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New Realities in the U.S.-China Relationship

Paul Haenle, Anne Sherman

September 10, 2015

Источник: http://carnegietsinghua.org/2015/09/10/new-realities-in-u.s.-china-relationship/ihgv

The U.S.-China relationship involves both cooperation and competition, but because of the new global changes to the relationship, more must be done to balance these two dimensions.

As the United States enters a presidential election campaign and prepares for the first state visit of a new Chinese leader, the U.S.-China relationship is at an important inflection point. Nearly four decades after the normalization of relations between our two countries, new realities in China, the United States, and the international community are changing the way Americans and Chinese view their bilateral relationship and forcing a re-examination of the principles that underpin our policies.

The global arena has changed dramatically in recent years. Today there are few challenges that the United States or China could solve alone and few scenarios in which one country could succeed without the success of the other. Whereas only a decade ago our relations were focused primarily on bilateral or even regional issues, today our agenda is global. Each country’s ability to achieve its national objectives is threatened by the same set of international challenges. Our future prosperity and security is increasingly intertwined. The stakes for a cooperative and constructive U.S.-China relationship have never been higher.

At the same time, there are new realities that pull us apart. China is now the world’s second largest economy and has accumulated significant influence on the global stage. Its new leader, President Xi Jinping, has charisma and confidence that have contributed to his ability to consolidate more power and reorient the country in a more ambitious direction than either of China’s previous two leaders were able to during their tenures. But Xi is also more nationalistic, risk-tolerant, and ideological than his predecessors, and his more active and muscular approach to foreign affairs can at times be at odds with U.S. interests and reinforces the notion that what China decides to do with its newfound power may not always align with our national objectives.

In the Asia-Pacific, for example, Xi is pursuing a dual-track strategy that on the one hand employs the ace in China’s deck—economic might—to convince neighbors that China’s continued rise will benefit them, and on the other hand involves a much more aggressive approach to strengthen China’s claims to disputed territorial and maritime features in adjacent waters, often through coercion and without due regard for international law. Both tracks are hugely ambitious—Xi’s One Belt One Road project, for example, aims to connect China to Europe by land routes traversing Russia and the Middle East and sea routes navigating through the Malacca Straits and the Gulf of Aden. Xi’s land reclamation in the South China Sea, meanwhile, has recovered over 2,000 acres in just the last 18 months— more than all other claimants combined and more than in the entire history of the region.

This more active foreign policy represents a major departure from the foreign policy principle of taoguangyanghui that dictated that China should keep a low profile on the international stage and focus on its development efforts at home. Potentially more troubling, however, are the rising frictions in the U.S.-China commercial relationship, exacerbated by accusations of cyber hacking, China’s use of industrial policy, and a slowing Chinese economy. The U.S. business community has historically been an anchor of stability between the two countries, especially during inevitable periods of tension. Yet, growing concerns about protectionist tendencies that seem intended to close the door to foreign companies under the pretext of national security threaten to undermine the support of these reliable stakeholders. Civil society and human rights groups are also concerned with developments in China calling for a ban on Western textbooks, a crackdown on NGOs, and the silencing of dissidents.

Thus, as China has emerged as a formidable economic and geopolitical U.S. competitor, its differences with the United States have become more (not less) pronounced. What many Chinese are now calling China’s renaissance—the nation’s revival at home and abroad—while welcomed by the United States, is different than what many in the West expected. Americans who traditionally believed China’s success was good for the United States are now beginning to question this assumption, and in these doubts, a debate has emerged over whether or not Washington has the right framework to respond to a rising China.

Contours of the U.S. Policy Debate on China

At the core of the U.S. debate are questions about the strategic intentions of a rising China, the long-term sustainability of U.S. primacy in the Asia-Pacific, and the roles of both nations in the region going forward. One side of the extreme argues that growing Chinese power is undermining U.S. leadership in the Asia-Pacific. Without reassurances of sustained U.S. predominance, countries on China’s borders will reorient their defense postures in ways that could lead to an intensified regional arms race and an environment where conflict is more likely. This argument supposes that China’s ultimate aims are not limited to pushing the United States out of Asia, but also include undermining the U.S.-led international system and U.S. global leadership. Thus, the United States should move assertively to block China’s rise.

On the other side of the extreme are those who argue that Beijing’s aims are limited to strengthening its security and enhancing its regional influence, which the United States and its allies should not necessarily see as a threat. Washington should come to terms with the reality that U.S. predominance in the region is unsustainable given China’s growing economic clout and military modernization, and attempting to preserve it would be dangerous and ultimately unsuccessful. In order to avoid conflict, this contingent argues that Washington should share power with China and further assist its integration into the current international order.

Both extremes are flawed and dangerous policy choices. If the United States moves toward a balance of power with China, it will be based on a premature assumption that China’s continued rise to regional predominance is inevitable. China confronts enormous political, economic, and social challenges at home and faces several major powers and nuclear states in the region, not to mention a U.S. military that for the foreseeable future is expected to endure as the strongest in the world. Furthermore, it is not in the interests of the United States or those of its allies to have a G2 with China.

On the other hand, a zero-sum U.S.-China relationship, a divided Asia, and a greater likelihood of military conflicts would be much to the detriment of U.S. interests and those of our allies. A containment policy could lead China to close its doors to cooperation and engagement with the United States. The interests of the U.S. business community, which, despite recent concerns, wants to maintain strong trade ties with China and access to its markets and investment, would be threatened. Additionally, growing Chinese investment in the United States, which is already contributing significantly to U.S. economic growth and job creation, would also be threatened.

A move by the United States to a more confrontational approach with China also ignores the fact that U.S. allies and partners, all now larger trading partners with China than with the United States, are not looking to choose sides between the United States and China. They want good relations with both. While on one hand they hope the United States can serve as a useful counterbalance to China’s growing influence, on the other hand, they want to benefit from increasing trade and investment with China.

Also at risk would be the interests of nearly every other nation with a stake in trying to address our common global challenges from climate change to transnational terrorism. And a policy of blocking China’s rise would further confirm the widespread view in China that the United States is determined to contain it and lend credence to hardliners who want to take an even less accommodating approach toward the United States. Revisions to U.S. policy toward China must account for Beijing’s likely reactions and the second- and third-order consequences.

How to Advance Relations Given New Realities

The success of Washington’s engagement with China starts with an understanding of these new global realities shaping our relations. Rather than moving toward extreme policy courses in the face of these new challenges, the U.S. strategy for advancing bilateral relations with China should begin with a comprehensive approach to the Asia-Pacific region, be founded on strong American domestic fundamentals, and be guided by U.S. leadership globally. The United States needs to get its approach to the region right, get its economy and political system working again, and project leadership and staying power on the regional and international stages. Only then will it be able to lead a much more deliberate effort to work with China where it has common interests, to pursue a more effective strategy to shape Chinese decisionmaking, and to invest adequately in current and future military capabilities.

The U.S. ability to uphold regional rules and norms in the Asia-Pacific, strengthen institutions, lead the building and modernizing of trade and economic architectures, and modernize its strong alliance system is critical to a secure and peaceful region and constructive relations with China. Although a majority of Americans view Asia as the most important region to U.S. interests, many question U.S. political will, staying power, and resources to implement its rebalancing policy in the region. The United States needs to get its economy growing again, get its political system out of gridlock, and keep its military funded and capable of meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century. U.S. national security, global credibility, and regional leadership rest on the foundation of its fiscal and economic health and the effectiveness of its policymakers and legislators.

