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U.S. Deterrence and Coercive Diplomacy toward China and China’s Response


In this 2016 analysis, Zhang Wenzong, an expert at a state security-backed think tank, argues that Beijing must bolster its ability to withstand and counter U.S. deterrence strategy by strengthening its own economic and military resilience, overseas strategic partnerships, and domestic stability.

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The rise of China and the United States’ implementation of the “Asia-Pacific rebalancing” strategy have changed and are changing the content and character of Sino-U.S. relations. As geopolitical competition between China and the United States intensifies, deterrence, compellence, coercion, and coercive diplomacy—popular terms during the Cold War, and also U.S. policy measures used after the Cold War against some small and medium-sized countries—are appearing increasingly often in the strategic narratives of both countries. On issues such as the Diaoyu [Senkaku] Islands, the South China Sea, cybersecurity, and nonproliferation, the Obama administration frequently exercised deterrence and coercion against China, and its policy toward China became more proactive, coercive, and aggressive. On some hot issues, the policy maneuvering room of both China and the United States is shrinking. In the future, if the Trump administration adopts the Republican party’s traditionally hawkish policies on defense, the likelihood of the United States escalating coercive measures against China and of China enhancing the strength of its countermeasures will increase.


I. Deterrence, Coercion, and Coercive Diplomacy


Deterrence and compellence are two kinds of strategy. Deterrence refers to deterring an adversary from doing something by threatening to use force, whereas compellence is forcing an adversary to do something or stop doing something by threatening to use force. From a timing perspective, issuing a threat before an adversary act is deterrence, and issuing a threat after an adversary act is compellence. 1 In terms of their nature, deterrence is somewhat passive and reactive, while compellence is more proactive and aggressive. 2 Compellence is divided into coercive diplomacy and blackmail. The former forces an adversary to stop and/or undo an action already initiated and implemented, and the latter forces an adversary to initiate or implement a new action.3 Relatively speaking, blackmail is more aggressive than coercive diplomacy. Western international relations theory holds that coercive diplomacy is inextricably military, with the threat or use of limited military force being the necessary means for coercion. Other means include non-military coercion such as economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation, and non-coercive means such as persuasion and conditional accommodation.4

威慑(deterrence) 和威逼(compellence) 是两种战略,其中威慑指通过威胁使用武力,吓阻对手不要做某事,威逼则是通过武力威胁迫使对手做某事或停止做某事。从时间点上看,在对手采取行动前发出威胁是威慑,在对手采取行动后发出威胁是威逼。从性质上看,威慑有一定消极性和被动性,而威逼则具有较强的主动性和进攻性。 威逼又分为胁迫外交(coercive diplomacy,又称为强制外交) 和讹诈(blackmail) ,其中前者是迫使对手停止或取消(stop and /or undo) 已经开始和实施的行动,后者则是逼迫对手发起或实施一个新行动。相较而言,讹诈又比胁迫外交更有进攻性。西方国际关系理论认为,胁迫外交与军事密不可分,威胁使用武力或使用有限武力是胁迫的必备手段,其他手段还包括经济制裁、外交孤立等非武力性胁迫,以及说服、有条件和解等非胁迫性手段。

Deterrence and coercion are commonplace in international relations, but coercive diplomacy in the modern sense is a product of the Cold War. Compared to defeating an adversary by force and forcing it to submit, successful coercion is “very attractive” because it achieves policy goals at a lower cost. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the Kennedy administration forced the Soviet Union to withdraw its missiles from Cuba through a policy of brinksmanship combining deterrence and coercion. During the 1994 Haiti crisis, the United States forced the Haitian junta to give up power without bloodshed through a small-scale invasion. The United States has been the most frequent practitioner of coercive diplomacy since World War II, but “subduing without a fight” has never been easy to pull off. U.S. strategist Robert Art has said that, unless policymakers are ready to either use force or disengage, they should not initiate coercive diplomacy lightly. Should it fail, policymakers will face a difficult choice between war or retreat: choosing to retreat would not only mean losing face, but would also weaken the ability to bargain in the future, while choosing to use force would be costly. 5 Late in the Cold War and after it ended, the United States was confident of its ability to coerce its adversaries (hostile middle powers or small states) into submission, but the coercive diplomacy it initiated failed more often than it succeeded.6

威慑和胁迫在国际关系中屡见不鲜,现代意义上的胁迫外交是冷战的产物。与通过武力击败对手及迫使对手屈服相比,成功的胁迫能够以较低成本实现政策目标,因而“非常具有吸引力”。1962 年古巴导弹危机期间,美国肯尼迪政府通过威慑和胁迫相结合的战争边缘政策,迫使苏联撤回了部署在古巴的导弹。1994 年海地危机期间,通过小规模入侵行动,美国兵不血刃地迫使海地军政府放弃政权。美国是二战后实施胁迫外交最频繁的国家,但做到“不战而屈人之兵”绝非易事。美国战略家罗伯特・阿特表示,除非决策者做好使用武力或解套的准备,否则不要轻易发起胁迫外交。一旦失败,决策者将面临是战争还是后退的艰难抉择: 选择后退不仅丢面子,还削弱今后讨价还价的能力,而选择动武则代价惨重。冷战后期及冷战结束后,针对一些敌对的中等强国或小国,美国自恃有能力胁迫对手屈服,但其发起的胁迫外交失败多于成功。

