorism and how nations responded to it.  Shifting away from a focus on political goals, transnational terrorist groups began using religion as a motivating factor — both in their operations and in their recruitment.  This new form of terrorism required a shift in response from the international community.  It took the West almost a decade to recognize this shift and adjust its response to the emergent threat.  Following 9/11, the United States fully engaged Special Operations Forces and paramilitary elements to actively counter this new religious ideology.  SOF and paramilitary units were tasked to conduct raids against members of radical extremist groups.  However, after almost 15 years of continuous warfare, the U.S. has arguably experienced limited success with its counterterrorism efforts as groups continue to conduct attacks and grow, gaining notoriety and establishing affiliated movements around the globe.  Kinetic actions have created an entire generation of potential radicals who are victims of our counterterrorism “successes.”  Populations sensitive to radicalization are also vulnerable to state-level terror in the form of unexpected and unpredictable military strikes.  The battle against terrorism to date leaves the question, “As the United States looks to the future operating environment, can the Special Operations community find a more effective method to counter the ideology that creates the modern Islamic terrorist?”


Since 2001, the West has increasingly focused on lethal targeting of individuals within religious-based extremist organizations.  This method of conducting kinetic operations — either through direct action assaults by military or paramilitary units, or through the use of missile strikes from aerial platforms — has become the public face of the United States counter-terrorism effort.  While the United States military has arguably raised man-hunting of individuals from an imprecise task to a methodical science, targeted lethal actions are nonetheless perceived as little more than indiscriminate state-level terror within the populations in which the operations are conducted.  Looking to the future operating environment, the current policy of countering terrorist actions with targeted killing is unlikely to sway the underlying ideology in Americans’ favor.  As such, it is necessary to develop a sustainable counterterrorism strategy that considers the human domain of local opinion as the future battlefield.


The Special Operations Forces of the U.S. military will play a central role in any long-term strategy to counter violent extremist organizations; they are specifically designed to create a counter-ideology within the scope of unconventional warfare.  Before looking at the role of U.S. Special Operation Forces within this emerging strategy, an understanding of the changing nature of warfare within a complex environment is necessary.  Moving forward in the concept of developing a long-term counterterrorism strategy beyond the use of kinetic operations, we must understand that Islamic extremism is rooted in an ideology the West has displayed overt ignorance of and has been unprepared to counter.  As stated by Patrick Sookhdeo, “Equally damaging has been the desire for a quick-fix and the reluctance to engage in a long-term struggle against the ideological struggle that nourishes and promotes Islamist terrorism.”[1]...


As a longer article, this piece will only be offered in PDF format for easier reading. Download the PDF to read more.



[1] Sookhdeo, Patrick. "The West, Islam, and the Counter-Ideological War." In Fighting the Ideological War: Winning Strategies from Communism to Islamism, by Katharine C. Gorka and Patrick Sookhdeo, 15-44. McLean: The Westminster Institute, 2012.



Anthony Gilgis  


Anthony Gilgis has served within the National Intelligence Community for 26 years with 16 years directly supporting Special Operations. He earned his MA in Diplomacy from Norwich University in 2015 with a focus on international-terrorism. Having conducted deployments in support strategic objectives and tactical operations around the globe, Mr. Gilgis has translated this experience into a subject matter expertise of the special operations community and the intelligence support required for these unique missions.

Conflict in Cybe...

Conflict in Cyberspace

How International Legal Norms Can Reduce Military Escalation in Cyberspace

Nikolas Ott
(Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman/US Air Force/Public Domain)


This paper examines the current technical and legal considerations around the development of international legal norms and confidence-building measures in cyberspace. With an emphasis on state-based armed attacks and the use of force in cyberspace, it summarizes the current status of international efforts within the United Nations and several regional organizations. The paper concludes with several suggestions on how policymakers can reduce the gap between technological and legal considerations.


As a longer article, this piece will only be offered in PDF format for easier reading. Download the PDF to read more.

Nikolas Ott  


Nikolas Ott is a 2016 MALD graduate of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He focused on international law and cybersecurity during his graduate work.

When War is No...