When it comes to China, the United States should keep in mind several key principles that have guided our mix of competition and cooperation over the past four decades: where the United States and China have common interests, the United States must find ways to work with China; where the two countries have differences, leaders need to manage and narrow them; and given the uncertainties of China’s trajectory, the United States must maintain a hedging strategy and ensure its military is prepared and capable of defending U.S. interests today and in the future. Recently, the United States has struggled with all three major components of its China policy. It has fallen short in its efforts to expand meaningful cooperation with China on addressing shared regional and global challenges. Washington and Beijing have been unable to effectively manage their differences—tensions in the South China Sea and the cyber realm have come to define the bilateral relationship and set it on a path toward confrontation. With few positive narratives or examples of tangible cooperation between our two countries, the military hedging strategies threaten to dominate our front-page news.

As then deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick stressed in an important speech in 2005, a more cooperative relationship with a China that is a major stakeholder on global security and economic issues will not only make it easier for the United States to handle the wide range of global challenges we face in the years ahead, but is also essential to sustaining the existing, open international system. While cooperation will not mean we will not have serious differences and disagreements that we will need to manage, it will provide a broader framework for constructive engagement. If we can find ways to enhance our cooperation with China and change the narrative of our relationship among our publics by demonstrating that the United States and China can be a positive force in the international community, then this will give us space to deal with some of the more challenging issues in our relationship.

Conclusion: The View From a Wider Lens

While there are challenges in the U.S.-China relationship, Washington cannot lose sight of the fact that this is an important relationship—perhaps the most consequential one for the United States in this century. Whether or not Washington gets this relationship right will determine whether or not the United States is able to take advantage of the Asia-Pacific region’s growth and make progress on addressing critical global challenges in ways that yield benefits to the citizens of both countries, our neighbors, and the world. The U.S.-China relationship has been and will continue to be composed of both cooperation and competition, but because of the new global realities of our relationship, we must do a better job of balancing these two dimensions. If successful, our constructive cooperation will benefit not just our two countries but the entire international community.

A version of this article was originally published in Chinese by China Policy Review.


Ukraine Crisis Is a Geopolitical Game Changer

by Ian Bond, Denis Corboy, William Courtney, Michael Haltzel, Richard Kauzlarich

April 17, 2015

Источник: http://www.rand.org/blog/2015/04/ukraine-crisis-is-a-geopolitical-game-changer.html

The Ukraine crisis is accelerating shifts in power. Russia is a net geopolitical loser; Europe is emerging stronger; NATO is starting to boost defenses; and China sees new openings. These changes are reshaping the international landscape.

Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 shocked the West, but its reaction was muted. Russian peacekeepers already patrolled the separatist areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Although evidence of Russia’s preparations for war was evident months before, Georgia contributed to the initiation of the conflict.

Ukraine is different. Russia’s seizure of Crimea and parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions has stirred outrage in the West. Moscow falsified unrest in Ukraine to justify an unprovoked assault, violating solemn international obligations. The Kremlin seeks to carve a coercive sphere of influence by destabilizing neighbors.

Russia is overplaying its hand, however, and losing ground on multiple fronts. Hobbled by corruption and high dependence on hydrocarbon exports, the economy suffers also from growing state interference, a steep oil and soon to be gas price drop, and Western sanctions. Yet, Europe is strengthening its relations with Russia’s western neighbors, NATO is being revitalized, and its defense budgets will grow. Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling is angering Europeans, not scaring them.

Meanwhile, Beijing is more welcome in anxious Central Asia. China is making huge infrastructure investments and pulling gas eastward via pipelines that redraw geopolitical boundaries. If a nuclear deal is sealed with Iran and economic sanctions eased, its energy exports will grow and compete on the world market against those from Russia and other producers.

Russia can take steps to recover from self-inflicted wounds but is not yet doing so. A full withdrawal from eastern Ukraine would end many crippling Western sanctions. The cessation of intimidating military maneuvers and the use of gas as a political weapon would improve ties with Europe. Allowing the new Eurasian Economic Union (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and soon Kyrgyzstan) to become a depoliticized, rules-based entity would bring economic benefit and boost land-based trade between China, Europe and the Middle East. Slashing state economic interference and corruption would boost Russian entrepreneurship and productivity.

Rather than seizing these opportunities, the current policies of Russia jeopardize its substantial interests in Europe. The European Union is Russia’s largest trading partner and accounts for three-quarters of Russia’s inward foreign direct investment stocks. EU competition policy is stopping Russia from building a gas pipeline via the Black Sea that could box in customers. An EU energy union would further reduce risks of undue reliance on Russian energy.

With the emergence of the Ukraine crisis, Germany for the first time is leading the West — not just Europe — in dealing with Moscow on a major security issue. The Minsk II accord reached in February is replete with ambiguities, suggesting that Berlin and Paris lack the necessary clout to manage prime-time security issues on their own. On the eve of the Minsk II talks German Chancellor Angela Merkel weakened her bargaining leverage by averring that progress in Ukraine could not be “achieved by more weapons.”Without meaningful Western military aid, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko acceded to unreasonable demands from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Partly as a result, Ukraine’s eastern front remains vulnerable.

On April 15 German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble beseeched America to do more to help Europe address the Ukraine crisis: “We know that we need the United States.” One way to do this is to fix the Normandy format used in the Minsk ceasefire talks (France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine). This format puts too much burden on Germany and France; it should be augmented with U.S., EU and perhaps Polish and U.K. participation.

Aggression in Ukraine has given NATO new relevance. It has launched a constant rotation of air, maritime and ground presence on the alliance’s eastern border. America is strengthening ground force presence in Poland and the Baltics. A number of European countries are increasing their defense spending and efficiency while focusing more on territorial defense. But recent calls for a European army ring hollow. Too many Europeans still think any crisis can be solved by diplomacy alone; history suggests that negotiating is more effective when backed by the willingness to use force if necessary. France understands this, but the U.K. ought to recover its will to fully engage and not act as if it is halfway out of Europe.

Many Europeans, especially in Central and East Europe, see the United States as a security guarantor, despite some popular anti-Americanism. U.S. reconnaissance and intelligence are essential to monitoring the Minsk II ceasefire. If Russia were sharply to expand aggression — heightened violence this week in eastern Ukraine is worrying — America and several European allies would likely rush military aid to Ukraine with the aim of improving defenses and raising the costs of aggression. Additionally, sanctions would be expanded. Regardless, Ukraine urgently needs more aid for governance and security sector reform.

Russia’s aggression abroad and repression at home have altered the basic assumptions of earlier Western policy. By misjudging the tolerance for aggression in Europe, Moscow is bringing on the encirclement it fears. The West is now better prepared to deal with any further aggression and more confident that Ukraine’s future will be as part of an enlarged Europe.

China and America’s Coming Battle for Southeast Asia

By Peter Chalk

Источник: http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/china-americas-coming-battle-southeast-asia-12427?page=show

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has declared its intent to establish a fully integrated Community that extends across the economic, political, security and social realms by the end of 2015. Such a regional arrangement would, for the first time, provide the countries of Southeast Asia with a single regime of intergovernmental collaboration that can be used to draft, implement and refine joint policies and courses of action. That would greatly facilitate future proactive planning and aid the development of comprehensive and codified forms of supranational cooperation and governance.

The main aim of those changes is to better situate ASEAN to achieve its core goal of “centrality”—a term coined to emphasize how internal cohesion can be leveraged to both advance economic progress and manage the Association’s relations with external partners.

One external variable that’s likely to bear heavily on the trajectory of the proposed ASEAN community is the influence of an increasingly assertive People’s Republic of China (PRC). The country is now the pre-eminent power in the Asia-Pacific and its ties with the Association have grown substantially over the past 25 years. Both factors imbue Beijing with a real potential to sway the future course of ASEAN integration.

