But the AirSea Battle plan has far more expensive and dangerous implications. “The imagined result of ASB is the ability to end a conflict with China in much the same way the United States ended WWII: The U.S. military defeats China and dictates the surrender terms.” This is a drastic change from Cold War approaches, where nuclear-scale conflict was carefully avoided.

The plan scares the heck out of many military figures. “AirSea Battle is demonizing China,” James Cartwright, the former vice-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned last year. “That’s not in anybody’s interest.” A Marine Corps assessment warned that the concept is “preposterously expensive to build in peace time” and, if used as intended, would “cause incalculable human and economic destruction,” in good part because it makes escalation to nuclear war far more likely.

And the Chinese have responded in kind: “If the U.S. military develops AirSea Battle to deal with the [People’s Liberation Army],” Col. Gauyue Fan warned, “the PLA will be forced to develop anti-AirSea Battle.”

And that is now taking place. Soon after assuming power last year, Mr. Xi abandoned his predecessor’s commitment to “peaceful rise,” took direct command of the Central Military Commission and commanded the military to focus on “real combat” and “fighting and winning wars.”