By the Numbers
of national security experts think the United States would prevail in a conflict with China ten years from today.
National security experts consider strengthening cyber capabilities as the most important defense priority for the United States (with a mean score of 8.53 on a scale from "1-10" with "10" meaning "most important").
The relatively weak confidence in the capacity of the United States to prevail in a conflict with China 10 years from now could reflect recent developments, such as China’s naval shipbuilding and growing anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities, as well as concern that the U.S. military is not adequately countering the threat.
When asked about a range of possible U.S. defense priorities vis-à-vis China, national security experts consider strengthening cyber capabilities most important (with a mean score of 8.53). This may reflect the gray zone non-kinetic use of cyber by China already and the relatively low expectation that there will be actual conflict with China for the foreseeable future.
In terms of conventional capabilities, there is also robust support (a mean of 7.06) for increasing military presence in the Western Pacific to reassure partners and allies, suggesting little support for a policy of retrenchment or offshore balancing from the continental United States.
Experts emphasize strengthening joint and combined command relationships with allies (tied for second in terms of importance, with a mean of 7.78), probably a reflection of the importance all experts and especially national security experts place on allies and partners in managing the challenge from China. (For more, see the CSIS report on allied interoperability in the Indo-Pacific region.)
National security experts place the lowest emphasis on deploying and stationing ballistic missiles in the Western Pacific (with a mean of 5.00). This could reflect concern about potential friction with allies over the costs of U.S. forward military presence or an assumption that allies are lukewarm about stationing ballistic missiles in their countries. This does not necessarily reflect a negative view toward allies’ growing focus on ballistic missile capabilities.