In economic terms, the PRC’s overall impact is likely to be largely positive. Since the signing of a strategic partnership agreement in 2003, bilateral fiscal and commerce relations have boomed and over the past decade the two-way flow of goods and services has increased more than six-fold—topping $400 million in 2013. The growth and prosperity of ASEAN and China will be highly contingent on further expanding that mutually beneficial economic partnership, something the two sides no doubt fully appreciate.

In the political and security realm, there’s far less certainty in ASEAN perceptions of China. This is especially true with regards to the PRC’s strategic intentions in Southeast Asia. Concerns that anti-access/area denial platforms may be used to restrict access in the South China Sea or to institute a regional order that’s determined in Beijing could encourage ASEAN’s littoral states to look to Washington—rather than the Association itself—as the ultimate guarantor of national and wider defense in this part of the world.

Beijing’s soft power is also relevant for ASEAN’s social and cultural integration, although the extent of that influence is difficult to determine. On the one hand, China’s official emphasis on peaceful development and shared Asian values would seem to fit well with ASEAN’s own commitment to stability and unity. On the other, the PRC’s effort to position itself diplomatically as a non-threatening power has fallen foul of a central administration that in many ways lacks self-awareness—something that’s been especially true with regards to its uncompromising stance on territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

To be successful, the ASEAN Community will also require considerable backing from the U.S.—the other major power in Southeast Asia.

Washington has three main reasons to support the development of an ASEAN Community. First, economic integration will help to enhance growing and significant bilateral trade and investment ties. Second, promoting a more multilateral approach to security cooperation would directly contribute to burden sharing. Third, a fully integrated ASEAN would help to balance China and India, assure access to critical shipping lanes in the South China Sea and bring greater symmetry to important East Asian forums that involve American representatives.

There are several ways that the U.S. could help to support the institutional development of the ASEAN Community. Economically, it could deepen regional integration and buttress trade liberalization by expanding the Association’s membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). On the political and security front, the U.S. could provide input to the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting’s current deliberations by suggesting joint endeavours that support military interoperability. Finally, American soft power could be employed to promote programs that are designed to fully engage civil society across ASEAN.

Although the PRC and U.S. are both in a position to influence the process of ASEAN integration, ultimately it will be up to the Association itself to cement internal cohesion, achieve centrality and thereby remain a relevant player in the emerging Asian order. In this respect uncertainties remain, as in many ways the bloc’s member states continue to follow the age-old principles of unanimity, non-interference and informality that have traditionally shaped the manner by which they act and conducts business.

Now in its sixties, ASEAN sits at a critical juncture that could see it either occupying the driver’s seat in future regional cooperation or being marginalised as a relic of the past.

Blinders, Blunders, and Wars

What America and China Can Learn

by David C. Gompert, Hans Binnendijk, Bonny Lin

Источник: http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR768.html

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The history of wars caused by misjudgments, from Napoleon’s invasion of Russia to America’s invasion of Iraq, reveals that leaders relied on cognitive models, or simplified representations of their worlds, that were seriously at odds with objective reality. Blinders, Blunders, and Wars analyzes eight historical examples of strategic blunders regarding war and peace and four examples of decisions that turned out well, and then applies those lessons to the current Sino-American case. Leaders’ egos, intuitions, unwarranted self-confidence, and aversion to information that contradicted their views prevented them from correcting their models. Yet advisors and bureaucracies can be inadequate safeguards and can, out of fawning or fear, reinforce leaders’ flawed thinking.

War between China and the United States is more likely to occur by blunder than from rational premeditation. Yet flawed Chinese and American cognitive models of one another are creating strategic distrust, which could increase the danger of misjudgment by either or both, the likelihood of crises, and the possibility of war. Although these American and Chinese leaders have unprecedented access to information, there is no guarantee they will use it well when faced with choices concerning war and peace. They can learn from Blinders, Blunders, and Wars.

As a general remedy, the authors recommend the establishment of a government body providing independent analysis and advice on war-and-peace decisions by critiquing information use, assumptions, assessments, reasoning, options, and plans. For the Sino-U.S. case, they offer a set of measures to bring the models each has of the other into line with objective reality.

Key Findings

Strategic Blunders Can Happen When Leaders Rely on Defective Cognitive Models of Reality and Have No One to Correct Them.

Strategic blunders can result from faulty intuition, egotism, arrogance, hubris, grand but flawed strategic ideas, underestimating the enemy and the difficulties and duration of conflict, overconfidence in war plans, ignoring what could go wrong, stifling debate, shunning independent advice, and penalizing dissent.
These conditions are especially dangerous when combined with excessive risk taking based on an overestimation of one’s ability to control events.
The Key to Bridging the Gap Between a Defective Model and Objective Reality Is Information, Amply Supplied and Well Used.

Decisionmakers may be more receptive to information that supports rather than threatens their beliefs, preconceptions, and models.
Institutions close to decisionmakers can be drawn into the same subjective perception of reality.
Government institutions are not dependable safeguards against strategic mistakes.
Improvements are needed in how leaders and institutions use information so that better cognitive models will enable them to make better choices.

Form a strategic advisory body within the National Security Council with access to all intelligence and the best possible analytic capabilities. This body would be obligated to provide the President and the rest of the National Security Council with impartial analysis of underlying beliefs, objectives, assumptions, estimates of the adversary, prospects for success, options, contingencies, and risks. The process would be covered by executive privilege, but the body’s output would be a matter of historical and eventually public record.
The strategic advisory body should set and insist on the highest standards of analytic objectivity and rigor. The entity would be responsible for reviewing the integrity of the analysis conducted by the institutions responsible for staffing the decisionmaker (such as the State Department, the Department of Defense, and the National Security Council).
The independent analysis performed for and by the strategic advisory body should make use of proven enhancements in analyst-computer teaming capabilities and methods.
The presidents of the United States and China should form the sort of relationship that goes well beyond occasional summits and having a hotline. The two need a facility for communication and a rapport.
Institutional connections between the United States and China should go beyond the existing U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue with the goal of mining information from institutional links that can correct errors in models of reality and prevent blunders.
Intellectual connectivity should continue to expand, especially as it involves Chinese and American strategic communities.