With the development of globalization and strengthened international economic interdependence, the willingness of the United States to wage large-scale wars has decreased. During the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States spent massively but failed to achieve its ultimate military and political goals, proving once again the dilemma of wars of conquest and occupation. At the same time, the diffusion of technology has enabled more countries to master advanced military technologies and weaponry such as precision guidance and cruise missiles, and land powers now have considerable advantages in the game with sea powers, at least in near-shore waters, further curbing the willingness of the United States to wage large-scale wars. During President Obama’s administration, faced with the impact of the financial crisis and rising domestic war-weariness, the attitude toward war was more cautious, and the role of force in achieving national policy goals was explicitly reduced. Hillary Clinton, who served as Secretary of State during President Obama’s first term, proposed and promoted “smart power” diplomacy, which sought to “reinvigorate the power and influence of the United States” using a combination of economic, military, cultural, and cyber tools without resorting to direct military force. One of the key features of the Obama Doctrine, which has been described as “not doing anything stupid,” is the more aggressive use of military deterrence and non-military coercion to maintain the United States’ hegemonic position.7 A RAND report argues that the power to coerce, i.e., the strategy of responding to an adversary without the use of force, should and is receiving greater attention than hard and soft power. The report argues that, with the cost of using force too high and China and Russia both using coercive measures, the United States should take full advantage of its financial, trade, cyber, and diplomatic strengths, and make more frequent use of economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation, support for the opposition in target countries, and cyberattacks to defend U.S. national interests.8 In the course of implementing the “Asia-Pacific rebalancing” strategy, U.S. officials and scholars have accused China of coercing its neighbors, such as Japan and the Philippines, while arguing that the United States is also deterring and coercing China.9

随着全球化发展和国际经济相互依赖的增强,美国发动大规模战争的意愿降低。阿富汗战争和伊拉克战争期间,美国耗资巨大却未能实现最终的军事和政治目标,再次证明征服性和占领性战争的困境。同时,技术扩散使更多国家掌握了精确制导、巡航导弹等先进的军事技术和武器装备,陆权大国在与海权大国的博弈中至少在近海具备了相当的主动权,进一步遏制了美国发动大规模战争的意愿。奥巴马总统执政期间,面对金融危机的冲击和国内厌战情绪的高涨,对战争的态度更为谨慎,明确降低了武力在实现国家政策目标中的作用。在奥巴马总统第一任期担任国务卿的希拉里・克林顿提出和推动的“巧实力”外交,即力图在不直接动武的情况下,综合运用经济、军事、文化、网络等工具“重振美国的实力和影响力”。被称为“不做蠢事”的奥巴马主义,一个重要特征是更积极地使用军事威慑和非武力性胁迫维持美国的霸权地位。 兰德公司的一篇报告认为,相较于硬实力和软实力,“胁迫力”(the power to coerce) ,即在不使用武力的情况下应对敌手的战略应该而且正受到更大重视。该报告认为,在使用武力的成本太高,中国和俄罗斯都在使用胁迫手段的情况下,美国应该充分利用在金融、贸易、网络、外交等领域的优势,更频繁地使用经济制裁、外交孤立、支持对象国反对派、网络攻击等手段,维护美国国家利益。在实施“亚太再平衡”战略的过程中,美国官方和学者在指责中国对日本和菲律等邻国实施胁迫的同时,认为美国也在对中国实施威慑和胁迫。

II. Major U.S. Deterrence and Coercion Measures Against China


Deterrence and coercion were important elements of U.S. strategy toward China during and after the Cold War. Typical applications of the coercive strategy include the U.S. nuclear blackmail against China during the Korean War and the dispatch of two aircraft carrier battle groups during the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis to try to force China to stop deterring “Taiwan independence” forces. Against China, the Obama administration did not implement coercive diplomacy, with the threat of force at its core, but instead used military deterrence and non-military coercion, mainly in the form of diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions against China on a number of hot issues.

冷战期间和冷战后,威慑与胁迫是美国对华战略的重要内容。美国在朝鲜战争期间对中国的核讹诈、1996 年台海危机期间派遣两个航母战斗群试图迫使中国停止威慑“台独”势力等,则是胁迫战略的典型运用。奥巴马政府没有对华实施以武力威胁为核心的胁迫外交,而是使用了军事威慑和非武力性胁迫,主要表现在一些热点问题上对华外交孤立和经济制裁。

First, the United States implemented military deterrence against China on issues including the Diaoyu Islands, the South China Sea air defense identification zone, and Huangyan Island [Scarborough Shoal]. Military deterrence is part of the United States’ post-Cold War preventive policy toward China. The Obama administration’s deterrence against China was mainly aimed at China’s strong defense of its territorial sovereignty. After Japan announced its so-called “nationalization” of the Diaoyu Islands, in order to deter China from taking military action or other measures to control the islands, senior U.S. officials, including President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, stated repeatedly that Article V of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty applies to “all places over which Japan has authority, including the Senkaku Islands.” In response to rumors that China might establish an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea, Evan Medeiros, then the Senior Director for Asian affairs at the White House National Security Council, said the United States neither accepted nor recognized the ADIZ established by China, and that the establishment of a new ADIZ by China would be a “provocative and destabilizing development” that would “result in changes in our presence and military posture in the region.”10 Medeiros did not explicitly threaten to use force, but the “change in military posture” constituted a vague deterrent. While awaiting the outcome of the South China Sea arbitration case, in order to deter China from taking “retaliatory” measures against the Philippines, such as setting up a South China Sea ADIZ, land reclamation on Huangyan Island [Scarborough Shoal], and delineating the territorial baselines or exclusive economic zones of the Spratly Islands, the U.S. military sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to operate in the Western Pacific, and several ships to operate within 14-20 nautical miles of Huangyan Island [Scarborough Shoal] and the Chinese-controlled Spratly Islands. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter threatened that if China took action on Huangyan Island [Scarborough Shoal], the United States and other countries in the region would respond, which “would not only cause tensions, but would isolate China.”11 Bonnie Glaser, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, called for a “red line” to be drawn against China and for the Huangyan Islands [Scarborough Shoal] to be included within the scope of application of the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.12

