Chinese Military Aerospace and Maritime Development: Short-Range Tailwinds, Long-Range Headwinds



Andrew Erickson, John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University

Date and Time

January 27, 2014 4:15 PM - 5:30 PM



Open to the public.

RSVP required by 5PM January 24.


Philippines Conference Room

By any measure, China’s economy and defense budget are second only to those of the United States. Yet tremendous uncertainties persist concerning China’s military development and national trajectory, and areas with greater information available often conflated misleadingly. Fortunately, larger dynamics elucidate both areas. Particularly since the 1995-96 Taiwan Strait Crisis, China has made rapid progress in aerospace and maritime development, greatly facilitating its military modernization. The weapons and systems that China is developing and deploying fit well with Beijing’s geostrategic priorities. Here, distance matters greatly: after domestic stability and border control, Beijing worries most about its immediate periphery, where its unresolved disputes with neighbors and outstanding claims lie primarily in the maritime direction. Accordingly, while it would vastly prefer pressuring concessions to waging war, China is already capable of threatening potential opponents’ military forces should they intervene in crises over islands and maritime claims in the Yellow, East, and South China Seas and the waterspace and airspace around them. Far from mainland China, by contrast, it remains ill-prepared to protect its own forces from robust attack. Fortunately for Beijing, the non-traditional security focus of its distant operations makes conflict unlikely; remedying their vulnerabilities would be difficult and expensive. Despite these larger patterns, critical unknowns remain concerning China’s economic development, societal priorities, industrial efficiency, and innovation capability. Dr. Erickson will examine these and related issues to probe China’s development trajectory and future place in the international system. 


The views expressed by Dr. Erickson are his alone, and do not represent the policies or estimates of any organization with which he is affiliated.


Dr. Andrew S. Erickson is an Associate Professor in the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College and a core founding member of the department’s China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI). He is an Associate in Research at Harvard University’s John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies (2008-). Erickson also serves as an expert contributor to the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report (中国实时报), for which he has authored or coauthored 25 articles. In spring 2013, he deployed in the Pacific as a Regional Security Education Program scholar aboard USS Nimitz (CVN68), Carrier Strike Group 11.

Erickson received his Ph.D. and M.A. in international relations and comparative politics from Princeton University and graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College with a B.A. in history and political science. He has studied Mandarin in the Princeton in Beijing program at Beijing Normal University’s College of Chinese Language and Culture and Japanese language, politics, and economics in the year-long Associated Kyoto Program at Doshisha University.

Erickson’s research, which focuses on Asia-Pacific defense, international relations, technology, and resource issues, has been published widely in English- and Chinese-language edited volumes and in such peer-reviewed journals as China QuarterlyAsian SecurityJournal of Strategic StudiesOrbisAsia Policy (forthcoming January 2014), and China Security; as well as in Foreign Affairs, The National InterestThe American InterestForeign PolicyJoint Force QuarterlyChina International Strategy Review (published in Chinese-language edition, forthcoming in English-language edition January 2014), and International and Strategic Studies Report (Center for International and Strategic Studies, Peking University). Erickson has also published annotated translations of several Chinese articles on maritime strategy. His publications are available at <> and <>.

This event is co-sponsored with CEAS and is part of the China under Xi Jinping series.

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