U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress

Shirley A. Kan

October 27, 2014

Источник: https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/index.html

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This CRS Report, updated through the 113th Congress, discusses policy issues regarding military-to-military (mil-to-mil) contacts with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and records major contacts and crises since 1993. The United States suspended military contacts with China and imposed sanctions on arms sales in response to the Tiananmen Crackdown in 1989. In 1993, President Clinton reengaged with the top PRC leadership, including China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Renewed military exchanges with the PLA have not regained the
closeness reached in the 1980s, when U.S.-PRC strategic alignment against the Soviet Union
included U.S. arms sales to China. Improvements and deteriorations in overall bilateral
engagement have affected military contacts, which were close in 1997-1998 and 2000, but marred by the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, mistaken NATO bombing of a PRC embassy in 1999, the EP-3 aircraft collision crisis in 2001, and the PLA’s aggressive maritime and air confrontations.
Issues for Congress include whether the Administration complies with legislation overseeing
dealings with the PLA and pursues contacts with the PLA that advance a prioritized set of U.S.
security interests, especially the operational safety of U.S. military personnel. Oversight
legislation includes the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY1990-FY1991 (P.L. 101-246)
and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2000 (P.L. 106-65). A particular issue is
whether the President is required to issue waivers of sanctions. Skeptics and proponents of
military exchanges with the PRC have debated whether the contacts achieve results in U.S.
objectives and whether the contacts contribute to the PLA’s warfighting capability that might
harm U.S. and allied security interests. Some have argued about whether the value that U.S.
officials place on the contacts overly extends leverage to the PLA. Some believe talks can serve
U.S. interests that include risk-reduction or conflict-avoidance; military-civilian coordination;
transparency and reciprocity; tension reduction over Taiwan; weapons nonproliferation; talks on nuclear, missile, space, and/or cyber domains; counterterrorism; and POW/MIA accounting.
Policy makers could review the approach to mil-to-mil contacts, given concerns about potential
crises and conflicts. U.S. officials have faced challenges in gaining cooperation from the PLA.
The PLA has tried to use its suspensions of exchanges while blaming U.S.-only “obstacles”
(including arms sales to Taiwan, FY2000 NDAA, and air and naval reconnaissance operations).
The PRC’s harassment of U.S. ships and increasing assertiveness in maritime disputes showed
some limits to mil-to-mil engagement, similar views, and PLA restraint. The U.S. articulations in
2011-2012 of a strategic “rebalancing” to the Asia-Pacific raised an issue of how to deal with
China’s challenges. The Administration’s “rebalance” entails not only expanded engagement with the PLA, but also increasing exercises. The PLA Navy’s invited participation for the first time in the U.S. Navy-led multinational exercise, RIMPAC, based at Hawaii in summer 2014 raised
concerns in Congress and elsewhere. The U.S. Navy has increased some “interoperability” with
the PLA Navy. The Defense Secretary issued the latest required annual report on June 5, 2014,
concerning military and security developments involving the PRC, cooperation, and military-tomilitary contacts. The report noted that the PLA uses combined exercises to improve capabilities by learning from more advanced militaries and asserted that the Defense Department complies with the FY2000 NDAA in all military contacts with China. An issue concerns whether the U.S.
Air Force should send a C-17 transport aircraft to the Zhuhai Air Show in China in November.
Legislation in the 113th Congress includes the FY2014 NDAA (P.L. 113-66); FY2014 Defense
Appropriations Act (H.R. 2397); Asia-Pacific Region Priority Act, H.R. 4495 (Forbes); FY2015
NDAA, H.R. 4435 (McKeon), S. 2410 (Levin), and H.Res. 643 (Chabot).

Crux of Asia: China, India, and the Emerging Global Order

Ashley J. Tellis, Sean Mirski

January 10, 2013

Источник: http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/01/10/crux-of-asia-china-india-and-emerging-global-order/hhmj

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A close examination of Chinese and Indian perspectives reveals stark Sino-Indian differences on many of today’s most pressing international issues.

The rise of China and India as major world powers promises to test the established global order in the coming decades. As the two powers grow, they are bound to change the current international system—with profound implications for themselves, the United States, and the world. And whether they agree on the changes to be made, especially when it comes to their relationship with the West, will influence the system’s future character. A close examination of Chinese and Indian perspectives on the fundamentals of the emerging international order reveals that Sino-Indian differences on many issues of both bilateral and global significance are stark.

Preview this publication China’s Military and the U.S.-Japan Alliance in 2030: A Strategic Net Assessment

Michael D. Swaine, Mike M. Mochizuki, Michael L. Brown, Paul S. Giarra, Douglas H. Paal, Rachel Esplin Odell, Raymond Lu, Oliver Palmer, Xu Ren

May 3, 2013

Источник: http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/05/03/china-s-military-and-u.s.-japan-alliance-in-2030-strategic-net-assessment/i85g

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The emergence of the People’s Republic of China as an increasingly significant military power in the Western Pacific presents major implications for Japan, the U.S.-Japan alliance, and regional security. But a comprehensive assessment of the current and possible future impact of China’s military capabilities and foreign security policies on Tokyo and the alliance, along with a detailed examination of the capacity and willingness of both the United States and Japan to respond to this challenge, is missing from the current debate. Such an analysis is essential for Washington and Tokyo to better evaluate the best approaches for maintaining deterrence credibility and regional stability over the long term.

Key Findings

    • The most likely potential challenge to the U.S.-Japan alliance over the next fifteen to twenty years does not involve full-scale military conflict between China and Japan or the United States—for example, one originating from Chinese efforts to expel Washington from the region.
    • ƒƒ The likeliest challenge instead stems from Beijing’s growing coercive power—increasing Chinese military capabilities could enable Beijing to influence or attempt to resolve disputes with Tokyo in its favor short of military attack.
    • ƒƒ An increase in the People’s Liberation Army’s presence in airspace and waters near Japan and disputed territories could also heighten the risk of destabilizing political-military crises.
    • ƒƒ Significant absolute and possibly relative shifts in the military balance between China and the alliance in Japan’s vicinity are likely.
    • ƒƒ In the most probable future scenarios facing these three actors, the U.S.-Japan alliance will either only narrowly retain military superiority in the airspace and waters near Japan or the balance will become uncertain at best.
    • ƒƒ A significant drop in the potential threat posed by China is also possible if the Chinese economy falters and Beijing redirects its attention and resources toward maintaining internal stability.
  • ƒƒ More dramatic shifts in the strategic landscape are unlikely in the fifteen- to twenty-year time frame. Such shifts include an Asian cold war pitting a normalized U.S.-Japan alliance against a belligerent China and a major withdrawal of U.S. presence that heralds either the dawning of a Sino-centric Asia or the emergence of intense Sino-Japanese rivalry with Japanese nuclearization.

U.S. and Japanese Policy Responses

There are no “silver bullets.” No regional or alliance response can single-handedly deliver a stable military or political balance at minimal cost to all parties involved. Each of the major conceivable responses to these future challenges in the regional security environment will likely require painful trade-offs and, in some cases, the adoption of radically new ways of thinking about the roles and missions of both the U.S. and Japanese militaries.

Three general political-military responses offer viable ways to advance allied interests over the long term.

    • Robust Forward Presence: This deterrence-centered response is designed to retain unambiguous allied regional primacy through either highly ambitious and forward-deployment-based military concepts, such as Air-Sea Battle, or approaches more oriented toward long-range blockades, such as Offshore Control.
    • Conditional Offense/Defense: This primacy-oriented response nonetheless avoids both preemptive, deep strikes against the Chinese mainland or obvious containment-type blockades and stresses both deterrence and reassurance in a more equal manner.
  • Defensive Balancing: This response emphasizes mutual area denial, places a greater reliance on lower visibility and rear-deployed forces, and aims to establish a more genuinely balanced and cooperative power relationship with China in the Western Pacific.

These responses could be complicated by a number of factors.

    • Limits on the ability of Japan or other nations in the Asia-Pacific region to advance substantive security cooperation or embark on major security enhancements
    • ƒƒ Unwillingness in the U.S. military to alter doctrinal assumptions in operating in the Western Pacific ƒƒ China’s own suspicions of alliance efforts that might constrain the use of its growing capabilities
  • Low tolerance among stakeholders for uncertainty and even failure during political or diplomatic negotiations over vital security interests

The status quo is likely to prove unsustainable. Despite the potential complications, Washington and Tokyo must seriously evaluate these possible responses. Current economic and military trends in China, Japan, and the United States suggest that existing policies and strategies might fail to ensure a stable security environment conducive to U.S. and Japanese interests over the long term.

Advance Praise

“The Asia century is well under way, and with it the emerging challenges of a region in transition…. Any sound future policy will require a thorough assessment of China’s evolving military and foreign security capabilities and of the capacity and willingness of Tokyo and Washington to sustain their historic cooperation. There are no guarantees that the future will resemble the recent past, and the best approaches for continued deterrence credibility and regional stability will require careful consideration and thoughtful analysis.