第一,美国在钓鱼岛、南海防空识别区和黄岩岛等问题上对华实施了军事威慑。军事威慑是冷战后美国对华防范政策的一部分。奥巴马政府的对华威慑,主要针对中国强势维护领土主权的行为。日本宣布对钓鱼岛的所谓“国有化”后,为威慑中国不要在钓鱼岛采取军事行动或其他控制钓鱼岛的举措,包括奥巴马总统、克里国务卿在内的美国政府高官多次表示,《美日安保条约》第五条适用于“日本拥有施政权的所有地方,包括钓鱼岛”。针对中国可能划设南海防空识别区(ADIZ) 的传闻,时任白宫国安会亚洲事务高级主任的麦艾文称,美国不接受也不承认中国所设立的(东海) ADIZ,中国设立新的ADIZ 将是“挑衅且破坏稳定的行为”,“将导致美国改变在区域的军事部署”。麦艾文并未明言威胁动武,但“改变军事部署”构成一种模糊威慑。南海仲裁案结果出来之前,为威慑中国不对菲律宾采取“报复”措施,如划设南海ADIZ、在黄岩岛进行陆域吹填、划定南沙岛礁的领海基线或专属经济区等,美军派两个航母战斗群在西太平洋地区活动,数艘舰艇在黄岩岛和中国所控制的南沙岛礁14 ~ 20 海里范围内巡逻。美国防长卡特威胁称,一旦中国在黄岩岛有所行动,美国和地区其他国家将采取应对行动,这“不仅将导致局势紧张,还会使中国孤立”。战略与国际问题研究中心(CSIS) 专家葛莱仪则呼吁对中国划设“红线”,将黄岩岛纳入《美菲共同防御条约》的适用范围。

Second, the United States has exercised diplomatic pressure and military coercion against China’s oil exploration and land reclamation in the South China Sea. In order to prevent China’s ongoing operations, i.e., to force China to “stop related behavior,” the United States has not only issued coercive threats but also used coercive measures. Regarding the HYSY-981 drilling platform’s “Zhongjiannan” project, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said that all countries should “voluntarily freeze” such “provocative activities” through agreements. The U.S. Senate passed Resolution 412 urging China to immediately withdraw its drilling platform and escort vessels from the South China Sea and “restore the South China Sea to its original state.”13 In response to China’s land reclamation in the Spratly Islands, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Michael Fuchs floated a “triple freeze” proposal, namely that all parties would refrain from “seizing islands and reefs and establishing new outposts, changing the topographical status quo, and limiting unilateral actions against others.”14 Defense Secretary Ashton Carter urged related claimant countries to “immediately and permanently suspend” land reclamation activities; 15 and State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner proposed “three halts,” namely a halt to “land reclamation, new construction, and further militarization of outposts.”16 In the process of implementing coercion, the United States has adopted three tactics.

第二,美国对中国在南海的石油勘探和陆域吹填实施了外交压力和军事胁迫。为阻止中国正在开展的行动,即迫使中国“停止相关行为”,美国不仅发出了胁迫的威胁,还使用了胁迫手段。对“海洋石油981”钻井平台实施的“中建南”项目,美国负责东亚和太平洋事务的助理国务卿拉塞尔称,各国应通过协议“自愿冻结”此类“挑衅性行为”; 美国参议院通过第412 号决议案,敦促中国立即将钻井平台和护航船只“撤离”南海海域,“恢复南海原状”等。 针对中国对所控南沙岛礁的陆域吹填,美国负责东亚和太平洋事务的助理国务卿帮办迈克尔・福克斯提出“三冻结”建议,即各方不再“夺取岛礁与设立前哨站、改变地形地貌现状、限制针对他国的单边行动”; 防长卡特敦促相关声索国“立即并永久中止”填海造地活动; 国务院副发言人马克・托纳则提出“三停止”,即停止“填海造地、新建工程、对前哨地点的进一步军事化”。在实施胁迫的过程中,美国采取了三种手段。

Unilateral diplomatic pressure. In addition to making explicit demands on China, U.S. officials, including Assistant National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, and State and Defense Department spokespersons, have used aggressive and derogatory language in response to China’s actions to defend its rights. For example, China’s actions are “provocative” and “do not contribute to regional peace and stability,” and the United States is “gravely concerned” about this and opposes “any country’s use of intimidation, coercion, or threats” to advance its own claims.


Attempting to use small groups or multilateral occasions to isolate China. The United States pushed the G-7 to issue a statement strongly opposing any attempt by any party to “unilaterally assert its territorial or maritime claims by intimidation, coercion, or force;”17 and the U.S., Japanese, and Australian defense ministers were “gravely concerned” about China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea.18 In an attempt to take the moral high ground and draw in regional countries to isolate China, U.S. Defense Secretary Carter also used the 15th Shangri-La Dialogue to slander China as building a “great wall of self-isolation.”

二是试图利用小集团或多边场合孤立中国。美国推动七国集团发表声明,强烈反对任何一方试图“单方面以恫吓、胁迫或动武手段坚持其领土或海洋权益声索”; 美日澳三国防长对中国在南海的填海造地“严重关切”。美国防长卡特还利用第15 届香格里拉对话会污蔑中国筑起“自我孤立的长城”,试图占据道德制高点、拉拢地区国家孤立中国。

Military coercion. U.S. warships and bombers have entered within twelve nautical miles of China’s relevant islands and reefs on the pretense of so-called “freedom of navigation” or “mistaken intrusion,” trying to challenge China’s sovereignty and exclusive jurisdiction with “coercive actions” that show off force and seriously undermine regional peace and stability.

三是实施军事胁迫。美国军舰、轰炸机以所谓“航行自由”或“误闯”为由,进入中国相关岛礁12 海里,试图以炫耀武力、严重破坏地区和平稳定的“胁迫行动”挑战中国的主权和专属性管辖权。

Third, on cybersecurity and nonproliferation issues, the United States has imposed limited economic sanctions against China and threatened to escalate them. As the “Snowden affair” demonstrates, the United States has the world’s most powerful intelligence reconnaissance and collection capabilities, and its ability to spy on the political, economic, and military information of other countries is unrivaled. But from the United States’ point of view, China’s theft of U.S. companies’ trade secrets and intellectual property “through government-sponsored cyber operations” is not a traditional intelligence activity and “must stop.” To force China to accept its demands, the United States has resorted to diplomatic pressure, judicial prosecution, and economic coercion against China. To increase the credibility of economic coercion, the United States gave a small demonstration by imposing new sanctions on North Korea in January 2015, citing North Korea’s hacking of Sony Pictures. In April 2015, Obama signed an executive order stating that in the event of a cyberattack on critical U.S. infrastructure or computer systems resulting in serious damage, the president would declare a “state of emergency” and authorize the imposition of sanctions on individuals and organizations in other countries. In September of the same year, U.S. officials signaled their intention to sanction Chinese individuals and entities “involved in the theft of trade secrets,” in order to compel China to “stop its alleged activities of stealing business and economic information from U.S. institutions through the internet.”19 On the non-proliferation issue, in order to strengthen sanctions against Iran and bring it back to the negotiating table, the Obama administration, on the one hand, used domestic law to sanction Chinese companies such as Zhuhai Zhenrong and Kunlun Bank, and on the other hand, persuaded Saudi Arabia and other countries to increase their oil exports to China to induce China to cooperate by granting it exemptions. After North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test and launched the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite on Jan. 6 and Feb. 7, 2016, respectively, President Obama signed a bill on Feb. 18 to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea. The bill contains a “secondary sanctions” provision targeting companies that do large amounts of trade in steel, coal, and ore with North Korea.20 The United States and South Korea also decided to push for the deployment of the THAAD system at U.S. bases in South Korea in order to increase strategic pressure on China.

