US-China flags over shipping containers

Strategic Economics in Practice: Operational Planning

By Talia Gifford , Isaac Harris , Eva-Marie Etzel , Jim Hickey , Chris Bassler , Marin Halper

The economic domain has significant yet underrealized potential for enhanced U.S. competitiveness with China and for underpinning victory in the event of a conflict. As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seeks to shape and revise the international political and economic order, the United States must leverage its economic strength against a Chinese approach that centralizes and integrates economic and national security strategy.

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In MITRE’s paper A Sum Greater than Its Parts: Integrated Deterrence and Strategic Competition, we argued the importance of integrated deterrence to the United States’ response to Chinese aggression and identified the economic domain as providing expanded non-kinetic options to address this threat. 

Our second paper, Strategic Economics: Options for Competitive Advantage, detailed the instruments, operational concepts, and campaign plans of strategic economics. Strategic economics is the deliberate effort to create and use economic effects and power to deliver geopolitical competitive advantage for the United States and its allies and partners. Strategic economics can be employed to either amplify the United States’ competitive edge or diminish the advantage of other international state and non-state actors.

This paper expands on our previous work by reviewing the Chinese and American approaches to strategic economics. We examine how the CCP operates in practice, revealing a coercive strategy that has generally proved successful in the short term in gaining concessions and prosperity. 

We review the United States’ approach to strategic economics and discuss aspects of the U.S. system that present challenges, including how the nature of American democracy complicates comprehensive and coordinated efforts. The second half of the paper outlines planning guidance for the use of economic instruments to support operational concepts and discusses how to apply that guidance to an example scenario of a Chinese blockade of Taiwan.

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