To this end, the Carnegie Endowment has offered up an extraordinary contribution: China’s Military and the U.S.-Japan Alliance in 2030: A Strategic Net Assessment. The future security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region may very well be defined by the content of this assessment. But one thing is certain: the United States and Japan must recognize that in the future, status quo thinking is unlikely to guarantee a stable security environment that serves the long-term interests of the bilateral relationship or the region.”

—Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., former ambassador to China and former governor of Utah

“Michael Swaine and his co-authors have done an admirable job of thinking through the complex interactions of the U.S.-Japan-China relationship in the future. Using scenarios and trend projections, they go beyond simple predictions to examine the complex interactions of different developments and reactions among the three countries and different groups within them. While I do not agree with specific military and policy judgments in all the scenarios, I strongly endorse the effort to examine potential developments along with likely and possible reactions and counterreactions. The triangular interactive relations among these great Asian powers will determine both the overall future of the region and much of the futures of each of the individual countries.”

—Admiral Dennis Blair (U.S. Navy, retired), former director of national intelligence and former commander of the U.S. Pacific Command

“The U.S.-Japan alliance has long been crucial to the military balance in the Western Pacific. The balance of power in the region is now shifting toward China, and tensions between Asian states are rising concomitantly. Current trends suggest that the United States and Japan will not find it easy to sustain immunity from coercion as they seek to preserve stability, secure their national interests, and manage crises in the region over the coming years. This study is a remarkably timely, thoughtful, and meticulous examination of the drivers and choices the allies will face through 2030. It illuminates probable shifts in the strategic landscape of northeast Asia, their consequences, and the policy and resource allocation choices they pose. In this strategic net assessment, the scholars Carnegie assembled have given decisionmakers in Tokyo and Washington a uniquely insightful and thought-provoking policy-planning tool.”

—Ambassador Chas W. Freeman Jr. (U.S. Foreign Service, retired), former assistant secretary of defense

“There is nothing out there like this—a very important piece of work…. This is an elegantly framed study that systematically assesses the postures of China, Japan, and the United States and treats the dynamics between them. Obviously, this is tough to execute, but the authors have done an outstanding job. The report addresses a critical subject and offers empirically based suggestions…. There is nothing like it in terms of looking at the interactions between states to produce a set of possible future regional dynamics.”

—Eric Heginbotham, senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation

The authors would like to thank the Japan Ground Self Defense Forces Research and Development Command NAT Project for translating the executive summary into Japanese.

U.S.-China Security Perceptions Survey: Findings and Implications

Michael D. Swaine, Rachel Esplin Odell, Luo Yuan, Liu Xiangdong

December 12, 2013

Источник: http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/12/12/u.s.-china-security-perceptions-survey-findings-and-implications/gvqk#

Public and elite attitudes in the United States and especially China are exerting a growing influence on the bilateral security relationship.

Public and elite attitudes in the United States and especially China are exerting a growing influence on the bilateral security relationship. The U.S.-China Security Perceptions Project analyzes the content of these attitudes through original surveys and workshops conducted in both countries. The project’s findings have implications for policymakers seeking to reduce the likelihood of future bilateral conflicts.

Survey Findings

    • There is a low level of strategic trust between the United States and China, which could make bilateral relations more turbulent.
    • Despite this lack of mutual trust, only small minorities of all respondents in both countries saw the other country as an enemy. A majority of U.S. and Chinese elites and the American public as well as a plurality of the Chinese public viewed the other country as a competitor. Substantial minorities of all respondents saw the other country as a partner.
    • Majorities of all U.S. and Chinese respondents felt their own country should play a shared leadership role in the international system. Majorities of U.S. elites thought the world would be more stable if the United States remains the leading superpower, but Chinese elites felt that a balance of power between Washington and Beijing would be more conducive to global stability.
    • U.S. and Chinese elites prioritized strengthening the bilateral relationship, with an emphasis on improved economic cooperation.
  • Chinese respondents—especially government elites—cited U.S. arms sales to Taiwan as a major source of tension. U.S. elites—especially retired military officers and business elites—saw alleged Chinese cyberattacks and intellectual property infringement as particularly problematic.

Recommendations for U.S. and Chinese Policymakers

Emphasize cooperation over competition. Capitalize on support among elites in both countries for strengthening bilateral ties. Sustained top-level leadership is needed to build public support and provide a strong foundation for managing potential crises in the relationship.

Keep extremist views in perspective. Most respondents were not hawkish or adversarial toward the other country. Minority extremist perspectives, such as those often expressed in social media, should not be allowed to hijack policy.

Build mutual trust. Deepening official and unofficial exchanges, engaging in a more meaningful dialogue on strategies and interests, and keeping bilateral commitments will increase trust, as will explaining the intentions underlying policies like the U.S. rebalance to Asia and China’s military expansion.

Reconcile divergent views of global order. American and Chinese elites’ differing preferences for the global distribution of power could cause tension unless the two countries candidly discuss how to coexist and accommodate each other’s interests.

Prevent the Taiwan issue from derailing broader cooperation. Washington should not underestimate the significance China attaches to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Beijing should not allow this issue to prevent it from recognizing Washington’s consistent support of the One-China policy. Both sides should understand fully the sensitivity of the Taiwan issue and avoid sending wrong signals that negatively impact bilateral relations.

Establish rules on cybersecurity. Mutual understandings will reassure both sides, especially business elites, who have historically constituted a stabilizing force in U.S.-China relations.

The U.S.-China Security Perceptions Project

Public and elite attitudes in both the United States and especially China are exerting a growing influence on the U.S.-China security relationship. The U.S.-China Security Perceptions Project seeks to obtain nonpartisan, policy-relevant data and insights on the evolving content and influence of such attitudes as policymakers strive to reduce the likelihood of serious future bilateral crises or conflicts. The project has several key objectives:

  • Conduct rigorous, detailed comparative surveys of Chinese and American elites and the general public on critical topics related to national security, including mutual trust and impressions of each country’s national character; the nature of American and Chinese power, both globally and in Asia; and the major specific threats, challenges, and opportunities faced by each country.
  • Produce thorough analyses of the meaning and implications of the survey results for Chinese and American foreign and defense policies and the U.S.-China relationship.Offer recommendations for policymakers in both countries on how to address the problems and opportunities revealed by the survey results.
  • Undertake the above activities on a regular basis and in response to specific security-related incidents occurring in the U.S.-China relationship.

This project involved two phases in both the United States and China. During the first phase, public and elite opinion surveys were conducted in both countries. Elites from five distinct categories—government, business, academia, the military, and the media—were surveyed. During the second phase, workshops of foreign affairs experts with backgrounds in these same five categories were convened in Beijing and Washington to discuss the survey results and their implications for U.S.-China relations.

Project Participants

The U.S.-China Security Perceptions Project is a unique collaborative undertaking between leading research institutions in Washington and Beijing launched in 2011. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington and the China Strategic Culture Promotion Association (CSCPA) in Beijing coordinated this project, in collaboration with the Pew Research Center, the Research Center for Contemporary China (RCCC) at Peking University, and the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The Pew Research Center, in consultation with the Carnegie Endowment and the Kissinger Institute, conducted the elite and public surveys in the United States. The RCCC and the CSCPA together performed the surveys in China. Funding was provided by the China-United States Exchange Foundation and the Ford Foundation as well as by the project partners.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a unique global network of policy research centers in Russia, China, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. Our mission, dating back more than a century, is to advance the cause of peace through analysis and development of fresh policy ideas and direct engagement and collaboration with decisionmakers in government, business, and civil society. Working together, our centers bring the inestimable benefit of multiple national viewpoints to bilateral, regional, and global issues. The Carnegie Asia Program in Beijing and Washington provides clear and precise analysis to policymakers on the complex economic, security, and political developments in the Asia-Pacific region.

