Never Say Never: China's Rise Is About the Art of the Possible


Never Say Never: China's Rise Is About the Art of the Possible

Apr 25th, 2016 1 min read
Dean Cheng

Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center

Dean brings knowledge of China's military and space capabilities as a research fellow on Chinese political and security affairs.

Will China dominate the Pacific? Impossible. Or so we are told by M.L. Cavanaugh, a U.S. Army strategist and War on the Rocks contributor. In a unique article that uses Netflix shows such as “Daredevil” and “Sense8” to explain how we should view the rise of China, Cavanaugh tell us, “Even if China carves out some additional room for maneuver, it will never dominate the Pacific. China’s rise is therefore limited.” He points to China’s purportedly inauspicious demographics and lack of allies especially to explain why this is the case.

I am curious about what the U.S. military is teaching its strategists that one would use the word “never” in writing about the future and about strategy. If politics is about the art of the possible, I’d suggest that “never” should be reserved for changes in laws of physics — and even then, there are circumstances where it’s much more “extremely improbable” rather than “never.”

This piece originally appeared in War on the Rocks and can be viewed in full at