第三,美国在网络安全和防扩散问题上对华实施了有限的经济制裁并威胁升级制裁。“斯诺登事件”表明,美国具有全球首屈一指的强大情报侦察和搜集能力,对别国政治、经济和军事情报的窥探无出其右。但在美国看来,中国“通过政府支持的网络行动”窃取美国公司的商业秘密和知识产权,不属于传统情报活动且“必须停止”。为迫使中国接受美方要求,美国先后对华采取了外交施压、司法起诉和经济胁迫。为提高经济胁迫的可信性,美国小试牛刀, 2015 年1 月以朝鲜对索尼影业发动网络入侵为由,对朝鲜实施了新制裁。2015 年4 月,奥巴马签署行政令,称一旦美国重要基础设施和计算机系统遭到网络攻击导致严重损失,总统将宣布国家进入“紧急事态”,授权对其他国家的个人及组织实施制裁。同年9 月,美国官方释放了准备制裁“参与窃取商业机密”的中国个人和实体的信号,以迫使中国“停止其涉嫌从事的、通过网络从美国机构窃取商业和经济情报的活动”。 在防扩散问题上,为强化对伊制裁促其重返谈判桌,奥巴马政府一方面凭借国内法先后制裁了珠海振戎、昆仑银行等中国公司,一方面劝说沙特等国提高对华石油出口,并通过给予中国豁免的方式诱压中国予以配合。2016年1 月6 日和2 月7 日朝鲜分别进行第四次核试验及发射“光明星4 号”卫星后,奥巴马总统2 月18 日签署了对朝鲜更严厉制裁的法案,其包含的“二级制裁”条款主要针对与朝鲜有大量钢铁、煤炭和矿石贸易的中国企业,目的是迫使中国同意加大对朝制裁。 美韩还决定推动在驻韩美军基地部署“萨德”系统事宜,以增加对华战略压力。

The increase in U.S. coercive behavior toward China is a manifestation of the growing tension in the Sino-U.S. relationship. Looking back at the Obama administration’s China policy, the introduction of the “Asia-Pacific rebalancing” strategy was a key turning point. This policy triggered the escalation of the Diaoyu [Senkaku] Islands and South China Sea issues, forcing China to escalate actions to defend its rights based on its enhanced capabilities, which in turn drew a strong U.S. response. In addition, judging from the Sino-U.S. games on the cyber and Iranian nuclear issues, among others, the assertive U.S. policy toward China is not limited to the geopolitical sphere. Currently, President-elect Trump is still building his governing team, and the general directions of his foreign security strategy and China policy remain unknown. However, some clues can be seen in the rhetoric of Trump’s policy advisors and Trump himself. At the personal level, Trump espouses strength and does not show a strong tendency to export American ideology and values to the outside world, and his worldview is closer to realism. In terms of his team, Trump’s “inner circle” believes in “peace through strength,” criticizes the Obama administration’s “Asia-Pacific rebalancing” strategy as too weak, and supports increasing military spending to build a stronger navy.21 From a partisan perspective, Trump is not a traditional Republican, but as a Republican president, he will be shaped to a considerable extent by that party’s tradition of favoring the military-industrial complex and hawkish defense policies.22 In terms of the future focus of foreign strategy, Trump’s ideas on striking hard at the Islamic State, urging allies such as Japan and South Korea to take greater responsibility for their defense, repairing U.S.-Russia relations, and so on, do not imply that the United States will relax its strategic investment in the Asia-Pacific. Given the U.S. strategic tradition of suppressing rising powers, the Republican Party’s tendency towards military hawkishness, and Trump’s economic assertiveness toward China, the United States will maintain, or at least not reduce, the use of deterrence and coercion strategies in its China policy.

美国对华强制行为的增多,是中美关系趋于紧张的表现。回顾奥巴马政府的对华政策,“亚太再平衡”战略的出台是个关键节点。该政策触发了钓鱼岛问题和南海问题的升级,迫使中国在能力增强的基础上升级维权行动,而相关行为又招致美国的强势应对。另外,从中美在网络和伊核等问题上的博弈看,美国对华强势政策并未局限在地缘政治领域。当前,美国候任总统特朗普尚在组建执政团队,其外交安全战略及对华政策大方向尚未可知。不过,通过特朗普本人及其政策顾问的言论,大致可看出几分端倪。从个人层面看,特朗普崇尚实力,没有表现出强烈的对外输出美式意识形态和价值观的倾向,世界观更接近现实主义。从其团队看,特朗普的“圈内人”信奉“以实力求和平”,批评奥巴马政府的“亚太再平衡”战略过于软弱,支持增加军费以建设更强大海军。从党派背景看,特朗普虽非传统的共和党人,但作为共和党总统,将在相当程度上被该党青睐军工集团和鹰派国防政策的传统所塑造。 从未来对外战略重心看,特朗普严厉打击“伊斯兰国”,敦促日本、韩国等盟友承担更大防务责任,修复美俄关系等思维,并不意味着美国会放松在亚太的战略投入。鉴于美国打压崛起国的战略传统、共和党军事鹰派色彩、特朗普经济上对中国的强硬等,美国在对华政策上将维持或者至少不会减少对威慑和胁迫战略的运用。