When War is Not Worth Winning

Dr. Matthew Testerman

Winning a war requires the capacity to wage a war and an understanding of an end-state that equates to winning. These fundamental concepts, however, are not well defined. This essay draws from recent historical examples, contemporaneous strategy documents, and formal game theory to provide some additional degree of conceptual clarity that will enhance the debate about winning without war. In the past two decades, the U.S. has developed a demonstrated capacity to win with war. Victory in kinetic war fighting is nearly assured and can be accomplished with limited cost. Despite this, in the modern context, war has evolved to the point that war is not worth winning. It is far from the case that there are no wars to be fought, but the political and economic constraints of the international system have transformed the environment in which the U.S. operates militarily. Evidence of this is found in the strategic outlook of the U.S. military as documented in the revised U.S. naval strategy, especially when compared to earlier maritime strategy. To inform this discussion, game theoretic explanations of strategic interactions are helpful. The assumptions underlying recent U.S. naval strategy can be understood by applying the basic construct of a “game of strategic entry."  Applying this construct, one finds that war is not worth winning– a conclusion that has substantive consequences for designing, organizing, and employing naval forces.


A game of strategic entry – also conceptualized as an economic model of market entry, or a political model of challenging an incumbent – has a fairly simple structure. There are two players who move sequentially. The first player decides to attack or not attack. If the first player attacks, the second player chooses to retaliate or capitulate. There are thus three potential outcomes: the status quo (player one decides not to attack), capitulation (player one attacks and player two capitulates), or a war of uncertain outcome is fought (player one attacks and player two retaliates). In deciding what action to take, both players consider the costs of attack and retaliation as well as the chances of their winning the war. Strategies are developed based on expected rational choices of the other player. The theory of the game holds that player one will attack when there is a relatively high probability of winning and the cost of waging war is moderate-to-low. While simplistic, the game reveals the very basics of a strategic interaction and emphasizes the need for accurate information on the likelihood of victory and the costs of war.


The lessons of the past thirty years, however, do not align quite so nicely with the underlying assumptions of game theory. The United States has fought and won kinetic wars. In these wars winning is understood as battlefield victory and either changed behavior of a regime or regime change. The removal of Manuel Noriega in Just Cause, the defeat of Iraq’s army in Desert Storm, the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo in Allied Force, regime change in Afghanistan in Enduring Freedom, the toppling of the Hussein regime in Iraqi Freedom, and the Qaddafi regime in Odyssey Dawn all affirmatively bolster assessments of America’s ability to win in a kinetic war. Furthermore, the estimates of likely costs in terms of human lives have greatly declined. Desert Storm in 1991 was the last time that pundits cautioned that the likelihood of victory was uncertain and that casualties would be extremely high. At best, the estimates of between 4,000 and 30,000 U.S. military casualties were off by a factor of ten in their predictions of this aspect of conflict’s human cost.[1]  Within the context of the strategic entry game, the U.S. would be expected to develop strategies that reflect these underlying expectations of a high probability of winning and low costs for fighting. War should be a preferred method of winning.


A predisposition to war, however, is clearly not the announced strategy of the U.S. government. The recently released Navy strategy document, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged, Ready (henceforth referred to as CS21R), describes multiple types of military activities short of war that shape the environment in which the Navy operates and are intended to deter conflict. In this latest incarnation of the maritime strategy, the dominant theme is that modern strategy “raises the prevention of war to a level equal to the conduct of war.”[2]  The focus is pro-active in shaping the strategic environment beyond traditional roles of presence and deterrence. Repeatedly, reference is made to the complexities of the geopolitical and military environment, suggesting that war may be ill-suited to redressing contemporary crises.[3] The role of the world’s largest Navy is to shape the environment, deter a range of potential enemies, and only in limited circumstances “respond to crisis” or “deter aggression” using kinetic force. Only in a few instances is reference made to winning wars.[4] Certainly winning war is only one component of the Navy’s mission set, but its relatively sparse mention in CS21R is noteworthy in illuminating a global context in which fighting wars is not the primary emphasis of the maritime strategy. It is also noteworthy that the cost of fielding fighting forces is specifically highlighted as fiscal constraint by the Secretary of the Navy – a constraint that affects decisions in organizing, equipping, and employing the fleet.[5] Even though the immediate costs of war are relatively low and the chance of winning high, current maritime strategy does not favor war.   