The China Strategic Culture Promotion Association is a national, nonprofit civil society group composed of experts, scholars, and social activists who are engaged in studies of international issues, the Taiwan issue, and cultural issues. The association was founded in Beijing on January 5, 2011, aiming at promoting security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and encouraging peaceful development on both sides of the Taiwan Strait through studies, dissemination, and exchange of Chinese strategic culture.

The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that provides information on the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world. A neutral source of data and analysis, it does not take policy positions and was not involved in developing any of the policy recommendations contained in this report. It is a subsidiary of the Pew Charitable Trusts. The center’s work is often cited by policymakers, journalists, and academics as well as advocates from across the political spectrum. Its Global Attitudes Project conducts public opinion surveys around the world on a broad array of subjects ranging from people’s assessments of their own lives to their views about the current state of the world and important issues of the day. More than 330,000 interviews in 60 countries have been conducted as part of the project.

Founded in 1988, the Research Center for Contemporary China at Peking University is a self-financed, nonprofit academic institution that conducts statistically rigorous interviews and polling in China on a wide variety of subjects, including issues related to China’s foreign relations. The RCCC focuses on promoting rigorous social science scholarship in China; generating systematic social and economic data for scholars, government agencies, and the business community; integrating Chinese social science into the international scholarly community; and providing institutional assistance for Chinese and international scholars conducting research in China.

The Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, inaugurated in 2008, is dedicated to promoting greater awareness of the U.S.-China relationship and its impact on both countries and the world. It does so by exploring the political, economic, historical, and cultural factors that underlie the respective behavior patterns and world views of China and the United States. The institute is nonpartisan and committed to improving American expertise about China as well as Chinese knowledge about the United States.

The project leaders from each organization include, on the U.S. side, Michael D. Swaine and Rachel Esplin Odell from the Carnegie Endowment, J. Stapleton Roy from the Kissinger Institute, and James Bell and Richard Wike from Pew Research. On the Chinese side, project leaders include Luo Yuan and Liu Xiangdong from the CSCPA and Shen Mingming and Yan Jie from the RCCC. Xu Ren, formerly of the Carnegie Endowment, and Meng Tianguang (“Max”) of the RCCC also provided invaluable assistance in processing the data and preparing materials for the workshops. The authors also wish to thank Alex Taylor, Han Yuxi, Hu Ran, Wang Yuhui, and Audrye Wong of the Carnegie Endowment for their vital assistance at various stages of the project, as well as Julia Judson-Rea, Ilonka Oszvald, Abby Arganese, Jocelyn Soly, and others in the Carnegie development, publications, and communications teams.

Phase I: Survey Research in the United States and China

In the United States, the general public survey was conducted April 30–May 13, 2012, among 1,004 adults. The elite survey was conducted March 1–May 20, 2012, among 305 elites, including 54 government officials in the executive and legislative branches; 52 retired military officers; 74 business and trade leaders; 93 academics, think tank experts, and nongovernmental organization leaders; and 32 reporters, editors, and commentators. Although not representative of all U.S. foreign affairs experts, the elite survey findings are indicative of attitudes among high-ranking individuals responsible for matters related to national security or foreign policy.

In China, the general public survey was conducted May 2–July 5, 2012, among 2,597 adults in urban areas. The elite survey was conducted May 22–August 22, 2012, among 358 elites, including 75 government officials (primarily retired officials with experience at the provincial and municipal levels); 73 scholars at military research institutions; 70 business and trade leaders; 76 scholars at nonmilitary academic research institutions; and 64 professionals working for the media.

For more details on the methodology used in the public and elite surveys in each country, see the accompanying reports on the survey results by the Pew Research Center and the RCCC.1

During the process of survey design and translation, extensive efforts were made to ensure that the results from the United States and China would be as comparable as possible. For the first iteration of the project, much progress was made toward this end. However, there are several important caveats that call for caution to be exercised in making certain comparisons among some of the elite categories in particular.

Military Elites in the U.S. and Chinese Data

The “military” categories in the Chinese and U.S. survey data are likely not directly comparable. The military category in the Chinese data only includes military scholars, not operational military personnel or retired officers. These military scholars very possibly do not represent the views of the broader People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on many issues. The military category in the American elite survey, by contrast, is composed of retired U.S. military officers. Future surveys will hopefully include at least retired Chinese military officers.

Government Officials in the U.S. and Chinese Data

The “government officials” categories are likewise not directly comparable. In the Chinese data, the government officials were primarily officials at the provincial and municipal levels. This survey did not include a large sampling of central government officials. Moreover, most of these officials, such as former ambassadors, were retired. Meanwhile, in the United States, the government officials were all current government officials at the national level—mostly from the executive branch, with some from the legislative branch. In future surveys, the goal is to make this category more comparable as well.

Comparisons Over Time

The project surveys conducted in 2012 are a snapshot in time and do not necessarily represent U.S. or Chinese views at present or in the future. In some cases, both quantitative and qualitative responses could change significantly; in other cases, perhaps not. One major objective of this project is to undertake repeated surveys to determine how attitudes in both countries change over time and in response to specific events. That said, the results of these surveys convey an important baseline or starting point for deepening understanding.

Phase II: Elite Workshops in China and the United States

The first elite workshop was held in Beijing on January 10–11, 2013. The workshop was attended by more than 20 Chinese experts from different elite categories (primarily academia, the military, and the media) in addition to the project partners from Carnegie, the CSCPA, the Kissinger Institute, Pew Research, and the RCCC. The second elite workshop was held in Washington on January 31–February 1, 2013. The workshop was attended by more than 20 U.S. participants from government, military, business, media, and academic circles in addition to the project partners. At both workshops, the participants engaged in a wide-ranging discussion of the U.S. and Chinese survey results and their implications for U.S.-China security relations.

Report Overview

The results of the surveys of elites and publics in the United States and China can be found in accompanying reports prepared by the Pew Research Center and the RCCC, respectively. These reports present the percentage of elite and general-public respondents that provided each response to each question. They also contain general statements identifying majority or minority views based on responses to specific questions.

The main body of this report, prepared jointly by the Carnegie Endowment and the CSCPA with input from the Kissinger Institute, goes beyond the initial analysis of the data by presenting in detail the policy-related significance of the findings and their implications for policy in both countries. These more qualitative assessments derive in large part from the views expressed by the project partners and American and Chinese elites at the workshops that were held to discuss the survey results.

This report is organized around three themes that were addressed by the elite and public survey questionnaires:

  • U.S.-China trust and cultural imaging
  • Global roles and threat perceptions
  • Specific security-related challenges and opportunities

In these first three sections, the most significant policy-relevant survey findings are summarized and the key observations made at the workshops are presented.

A fourth and final section presents a set of possible implications and recommendations arising from the survey and workshop findings for policymakers and other elites.

The project members intend to develop this undertaking into an increasingly rigorous, focused, and policy-relevant series of coordinated and collaborative survey efforts on vital security issues affecting the U.S.-China relationship. The findings will hopefully help deepen the understanding of scholars, policymakers, the media, and the general public in the United States and China about key aspects of the bilateral relationship, thereby helping to prevent miscalculations and facilitate the harmonious development of both U.S.-China relations and the world order.