III. Assessment of the Effectiveness of U.S. Deterrence and Coercion against China


The U.S. national security strategy, national defense strategy, and military strategy reports identify North Korea, Iran, the Islamic State, Russia, and China as the top five challenges. In response to these threats and challenges in the eyes of the United States, the Obama administration adopted policies ranging from the use of force and deterrence to coercion. The United States has continued to carry out military strikes against the Islamic State, implemented coercive diplomacy against the Syrian government, employed military deterrence and non-military coercion against Russia, increased coercion against North Korea, and implemented a combination of coercion and negotiations against Iran. Taken together, mainstream U.S. government and strategic community assessments suggest that U.S. policy toward Iran has been more successful because sanctions and diplomatic pressure were important factors contributing to Iran’s economic deterioration, leadership change, and the ultimate signing of the Iranian nuclear agreement.23 Views on coercive diplomacy in Syria are polarized. Some believe that the Obama administration’s failure to take military action after the Syrian government “crossed the red line” seriously damaged the United States’ reputation. Others believe that U.S. military pressure and Russian proposals ultimately removed 1,300 tons of chemical weapons from Syria, achieving results that military strikes may not have achieved.24 After the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, the United States did not issue military deterrence or coercion during Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea, but rather initiated diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions. The Obama administration has argued that while U.S. and European pressure failed to prevent Russia from providing military support to Ukrainian “separatists,” it has deterred further Russian “aggression,” influenced Putin’s strategic considerations to some degree, and weakened Russia’s economic strength and military potential.25 The effectiveness of coercion against North Korea has been similar to that against Russia, in that it has failed to force North Korea to freeze its nuclear program or abandon nuclear weapons, but weakened and isolated it.

美国的国家安全战略、国防战略和军事战略报告,将朝鲜、伊朗、“伊斯兰国”、俄罗斯和中国视为五大挑战。对于这些美国眼中的威胁和挑战,奥巴马政府采取了从使用武力、威慑到胁迫的政策。美国对“伊斯兰国”持续进行军事打击,对叙利亚政府实施了胁迫外交,对俄罗斯使用了军事威慑和非武力性胁迫手段,对朝鲜加大了胁迫力度,对伊朗则实施了胁迫与谈判相结合的战略。综合美国政府和战略界主流的评估,美国对伊朗的政策较成功,因为制裁和外交压力是促使伊朗经济恶化、领导层生变及伊核协议最终签订的重要原因。 对叙利亚的胁迫外交看法两极,一些人认为奥巴马政府在叙利亚政府“跨过红线”后未采取军事行动,严重损害了美国的声誉。另外一些人认为美国的军事压力和俄罗斯的提议最终移除了叙利亚1300 吨化武,取得了军事打击未必能取得的效果。 乌克兰危机爆发后,在俄罗斯“吞并”克里米亚过程中,美国没有发出军事威慑和军事胁迫,而是发起外交孤立和经济制裁。

As for the effectiveness of U.S. deterrence against China, the United States and China can, and certainly will, have different assessments. The difficulty in gauging the effectiveness of deterrence lies in the fact that the goal of deterrence is to deter behavior that the other side has not engaged in. The side that initiates deterrence can argue that it has successfully deterred the other side, while the target side can claim that it had no intention of undertaking a particular action in the first place. For example, the United States could argue that China’s failure thus far to designate an ADIZ in the South China Sea or to reclaim land on Huangyan Island [Scarborough Shoal] is the result of U.S. deterrence. China can ignore the U.S. argument and claim that what it does or does not do, and when it does it, falls within the scope of China’s sovereignty and is not subject to U.S. influence. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that China will decide whether to establish an ADIZ in the South China Sea based on the level of threat to air security.26 As for the deployment of defensive weapons on the Spratly Islands and declarations of the territorial waters, contiguous zones, and exclusive economic zones of relevant islands and reefs, China will adhere to the principle that we have the final say here and will act in our own interests. One can argue that the characteristics of deterrence are conducive to both sides saving face and reaching some degree of tactical stability, although this sort of stability is fleeting and fragile.

奥巴马政府认为,美欧的压力虽未能阻止俄罗斯向乌克兰“分裂分子”提供军事支持,但慑止了俄进一步的“侵略”,一定程度上影响了普京的战略考量,并削弱了俄罗斯经济实力和军事潜力。对朝鲜的胁迫效果与对俄类似,虽未能迫使朝鲜冻结核计划或放弃核武,但削弱了朝鲜并使其更孤立。至于美国对华威慑的效果,中美可以而且一定会有不同评估。威慑效果难以衡量,在于威慑的目标是慑止对方没有从事的行为。威慑发起方可以认为成功地吓阻了对方,而目标方则可以称原本就无意开展某项行动。例如,美国可以认为,中国迄今没有划设南海ADIZ 或在黄岩岛填海造地,是自己实施威慑的结果。中国完全可以不理会美国的说辞,声称做与不做、何时做均是中国主权范围内的事,不受美国影响。中国外交部发言人称,中国会根据空中安全受威胁的程度决定是否划设南海ADIZ。至于在南沙岛礁部署防御性武器、宣布相关岛礁的领海、毗连区和专属经济区等问题,中国都会坚持以我为主、于我有利的原则。可以说,威慑的特征有利于双方保住面子,达成某种程度的战术稳定,虽然这种稳定是临时和脆弱的。

U.S. coercion against China is more difficult to assess, as it involves the choice of coercion targets, the contest of strength and will between the two sides, and their exit and disentanglement strategies. There are several issues involved.