These observations are perhaps more salient when contrasted with The Maritime Strategy of 1986. That document, reflecting the markedly different global environment of the Cold War, outlined a strategy “to bring about war termination on favorable terms” and emphasized preparation for global conflict.[6] The spectrum of conflict is outlined as a continuum from peacetime presence, to crisis response, to global conventional war.[7] Winning a war was  understood as a achieving a decisive outcome. Conflicts were to be put out as if “brushfire” and naval forces were to “suppress or contain international disturbances.”[8] The Maritime Strategy, while acknowledging the threats posed by the full spectrum of conflict by state and non-state actors and their connections to the global economy, emphasized winning through war. The then-Secretary of the Navy pressed for sustained budget growth to fund the fleet necessary for this strategy and the costs of fighting, whether in human casualties or in dollars, were not identified as a limiting factor.[9] U.S. maritime strategy in 1986 is therefore dramatically different from that of today.


This presents a paradox. While the costs of waging war have decreased since 1986 and the likelihood of winning war has increased, today the U.S. employs a strategy that de-emphasizes winning within an environment of significant cost constraints. In part, this apparent contradiction is explained by a changed understanding of what it means to win and of what the long-term costs of war are.


It is hardly surprising that a second look at the successes of kinetic military operations of the last thirty years reveals that while winning-as-regime-change was accomplished, the subsequent peace building and peace sustainment operations have consumed significant resources and fostered global instability. The success of Odyssey Dawn in enabling the overthrow of Qaddafi has left in its wake a bifurcated political and chaotic security landscape in what used to be Libya. A substantive debate has also followed operations in Iraq and Afghanistan about what it means to win. Similarly, while initial military victory has been at relatively low human costs, the long-term follow-on commitments have defied predictions and drawn out both the fiscal and human costs over many years. To again apply the game theoretic outlook on war, the calculus of waging war is changed when the military victory is not as decisive as expected and the costs of war are unclear. With so much uncertainty over outcome and ambiguity in costs, the preferred action becomes maintenance of the status quo. A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Ready, Engaged reflects this strategic environment in which primacy is not only given to winning without war, but more accurately a world in which winning is not worth war.


The changed strategic environment requires a reexamination of the role of the Navy. Generally, the purpose of a maritime strategy is to “reassess our approach to shifting relationships and global responsibilities” in order to “design, organize, and employ the Sea Services.”[10] Fundamentally, if winning is not worth war, then one has to question the relevance of and need for, in this case, a Navy that has been built over several decades to effect kinetic operations. One could argue that this kinetic force has adapted well to its predominant employment in a range of non-combat roles. Moreover, agile networks, cyberspace operations, electromagnetic maneuver warfare, and integrated non-kinetic fires are considered to be worthy of investment in equipment, infrastructure, personnel, and tactics because the conflicts in which they will be used are considered to be worth winning.[11] In the second decade of the 21st century, the Navy has clearly adapted to the new strategic environment.


However, shifting the design principle of the Navy from fighting wars to providing maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and all-domain access, as outlined in CS21R, raises the question of whether this future U.S. Navy is capable of being employed in in those rare instances when it is called upon to fight wars. One questions whether the Navy’s new mission areas are preparing the battlespace for a fleet at war, shaping the environment to avoid war, neither, or both. While doing both would appear to align with the strategy, this could have unknown costs to the Navy’s ability “to fight and win when required.”[12]


It is clear that today’s strategic environment, even with an emergent China and resurgent Russia, is substantially different from that of the mid-1980s. The acknowledgement of the complexity of what it means to win and a better understanding of the long term costs of waging war have altered calculations of the utility of war.  It is encouraging to find that modern naval strategy appears to reflect this new reality. In considering this choice of strategies, however, it bears continued debate about the underlying assumptions of what it means to win with or without war in the modern era and the degree to which the remote possibility of war must be acknowledged in designing, organizing, and employing the Sea Services. Paradoxically, this leads to a reflection similar to that of the computer, Joshua, in the closing scene of a movie from that bygone era of the Cold War, where it observes that “the only winning move is not to play.”[13]

[1] Michael O’Hanlon, “Estimating Casualties in a War to Overthrow Saddam,” OrbisWinter 2003, p. 6.

[2] U.S. Navy, “Maritime Strategy Fact Sheet,”, accessed 10 May 2015.

