Publication by the American think tank RAND Corporation of a new study titled 'War with China. Thinking Through the Unthinkable' is something more than just an attempt to put informational and political pressure on Beijing or create a negative social perception of People's Republic of China as a hypothetical aggressor in the South China Sea waters. This study amounts rather to some symbolic crossing the Rubicon. China is a major trade partner of the USA, and up till recent time it has been absolutely unthinkable to expect some Pentagon professional estimates classified as 'Top Secret' burst into the broad daylight like a genie out of a bottle, even under the cover of some independent civilian analytical stuff. What are the real aims of this RAND Corp. leakage? There are several of them actually.
The first aim is for internal usage: it's a rather distinct message for the American nation. In his time, Roosevelt succeeded to overcome the traditional isolationism of his compatriots only after the Pearl Harbor bloodbath. Taking into consideration the high popularity of the Republican Trump's isolationist slogans and reluctance of the American business elite to aggravate relations with the Chinese partners, it will be rather hard to 'sway' American boat into a direct conflict with a very strong opponent. As a matter of fact, current military and economic reality doesn't allow the USA lose the striking maritime forces like it was in the last century. Instead, in the nearest perspective we are likely to witness rather the continuation of informational campaign to demonize China and get Americans prepared for the 'inevitable conflict'.
The second aim is external and is no less important for Washington. The stakes are too high. The outcome of the planned conflict will determine not only the military and economic hegemon till the end of century at least but also the whole civilizational vector of the planet development, neither more nor less. Contrary to the liberal dogma about the leveling role of the global market, China is far from demonstrating now its intention to assimilate the democratic values of the West. That's why the United States, long before the open conflict erupts, suggests that all the key world and regional players should make their choice of the civilization paradigm to be ultimately supported by them.
Still this is just a theoretical approach depicting things in general without giving answers to certain questions. How can America win, when it's swiftly losing its economic and military benefits in civilizational race with China?
Technically, Washington puts its hopes into The Third Offset Strategy voiced by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work back in 2013. It stipulates massive purpose financing of the promising dual-use technologies such as hyper-sound, energy weapons, 3D printing, AI, nanobots, etc. It may look as sort of science fiction but it was comparatively a short time ago that PCs, the Internet, cell phones and robotic surgery were also viewed as something belonging to a miracle world. Regarding that new AI developed by the searchers at the University of Cincinnati has recently won out, just in a flash, during a simulated aerial combat against a US expert tactician, leaving him no chance to survive, being upgraded to be used with highly promising drones, is going to become just a death warrant even for the beefy Chinese AF. Thus a new generation arms race may well give America sizable advantages in combat activities.
Other tools of exerting pressure shouldn't be ignored as well. Say, instigating the national liberation movements in Tibet and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, or youth violence in Hong Kong, etc. The attack on the Celestial Empire is to be exercised in all the possible directions, starting with the veiled discrediting of the Communist party of China in Chinese social segment of Internet and ending up with the outbursts of exotic infections sort of the 'bird flu' or the atypical pneumonia accompanied by panic and blockade of vast territories.
It also shouldn't be missed out that America is set to lead this war in the deliberately tough and even cruel manner. It will be meant as an object lesson for the world that must stay fully aware of the message: nobody can brave it to challenge America and escape punishment.