First, there is the difficulty of establishing a causal relationship. Coercion can only be deemed effective if there is a direct causal link between the demands issued by the coercing party and the end result, but establishing this link is not easy. For example, on the issue of oil exploration in the South China Sea by the HYSY-981 [drilling platform], the Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed on July 16 that the “Zhongjiannan” project had “completed its operations.” This came only six days after the U.S. Senate passed a resolution asking China to withdraw its drilling platform. While the United States could argue that the pressure worked, China said it had completed operations before the typhoon season and had “successfully obtained all relevant geological data according to plan.”27 In addition, Vietnam’s behavior adds to the complexity of the assessment. On the issue of cybersecurity, the threat of U.S. sanctions came more than ten days after the United States and China reached a consensus on jointly combating cybercrime. Some U.S. scholars argue that coercion has produced results, and U.S. network security firms have reported that cyberattacks from China have dropped significantly since the agreement was reached.28 But China can argue that it has long opposed cyberattacks and cyber commercial theft, and has been a victim of cyberattacks itself, and that it is in the mutual interest of both countries to promote the construction of a cooperative win-win mechanism for Sino-U.S. cooperation on cybersecurity law enforcement. China reduced its oil imports from Iran in 2011 and 2012. On March 2, 2016, it supported the UN Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 2270, which imposed “the toughest sanctions ever” on North Korea. However, China’s decisions were based on a variety of factors, including its non-proliferation responsibilities, stabilization of the situations in the Middle East and the Korean peninsula, and stabilization of Sino-U.S. relations. It is hard to say that the U.S. “secondary sanctions” played a key role in them.

第一,建立因果关系困难的问题。只有胁迫方发出的要求和最终结果之间有直接因果联系,胁迫才算有效,但建立这一联系并不容易。例如,在“海洋石油981”南海勘探问题上,中国外交部7 月16日证实“中建南”项目“完成作业”,这离美国参议院通过决议,要求中国撤走钻井平台仅过去6 天。美国可以认为施压奏效,中国则表示在台风多发季节之前完成作业,已“按计划顺利取全取准了相关地质数据资料”。 另外,越南的行为增加了评估的复杂性。在网络安全问题上,美国发出制裁威胁与中美达成共同打击网络犯罪的共识相隔十余天。美国一些学者认为胁迫起到效果,美国网络安全公司的报告也称,来自中国的网络攻击自双方达成协议后大幅下降。不过中国可以认为,中国长期以来就反对网络攻击和网络商业窃密,自己也一直是网络攻击的受害者,推动构建合作共赢的中美网络安全执法合作机制符合两国的共同利益。中国2011 年和2012 年曾减少从伊朗的石油进口,2016 年3 月2日支持联合国安理会通过2270 号决议,对朝鲜实施了“史上最严厉制裁”,但中国的决定是基于防扩散责任、稳定中东和朝鲜半岛局势、稳定中美关系等多种因素,很难说美国的“二级制裁”在其中发挥了关键作用。

Second, there are the issues of coercive capability, intention, and will. Rather than coercive ability, the behavior of both sides in the game are affected by the contest of will between them and their assessments of the consequences of coercion. In the land reclamation process of the islands and reefs under its control in the South China Sea, China did not heed U.S. demands to stop construction. During construction, the United States sent aircraft to conduct provocative close reconnaissance and harassment, but did not issue threats of force, and U.S. ships and aircraft did not intercept or ram Chinese operating vessels. Harry B. Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the Pentagon in February 2016 that using force to stop China from reclaiming land and implementing militarization was not the preferred U.S. measure: “The military does one thing very well, but I don’t think you would encourage us to stop China in that way. But the use of military force is one of the various options that the president has at his disposal.”29 The United States may recognize that if it resorted to overly aggressive measures, it would certainly trigger a Sino-U.S. military confrontation or even conflict, which the United States does not want to see at the current stage. One U.S. strategist contacted by the author admitted that the United States does not have the ability to stop China unless it is prepared for a conflict with China. The fact is that, in carrying out construction on its own territory, China has a stronger will than the United States, and the likelihood of China backing down in the event of a military confrontation is extremely low. And if the United States were to engage in coercive diplomacy and lose, U.S. credibility would be tarnished. In practice, the United States has implemented a so-called “cost-increasing” strategy, which seeks to make China pay a greater price diplomatically and strategically through frequent exposure of China’s behavior to defend its rights, enhanced military cooperation with allies and partners, and pushing ASEAN to pressure China.30

第二,胁迫的能力、意图和意志问题。与胁迫能力相比,博弈方意志的较量、对胁迫后果的评估影响着双方的行为。在对南海所控岛礁的陆域吹填过程中,中国没有理会美国要求停止施工的要求。施工过程中,美国派侦察机进行了挑衅性的抵近侦察和骚扰,但没有发出动武威胁,美方舰机也没有对中国作业船只实施拦截和冲撞。美军太平洋司令部司令哈里斯2016 年2 月在五角大楼表示,以武力阻止中国填海造地和实施军事化并非美国的首选措施,“美军能把某件事做得很好,但我认为你不会鼓励我们以那样的方式去阻止中国。但使用军力是总统掌握的各种选项之一。”美国可能认识到,一旦采取过激措施,必将触发中美军事对峙甚至冲突,而这是现阶段美国不愿看到的。笔者接触到的一位美国战略家坦言,除非做好与中国冲突的准备,美国没有能力阻止中国。实际上,在自己的领土上施工,中国有比美国更坚定的意志,一旦发生军事对峙,中国退让的可能性极低。而一旦美国实施了胁迫外交又败下阵来,美国的信誉就将蒙羞。在实际操作中,美国实施了所谓的“成本增加”战略,即通过对中国维权行为的频繁曝光、强化与盟友和伙伴的军事合作、推动东盟对华施压等,试图让中国在外交和战略上付出更大代价。

Third, there is the issue of the diplomatic resources used by each side. Each side in the game needs to grow its circle of friends in order to gain the advantage in strength, morality, politics, and diplomacy, and thereby fight for the initiative. On the South China Sea issue, the United States relies on allies such as Japan, the Philippines, and Australia, and also actively draws in ASEAN and India, while using the G7 and the EU to make its voice heard. China, for its part, seeks support from Russia, Pakistan, and African countries, and uses the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to make its voice heard. This features prominently in whether the South China Sea issue should be resolved bilaterally or multilaterally, and whether it should be resolved through arbitration or negotiation. In the struggle between diplomatic isolation and counter-isolation, the kind of support provided by third parties, and the strength and durability of that support, influence the effectiveness of coercion. In meetings with Chinese state leaders, the leaders of several countries have expressed support for China’s position on the South China Sea issue.31 This shows that, as with the Taiwan issue, China is willing to devote political and diplomatic resources to gaining broad support from the international community, demonstrating a strong determination to defend its sovereignty. Diplomatic statements from countries that support the U.S. position are one thing, but whether they will give the United States operational support if the situation escalates is another. Even if those countries provide operational support for the United States, there are doubts as to whether it can be sustained in the long run.