[3] US Navy, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged, Ready (CS21R), March 2015, p. 3 “volatility, instability, complexity, and interdependence”,  p. 4 “persistent instability and under-governed areas”, “regional instability threatens global economic stability in a hyper-connected world.”

[4] CS21R, p. i “…continued commitment to maintain the combat power necessary to deter potential adversaries and to fight and win when required.” p. 19 “The Sea Services operate in the world’s oceans to protect the homeland, build security globally, project power, and win decisively.”

[5] CS21R, p. I “Our responsibility to the American people dictates an efficient use of our fiscal resources,” p. 33 “…conserve capacity of limited resources in the magazine in favor of more efficient and less costly means, where available…”

[6]  James D. Watkins, “The Maritime Strategy,” The Maritime Strategy, Annapolis: US Naval Institute Press, January 1986, p.3, 5.

[7] Watkins, figure 3, p. 8.

[8]P. X. Kelley, “The Amphibious Warfare Strategy,” The Maritime Strategy, Annapolis: US Naval Institute Press, January 1986, p. 25.

[9] John F. Lehman, Jr., “The 600-Ship Navy,” The Maritime Strategy, Annapolis: US Naval Institute Press, January 1986, p. 38-40.

[10] CS21R, p. I, iii.

[11] CS21R, p. 33.

[12]CS21R, p.i.

[13]War Games, directed by John Bradham  (1983: Beverly Hills, CA: MGM, 2008), DVD.

Dr. Matthew Testerman  


Dr. Matthew Testerman is a Commander in the U.S. Navy and a Permanent Military Professor stationed in the Department of Political Science, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, where he currently serves as the Department Chairman. He can be reached at his email address:


Material contained herein is made available for the purpose of peer review and discussion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Naval Academy, the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense.

The Strategic D...

The Strategic Duel over Taiwan

Ian Easton

The United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are firmly entrenched in what will be a long and intense strategic competition for dominance over the Pacific Rim. American strategists Andrew Marshall, Robert Kaplan, and Aaron Friedberg began foretelling of this great power struggle over a decade ago.[1]. They recognized before anyone else that there are strong forces underpinning the U.S.-China rivalry.  The two countries’ political systems and national interests stand in fundamental opposition. This is why, despite Washington’s reluctance to officially admit it, strategic competition between the U.S. and the PRC is unavoidable.

The United States, while an imperfect democracy, is an inspiration to people everywhere who yearn for the freedom and dignity that comes from having a representative government, independent legal system, and market economy. In the PRC, on the other hand, power is monopolized by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a political organization that is directly responsible for more human suffering than possibly any other regime past or present, anywhere in the world.[2] Numerous State Department reports detail the past and continuing human rights violations occurring under the watch of the CCP.[3]

For all its much ballyhooed economic reforms, China’s economy is still largely controlled by massive state-owned corporations, making it a mercantilist country, not a capitalist one.[4] Much of Beijing’s economic power ultimately stems from its remarkable ability to lure foreign business elites with promises of access to its huge market. Once the hook is set, China pockets their investments, steals their intellectual property, and undercuts their market competitiveness.[5]

Yet it is not the PRC’s unsavory political or economic practices that will ensure sustained U.S.-China competition over the coming decades, although future American presidents, like Barack Obama, will undoubtedly be tempted to paper over ideological differences for expedience sake. Rather, Beijing’s insecure and aggressive nature is at the root of the problem. In recent years, China has stoked maritime tensions with Japan and the Philippines, both treaty allies of the United States; provoked border clashes with India, a democratic nation and American security partner; and enabled nuclear missile proliferation amongst its friends: North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran.[6] Track records tell a compelling story.  The PRC’s track record indicates that a growing number of geostrategic issues could eventually result in a clash between the United States and China...

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[1] See Andrew Krepinevich and Barry Watts, The Last Warrior: Andrew Marshall and the Shaping of Modern American Defense Strategy  (New York: Basic Books, 2015), 227-246; Aaron L. Friedberg, A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia  (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011); and Robert Kaplan, “How We Would Fight China,” The Atlantic, June 2005, 49-64.