U.S.-China Trust and Cultural Imaging

The first set of survey findings and workshop discussions revolved around the themes of mutual trust and cultural impressions. Attitudes toward these issues among each country’s elites and general public have important implications for the likelihood of effective U.S.-China cooperation, the ability of the bilateral relationship to endure strain and crises, and the propensity of the two sides to experience conflict.

Major Relevant Findings From Surveys

Mutual Trust
  • In both the United States and China, elites and the general public expressed low levels of trust in the other country (see figure 1)—below levels of trust U.S. and Chinese respondents reported feeling in most other countries.
  • Levels of trust were slightly higher among youth and scholars in both countries.
  • Despite this general lack of mutual trust, a majority of the public in both countries thought U.S.-China relations were “good.”
  • While the American public and U.S. elites alike expressed high levels of trust in Japan, Chinese respondents expressed extremely low levels of trust in their Asian neighbor. (And these surveys were taken before the current Sino-Japanese crisis over the Diaoyu [Senkaku] Islands that emerged in September 2012.)
  • Majorities of Chinese government elites, scholars, military researchers, and media professionals characterized their attitude toward the United States as mild rather than tough (only 44 percent of Chinese business elites said the same).
  • While a majority of the American public was more concerned about China’s economic strength (59 percent) than its military strength (28 percent), a plurality of the Chinese public (34 percent) was more concerned about U.S. military strength than U.S. economic strength (20 percent).
  • Clear majorities of U.S. elites in all categories expressed a belief that Chinese economic growth will lead to a more democratic China.

Public and elite attitudes in the United States and especially China are exerting a growing influence on the bilateral security relationship.

Partners, Enemies, or Competitors
  • In general, very low percentages of U.S. and Chinese publics and elites viewed the other country as an enemy.
    • Roughly equal percentages of each country’s public regarded the other country as an enemy (15 percent and 12 percent in the United States and China, respectively).
    • However, 27 percent of Chinese government elites regarded the United States as an enemy, while only 2 percent of U.S. government elites regarded China as an enemy.
  • Strong majorities of the U.S. public and elites in all categories viewed China as a competitor, while substantial minorities (16 percent of the U.S. public and a range of between 13 percent and 22 percent of U.S. elites, depending on the category of respondents) viewed China as a partner.
  • A plurality of the Chinese public viewed the United States as a competitor (45 percent), and clear majorities of Chinese elites in all categories viewed the United States as a competitor (see figure 2).

Public and elite attitudes in the United States and especially China are exerting a growing influence on the bilateral security relationship.

Culture and Characteristics
  • Three-quarters of the Chinese public either somewhat (48 percent) or very much (26 percent) agreed that Chinese culture is superior, while roughly one-half of the U.S. public responded that American culture is superior.
  • Clear majorities of the U.S. public and elites believed that the United States takes other countries’ interests into account in foreign policy. Only minorities of U.S. respondents felt that China does the same in its foreign policy.
    • The Chinese public and elites held nearly mirror-image views on this matter. Strong majorities believed that China takes other countries’ interests into account and that the United States does not.
  • Strong majorities of the U.S. public considered both Chinese and Americans to be competitive and nationalistic. Majorities of the Chinese public also saw both Americans and Chinese as competitive. But while a clear majority of the Chinese public (66 percent) described Chinese as nationalistic, only 45 percent believed Americans were also nationalistic.
  • The Chinese public’s images of Americans were more negative than the U.S. public’s images of Chinese. In addition, Americans tended to be more self-critical than Chinese.
    • Clear majorities of the Chinese public believed Americans are (in declining percentages) aggressive, competitive, violent, arrogant, and greedy, and 50 percent said they are selfish. In contrast, only minorities of the Chinese public said Chinese are aggressive, violent, arrogant, and greedy, although 51 percent did say Chinese are selfish.
    • Only minorities of the U.S. public viewed Chinese as (in declining percentages) aggressive, greedy, arrogant, selfish, rude, or violent. In contrast, majorities of the U.S. public regarded Americans as having all of these negative characteristics, with one exception—“only” 44 percent of the U.S. public said Americans are violent.
  • Respondents from the general public in both countries were generally more likely to assign positive traits to their fellow citizens than to their Chinese or American counterparts.
    • Strong majorities of the Chinese public saw themselves as hardworking, generous, honest, and tolerant, but only minorities saw Americans in those terms. However, majorities of the Chinese public saw both Chinese and Americans as inventive and modern.
    • Clear majorities of the U.S. public viewed American people as being modern, inventive, generous, tolerant, honest, and sophisticated. In each case, lower percentages of the U.S. public ascribed those same traits to Chinese people. There was one exception to this pattern; 93 percent of the U.S. public described Chinese people as being hardworking and only 78 percent of these respondents applied this term to Americans (see figure 3).

Public and elite attitudes in the United States and especially China are exerting a growing influence on the bilateral security relationship.

Major Observations and Conclusions From Workshops

Mutual Trust

Differentiate Between Abstract and Concrete Trust

Both American and Chinese elites raised the point that trust as an abstract measurement may not be that important, particularly in light of the fact that respondents are interested in building a stronger relationship. The general public in particular may not have formal mechanisms for measuring the trustworthiness of another country, whereas a government can evaluate trustworthiness based on its counterpart’s propensity to adhere to formal or informal agreements. Even “adversaries” can trust each other if they believe the other government will follow through on its commitments. Similarly, businesspeople can measure trustworthiness based on their counterparts’ propensity to uphold business contracts or respect intellectual property.

Concrete Cooperation Is More Important Than Mutual Trust

One American discussant with government experience emphasized that when official negotiators get caught up in the psychodrama of the U.S.-China relationship, including concerns about mutual trust, it becomes very difficult to do anything. But once they have unburdened themselves of these issues and can address specific, concrete issues, they are able to accomplish much more, even in the bilateral military-to-military relationship. Other elites agreed that working together on concrete practical cooperative efforts is critical to improving the bilateral relationship.

Trust Can Serve as a Buffer in Rough Times

Some American elites observed that although many indicators suggest relatively positive views of China among Americans, the low level of trust U.S. respondents reported having in China suggests that this positive opinion could be quite volatile and subject to swings if the relationship were to suffer a major setback. One elite noted that trust provides a baseline buffer in relationships. When a shock occurs, the larger the buffer, the better the relationship can handle it. U.S.-China relations have not experienced a major setback in a long time, so the relationship is relatively positive. But the thinness of the trust buffer could portend problems in the event of a future shock.

Media Reports May Affect Trust Levels

The media tends to report on conflict and tension between countries, which likely influences the levels of trust that many elites and especially the public in a country have in another country. This dynamic may contribute to the low levels of mutual trust between U.S. and Chinese respondents, some Chinese elites noted. The fact that countries like Pakistan and African nations, which receive comparatively little news coverage in the Chinese press, were more trusted by the Chinese public may be partly because the media is not regularly reporting on tensions with those countries.

Personal Relationships Influence Trust Levels

Some Beijing workshop participants suggested that Chinese military and nonmilitary scholars may have expressed greater levels of trust in the United States than Chinese government officials or the general Chinese public because these scholars are more likely to have developed personal relationships with Americans.

Understanding High Levels of Strategic Distrust in China

One American elite pointed out that the percentage of Chinese government elites that viewed the United States as an enemy was particularly high. This outlier could potentially suggest that the problem of strategic distrust is worse in China. However, it is also difficult to take this one data point from one moment in time as representative of government views—especially keeping in mind the caveat that the Chinese government sample was relatively limited.