Overall, U.S. coercion against China is not as strong as U.S. coercion against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The fact that the United States has thus far not imposed economic sanctions on China on a larger scale or with harsher measures is related to the interweaving of competition and cooperation in the Sino-U.S. relationship, as well as to China’s ability to respond to coercion. The U.S. and Chinese economies are deeply interdependent, and the imposition of large-scale sanctions by one side will be met with severe retaliation by the other. Faced with the prospect of “killing 1,000 enemy soldiers but losing 800 of your own,” the United States has chosen to be cautious in its use of the sanctions tool. As a permanent member of the Security Council and a major developing country, and as a political entity that reasonably and lawfully defends its national sovereignty, China has strong resources and a firm will to respond to and defuse U.S. pressure on issues such as the South China Sea. China’s large circle of friends, especially its efforts to build a community of common destiny with ASEAN, and its similar political positions with Russia, Central Asian countries, and developing countries in general, means that China is not always at a disadvantage in legal, public opinion, and diplomatic battles with the United States.


IV. Considerations of China’s Response


With the deepening of structural conflict between China and the United States, and the further accentuation of geopolitical conflict in particular, both countries’ strategic room for maneuver is shrinking. In East Asia today, North Korea is stubbornly pushing for the operationalization of nuclear weapons and approaching the U.S. “red line.” The determination of the United States and South Korea to deploy the THAAD system, which seriously undermines China’s strategic security, Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen’s refusal to recognize the “1992 Consensus,” the continued promotion by Japan’s Abe administration of a strategy that names China as its main adversary, and the frequent entry of U.S. ships and aircraft into the territorial waters of China’s islands and reefs, portends that China and the United States may face more “close-up games.” In response to increased U.S. deterrence and coercion, China can either keep a low profile and endure its humiliation, or it can use bottom-line thinking to confront the United States and fight to defend its interests.


First, China needs to demonstrate a firm will to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty, but it can “gain mastery by striking after the enemy has struck.” On issues such as Taiwan, the Diaoyu [Senkaku] Islands, and the South China Sea, where China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are at stake, the Sino-U.S. game is being played at both the capability level and the will level. With the capability gap between China and the United States still wide, the battle of wills is more important. The stronger China’s strategic will, the more cautious the United States will be in exercising deterrence and coercion against China. If the U.S. government interprets the Taiwan Relations Act more broadly and uses the “Six Assurances” as a yardstick to greatly enhance the U.S.-Taiwan political and security relationship,32 prompting Tsai Ing-wen to go further and further down the road of “Taiwan independence,” China will have to invoke the Anti-Secession Law and carry out specific actions to deter the United States and Taiwan. If Japan’s Abe administration takes provocative steps on the Diaoyu [Senkaku] Islands or in developing relations with Taiwan, China could well test Article V of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to force the United States to pressure Japan. Maintaining the peace and stability of the South China Sea and the safety of shipping lanes is in the interest of all parties, but if some other claimant and the United States put on a double act to challenge China’s bottom line, China can defy the U.S. warnings and deploy more defensive weapons on the islands and reefs under its control. In response to U.S. deterrence and coercion, China should be prepared to withstand the pressure and pay the price as the relevant contest is not only about sovereignty, but also about China’s rise and its position in the Asia-Pacific and the world order.


Second, [China needs to] make friends widely and be prepared to fight a “protracted diplomatic war” with the United States. Some policy elites from both parties in the United States see China as a long-term strategic competitor, and this kind of thinking has influenced and even dominated U.S. policy toward China.33 In the East China Sea and South China Sea, the Sino-U.S. diplomatic game has gone beyond the regional level and is increasingly played out on the global stage. In recent years, ASEAN, the G7, and the EU have become the targets of U.S. diplomatic mobilization. China should keep in mind the intention and ability of the United States to isolate China through multilateral diplomacy. To maintain a “coalition of the willing” on a given issue, the United States may coalesce small groups by manufacturing tensions. However, collective coercion is a process that requires a sustained commitment of resources, and is difficult to sustain for a long time. China should be patient, wait for changes, and unite all the forces it can to defeat U.S. attempts. While strengthening Sino-Russian relations and enhancing the influence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, China must be committed to building good relationships with ASEAN, the EU, the Arab League, and the African Union. Arguably, the more popular China’s circle of friends becomes, the less incentive the United States will have to launch a diplomatic war against China.

第二,广交朋友,并做好与美国打“外交持久战”的准备。美国两党的一些政策精英视中国为长期的战略竞争对手,这种思维已经影响甚至主导美国对华政策。 在东海和南海问题上,中美外交博弈已超出地区层面,越来越在全球舞台上展开。近年来,东盟、七国集团和欧盟已成为美国外交动员的对象。对美国开展多边外交孤立中国的意图和能力,中国要心中有数。为维持在相关议题上的“志愿者联盟”,美国可能通过制造紧张局势凝聚小集团。不过,开展集体胁迫是一个需要持续付出资源的过程,难以持久。中国对此要有耐心,以拖待变,并团结一切可以团结的力量击破美国的企图。在强化中俄关系和提升上合组织影响力的同时,中国要致力于做好东盟、欧盟、阿盟和非盟的工作。可以说,中国朋友圈的人气越旺,美国发起对华外交战的动力就越小。

Third, [China needs to] bolster its countermeasure and retaliation capabilities, especially in the economic sphere. The United States is unlikely to reconsider its policies and change course if coercion can be successfully implemented without paying a cost. The U.S. anti-globalization and anti-free trade forces represented by Trump will be reflected to varying degrees in U.S. economic and foreign policy toward China in the future. The weakening role of economic trade as a lubricant or ballast in Sino-U.S. relations and the relative decline in the influence of Wall Street, multinational corporations, and other interest groups on U.S. policy toward China seem to represent the general trend. In response to extreme U.S. trade protection measures, China should not be afraid to fight a trade war with the United States while appealing to the WTO. China also needs to actively explore countermeasures to the U.S. policy of frequently using economic or financial sanctions to achieve its diplomatic goals.34 Economic warfare is a lose-lose game, but only an economic war of a certain scale can force the other side to be cautious, and in turn limit the scale of economic warfare.