[2] See Richard McGregor, The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers  (New York: Harper Perennial, 2010); Frank Dikotter, Mao’s Great Famine  (New York: Walker & Company, 2010); and Yang Jisheng, Mubei: Zhongguo Liushi Niandai Da Jihuang Jishi  [Tombstone: A Record of the Great Chinese Famine of the 1960s] (Hong Kong: Cosmos Books, 2008).

[3] “China (Includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) 2014 Human Rights Report,” U.S. Department of State, at

[4] Robert D. Atkinson and Stephen Ezell, “False Promises: The Yawning Gap Between China’s WTO Commitments and Practices,” Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, September 17, 2015; Stephen Ezell, “China’s Economic Mercantilism,” Industry Week, July 24, 2013; Derrick Scissors and Dean Cheng, “Preparing for the New Chinese Government,” China Business Review, January 1, 2013.

[5] Ibid. See also Dennis C. Blair and Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. (Chairs), The IP Commission Report: The Report of the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property  (Washington, D.C.: The National Bureau of Asian Research, 2013), at

[6] See Shirley A. Kan, China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues (Washington, D.C., Congressional Research Service, 2015); Vivek Raghuvanshi, “India-China Border Talks Make No Headway,” Defense News, May 23, 2015; and Patrick M. Cronin, The Challenge of Responding to Maritime Coercion (Washington, D.C.: Center for New American Security, September 2014).

Ian Easton

Ian Easton is as a research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, where he conducts research on defense and security issues in Asia. Mr. Easton previously served as a 2013 visiting fellow at the Japan Institute for International Affairs (JIIA) in Tokyo and worked for two years as a China analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA).

China's Develop...

China’s Development of Space Warfare and Its Operational Applications

Dr. Feng-tai Hwang



As early as March 2011, the journal Aerospace America featured an article with the title “China’s Military Space Surge,”[1] which warned that there had been a rapid increase in China’s capability to conduct warfare in space. Such capabilities would then in turn threaten and jeopardize the ability of the carrier battle groups of the United States to conduct operations in the Pacific. This article was soon translated into Japanese and published in Space Japan Review. This and other high profile articles highlight the anxieties on the part of the U.S. and Japan about China’s increasing ability to militarize space, and also their concerns about its implications for the peace and security of East Asia and the entire Pacific Asia region.


On December 31, 2015 China announced the creation of three new branches of armed forces to be added into the reformed People’s Liberation Army (PLA): Army General Command, Strategic Support Force, and the PLA Rocket Force. While the PLA Rocket Force replaced the old Second Artillery Corps, what is even more intriguing is the mission of the new Strategic Support Force. According to Chinese media, the Strategic Support Force will be responsible for overseeing intelligence, technical reconnaissance, satellite management, electronic warfare, cyberwarfare, and psychological warfare. It is no coincidence that Gao Jin (高津), the newly appointed commander of the Strategic Support Force, is also an expert on rocket science, which has further fueled media speculations that the Strategic Support Force has been created for the purpose of conducting future space warfare.[2]


In fact, China has been increasing the focus on the military applications of space since the end of Persian Gulf War in the 1990s. During that war, the United States mobilized dozens of satellites to aid the American-led coalition forces, enabling them to defeat Iraqi forces with extraordinary efficiency and ease. The Persian Gulf War greatly shocked PLA observers at the time, and served as a reminder that the conduct of modern warfare had been transformed by the arrival of a new generation of technology. Chinese military theorists then began to study the concept of “space warfare.” The most influential was Chang Xian-Qi (常顯奇), who categorized space warfare into three distinct phases based on his observations of U.S. planning: the “Entry into Space,” the “Utilization of Space,” and the “Control of Space.” “Entry into Space” is represented by the delivery of a military-purpose spacecraft into its designated orbit path. “Utilization of Space” is to harness the power of existing space assets to aid military operations across the land, naval, and air domains. For example, such power can manifest in the forms of using space sensors to conduct surveillance and gather intelligence for Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) against potential foes, to provide ballistic missile early warning, satellite navigation and communications, among other purposes. The “Control of Space” phase focuses on establishing “space superiority” with the missions of: (1) increasing survivability of one’s own military satellites and systems; (2) disrupting, sabotaging, or destroying opposing countries’ satellites and their systems when necessary; and (3) directly using space-based weapons to aid in combat operations on the ground.[3]...

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[1] Covault, Craig. "China's military space surge." Aerospace America 49.3 (2011): 32-37.

[2] Gertz, Bill. “Chinese Military Revamps Cyber Warfare, Intelligence Forces”. Washington Free Beacon. January 27, 2016. <>. 

[3] Chang Xianqi, “Military Astronautics”, National Defense Industry Press, 2002.

Dr. Feng-Tai Hwang

Dr. Feng-Tai Hwang received his Ph.D. in Engineering Mechanics from The Ohio State University in 2000. He joined the National Space Organization of Taiwan in 2003 and has been working in the area of satellite mission analysis, Earth observation satellite mission planning & scheduling since then. Currently he serves as the system engineer of the Image Process System for FORMOSAT-5 program and leads the development team of FORMOSAT-5 Planning & Scheduling System. In addition, part of his effort is spent in the study of development trend for remote sensing satellite, space policy, and space industry analysis.

China's United F...

China’s United Front Strategy and its Impacts on the Security of Taiwan and Asia-Pacific Region

Michael M. Tsai & Po-Chang Huang


In 1949, Mao Zedong, leader of the Communist Party of China (CCP), defeated Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) troops and succeeded in establishing the communist dictatorship of the People’s Republic of China out of the “barrel of a gun.” At the beginning of its rule, the CCP believed that the use of violent instruments as provided by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was in and of itself sufficient to both suppress “reactionaries” at home and defeat “invaders” from abroad.

In this vein, during the Korean War of the early 1950s, the CCP regime sent a million-strong “Volunteer Army” into the Korean Peninsula and fought against the U.S.-led United Nations forces, thus cementing the political division of Korea and its complications that linger to this day. Between 1958 and 1960, PLA troops heavily bombarded the Chiang Kai-shek-controlled island of Kinmen, resulting in significant casualties on both sides. Between the 1960s and 1980s, the PLA and militia troops engaged in a series of border conflicts and clashes with the Soviet Union, India, and Vietnam. Throughout this period, the CCP regime still believed that military force alone was sufficient to serve as the primary bargaining chip and policy instrument in its dealing with other states.[1] 

However, from the late 1980s to 1990s, the collapse of Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc marked the end of Cold War and the confrontation between two global superpowers. The CCP’s strategy in the international arena evolved from an overreliance on hard military force to one that utilizes both “soft power” and the “carrot and stick.”

From the Chinese perspective, the concept of “soft power” encompasses the exploitation of any policy or tool outside the traditional definition of “hard” military power to achieve its desired political, economic, and diplomatic objectives. Such exploitation takes place via political, societal, commercial, economic, legal, psychological, cultural, and other means. Mass media and even tourist groups could all be used as a means of penetration to funnel and support Chinese agents deep inside enemy territory and to create conditions that are conducive to achieving China’s desired outcome. This is the essence of China’s strategy of the “United Front.”

This article examines the United Front strategy and the ways in which China’s deployment of this strategy impacts the national security of Taiwan as well as neighboring countries such as Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and even the United States.[2] The article concludes with proposed policy recommendations for how Taiwan can counter such strategies...


As a longer article, this piece will only be offered in PDF format for easier reading. Download the PDF to read more.

[1] For an analysis on the pattern of China’s use of force during this period, see Allen S. Whiting, “China’s Use of Force, 1950-96, and Taiwan,” International Security, 2001, p. 103-131.

[2] For a detailed discussion about China’s to use of United Front strategy against the United States, see Michael Pillsbury, The Hundred-year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower. Henry Holt and Company, 2015.

Ming-shian Tsai

Ming-shian Tsai (Michael) served as the Minister of Na-tional Defense of Taiwan in 2008. Prior to that he had also served as the Vice Minister of National Defense and Deputy Secretary-General of the National Security Council of  Taiwan. Former Minister Tsai was also elected and served as a Legislator for Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan for two terms.

Po-Chang Huang

Po-Chang (Paul) Huang is a Master’s candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where he focuses on security issues related to East Asia. Before coming to the United States, Paul worked for The Epoch Times in Taiwan as the Chief Web Editor, where he covered news related to defense and international affairs. He has worked in the policy sector in Taiwan and has also served in the Taiwanese Army.

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