Fourth, [China needs to] enhance military deterrence against the United States. The U.S. military’s deterrence of China on the Diaoyu [Senkaku] and Huangyan Islands [Scarborough Shoal] is supported by its forward deployment in the Asia-Pacific region and the military strength of its allies. The United States has implemented the concept of “Air-Sea Integrated Warfare” and promoted the “Third Offset Strategy” in an attempt to offset China’s counter-intervention and “counter-interference” capabilities, and to enhance the U.S. military’s deterrence power and its ability to win wars after deterrence fails. The main way to counter U.S. deterrence is to enhance one’s own deterrence power, including nuclear and conventional deterrence. While strengthening the Sino-Russian strategic partnership, leveraging its geopolitical advantages, and making the best use of innovative technologies, China still needs to continuously improve the survivability of its land-based ICBMs and nuclear submarines, and find and continuously develop its own strategic net advantage in order to form core military competitiveness. 35 China’s goal is not to engage in an arms race with the United States, but rather to continually increase the cost of U.S. military involvement and to balance or even weaken its deterrence power. In response to the rhetoric and actions of the U.S. military that maintain the credibility of its security commitments, China can avoid its sharp edges and can give tit-for-tat responses at the right times. If it chooses the latter, it will have to become more adept at applying deterrence and crisis management theory, and draw on U.S. experience to fight battles of wits and courage with the United States.

第四,增强对美国的军事威慑力。美军在钓鱼岛、黄岩岛上对中国的威慑,是以其在亚太前沿部署及盟国军力为支撑的。美国落实“空海一体战”构想、推动“第三次抵消战略”,力图抵消中国反干涉或“反介入”的能力,增强美军威慑力及威慑失败后赢得战争的能力。反制美军威慑的方式,主要靠提升己方威慑力,包括核威慑和常规威慑。在强化中俄战略协作伙伴关系、发挥地缘优势、善用创新技术的同时,中国仍需不断提升陆基洲际弹道导弹和核潜艇的生存力,找到并持续发展自己的战略净优势,以形成核心军事竞争力。 中国的目标不是与美国开展军备竞赛,而是不断增加美军介入的成本,平衡乃至削弱其威慑力。针对美军维持其安全承诺可信性的言行,中国既可避其锋芒,也可适时针锋相对。如果选择后者,就要更娴熟地运用威慑和危机管理的理论,并借鉴美国的经验与其斗智斗勇。

Fifth, to improve its strategic resilience, [China needs to] develop itself and strengthen its domestic ability to respond to crises. Great power games are played both diplomatically and domestically. Fierce games often evolve into crises, large and small. Whoever has a more stable backyard, and whoever receives greater domestic support, will have a better chance of winning. Since the end of World War II, the United States has carried out a great deal of deterrence and coercion around the world. It is experienced in policy coordination, use of force, information transmission, public opinion shaping, and domestic mobilization. After more than 30 years of peace, China’s national security decision-making apparatus, the capabilities of its military intelligence services, and the tolerance of society at large face both tests and opportunities for reinvention. China’s government needs to invest more resources in maintaining domestic stability, including strengthening its management of foreign NGOs and improving its enlightened ethnic policy. The public too needs to increase its psychological tolerance, and get used to the new normal in Sino-U.S. relations and China’s neighboring security environment. Accordingly, Chinese think tanks need to conduct more research on the deterrence and coercion strategies of major powers in the era of globalization, and provide more intellectual support to the country in case of emergency.

第五,发展自己,增强国内应对危机的能力以提高战略韧性。大国博弈既在外交,也在国内。激烈博弈常演化为大大小小的危机,谁后院更稳,谁能获得更大的国内支持,谁的胜算就更大。二战结束以来,美国在全球实施了大量威慑和胁迫,在政策协调、力量运用、信息传导、舆论塑造、国内动员等方面经验丰富。在经历30多年的和平后,中国国家安全决策机制、军情部门的能力、社会大众的承受力等既面临考验,也面临重塑的机会。中国政府需要在维护国内稳定上投入更多资源,包括加强对境外非政府组织的管理、更完善开明的民族政策等; 民众也需要增强心理承受力,习惯中美关系和中国周边安全环境的新常态。相应地,中国的智库也需要对全球化时代大国的威慑和胁迫战略开展更多研究,为国家提供更多智力支持,以备不时之需。

Given the deep economic interdependence between China and the United States and the asymmetric nuclear balance of terror, the likelihood of a large-scale conflict between China and the United States is low, and the triggering of a fierce diplomatic war and severe economic sanctions are low probability events. International politics is full of chances and drama, however, and major strategic changes often manifest themselves in unexpected ways. In the Western Pacific, neither China’s will to maintain its territorial sovereignty and integrity, nor the determination of the United States to maintain its security commitments, should be underestimated; the possibility of a third-party provocation triggering an intense game between China and the United States should also not be underestimated. The risks of escalating military deterrence, intensifying diplomatic battles, and economic sanctions “falling into place” between the two countries are on the rise, and the possibility that military coercion will occur around some major issues cannot be ruled out. As two major powers on the two sides of the Pacific Ocean, it is in the interests of China and the United States, as well as countries in the region, to build a new type of major power relationship, avoid strategic collisions, and prevent serious shocks to the Asia-Pacific order and the already beleaguered globalization process. A major way to manage Sino-U.S. differences and contradictions should be to strengthen strategic communication and establish crisis avoidance mechanisms, and use deterrence and coercion in the game only with extreme caution.


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张文宗 (Zhang Wenzong). "U.S. Deterrence and Coercive Diplomacy toward China and China's Response [美国对华威慑与胁迫及中国应对]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in Contemporary International Relations [现代国际关系], December 20, 2016

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