One Chinese participant argued that distrust of the United States among Chinese elites and the general Chinese public can be traced to specific factors. These include political and ideological factors, such as a sense that the United States wants to Westernize and divide China; the U.S. return to the Asia-Pacific, which has not been sufficiently explained; economic and commercial disputes, including U.S. antidumping duties against Chinese companies; and propaganda in the media that misleads and negatively portrays the United States (a phenomenon also seen in U.S. media coverage of China).

Expounding upon the political and ideological factors, several Chinese elites speculated that the higher percentage of Chinese elites who identified the United States as an enemy compared to the percentage of U.S. elites who identified China as an enemy could be attributed to the way the United States is seen to threaten China’s domestic political system and internal security (for example, on issues such as Taiwan and Tibet). This could be particularly true of local and provincial Chinese government officials, who composed the bulk of the Chinese government elites sample, since they deal most directly with domestic and internal security concerns.

Another Chinese participant suggested that in addition to differences in ideology and political systems, U.S. military deployments in areas surrounding China have also created an impression that such efforts are intended to contain China, contributing to Chinese distrust of the United States. This participant also cited as a source of distrust the way in which the United States is perceived as taking the opposite side whenever China has friction with surrounding countries.

According to Some Americans, China’s Low Trust in Other Countries May Recommend a U.S. Multilateral Strategy

One American elite remarked upon the fact that Chinese respondents expressed less trust in other countries than American respondents did in general. Another U.S. participant speculated that this might reflect the fact that Washington has more formal allies than Beijing, and it could imply that multilateral strategies may at times be useful for the United States to adopt in its relationship with China.

Younger Americans Trust China More

When discussing why young Americans expressed higher levels of trust in China than older Americans, U.S. elites focused on a variety of factors. Some suggested that younger generations in general tend to be more trusting and open and that this was probably true historically as well. In addition, older generations today have had very different life experiences, such as living through the Vietnam and Korean Wars, which could shape their views toward China. Another elite pointed to the possibility that generations that lived through the Cold War may see China as filling the role that the Soviet Union played, whereas the younger generation has no memory of the Cold War and thus does not necessarily fit China into that box.

One U.S. elite felt that older Americans’ observation of the political incident of 1989 in Beijing could also influence how they viewed China. Another elite echoed this view and also pointed to the younger generation’s more limited knowledge of China’s ups and downs in general, including the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward.

Trust in China Among U.S. Business Elites Has Deteriorated

Some elites observed that, while American corporations used to be a stabilizing ballast in U.S.-China relations, during the past five years there has been a significant deterioration in the way U.S. business elites view China. Some American participants noted that this shift might reflect greater concerns among some U.S. businesspeople over alleged Chinese efforts to restrict U.S. market access and maneuver Chinese companies into a dominant position that will enable them to move up the value chain in direct competition with U.S. companies. Others added that it also reflects concerns over alleged cybertheft and intellectual property theft more generally.

Explaining U.S. Military Elites’ Low Levels of Trust in China

Some elites attributed the lower level of trust in China among U.S. military respondents primarily to uncertainty about China’s military, which in turn stems partly from a perceived lack of transparency in the PLA. One American elite clarified that this lack of trust has more to do with a lack of understanding and confidence in China’s policies, intentions, and future direction than it does with any real or imagined obfuscation regarding the raw capabilities of the Chinese military.

Another U.S. expert suggested that it may have to do with the fact that U.S. defense analysts tend to glean information about the PLA from unofficial writings by younger Chinese authors, who often emphasize China’s rise and growing capabilities. Thus, in a sense, the level of distrust of China among U.S. military elites could be driven less by what they do not know than by what they think they do know.

Some U.S. elites emphasized that it is the military’s job to prepare and plan for worst-case scenarios and that military elites would be derelict in their duties if they did not do so. This could predispose them to trust China less. However, some elites also observed that U.S. and Chinese military personnel often work well together when they do interact, implying that military-to-military contacts are particularly important to maintain—and illustrating why China’s tendency to cut such ties off whenever there is a bump in the relationship is so problematic.

However, one U.S. military elite pointed out that trust of China among U.S. military elites was not actually as low as he had expected and in fact was comparable to the level of trust among U.S. media elites (only 31 percent of U.S. military elites and 31 percent of U.S. media elites reported a great deal or fair amount of trust in China). Moreover, these levels were quite positive in comparison to Chinese military scholars, 85 percent of whom reported distrusting the United States.

Partners, Enemies, or Competitors

Competition Can Be Malicious or Benign

Chinese elites emphasized that viewing another country as a “competitor” could be positive or negative. While malicious competitors might become enemies, benign competition can be win-win, particularly in the business world. Whether partners or competitors or both, China and the United States can emphasize their shared interests as a means for overcoming distrust.

Containment and a New Type of Major-Power Relationship

One American participant noted that competitors do not “contain” each other like enemies do; while America and China are competitors, the United States is not engaging in a formal containment policy toward China and does not consider China an enemy. A Chinese elite responded by emphasizing that there is a great deal of confusion in China about the concept of containment, particularly among the general public. He stressed that containment is a concept associated with enemies. Both Chinese and U.S. interlocutors agreed that the “new type of major-power relationship” advocated by Chinese President Xi Jinping could not consist of containment or competition and rivalry alone.

Possible to Be Both Partner and Competitor or Something In Between

Some Chinese elites suggested that countries can simultaneously be partners and competitors and that this may be the case in the U.S.-China relationship. Similarly, there may also be something between the categories of partner and competitor. One Chinese elite commented on what he saw as the inappropriateness of the term “adversary,” which he noted had been used by U.S. President Barack Obama during a presidential debate in fall 2012.

General U.S. Public More Likely Than Elites to See China as an Enemy

One American participant hypothesized that the general public has less knowledge about China and thus may be more inclined to be influenced by negative media coverage about China. Meanwhile, elites have a more subtle view of the bilateral relationship and of China’s history and contemporary political culture. A Chinese elite made a similar observation about the Chinese public, noting that it tends to be more emotional, which may make it more likely to view the United States as an enemy while elites will tend to see America more objectively as a competitor.

Another U.S. discussant argued that in fact the general public tends to take its cues from elites on matters of foreign policy, including China. If there is an elite consensus on an issue, then the public will coalesce behind that view. But if there is not a consensus, then the public will divide along partisan lines. Another American participant responded by suggesting that U.S. elites, including the media, need to speak of the U.S.-China relationship in more positive terms. For example, this individual suggested that elites should avoid painting the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific as containment of China.

Americans View China Quite Positively

One American discussant interpreted the findings on the American public’s view of China optimistically, indicating that several survey data suggested a rosier picture than was indicated by the 2012 U.S. presidential election campaign ads about China, which were generally quite negative. First of all, Americans generally saw U.S.-China relations as positive, something that would not have been said of U.S.-Soviet relations during the Cold War. This suggests that China has not taken the place of the Soviet Union as the United States’ geopolitical enemy. This elite felt that the percentage of the public who viewed China as an enemy was surprisingly low (15 percent) and that the larger percentage who saw China as a competitor (66 percent) is not worrisome as it is not inaccurate and even allies can be competitors.

Moreover, while the percentage of the public who expressed trust in China was not particularly high, the American people tend to be reluctant to express trust in general—for example, their trust in government and especially Congress is lower than their trust in China. Finally, in comparison to other challenges, Americans viewed China’s emergence as about as threatening as climate change—that is, rather low on the list of perceived challenges.

One Chinese participant responded by saying that while he also felt optimistic about the results, he was concerned over the way Obama and former U.S. presidential nominee Mitt Romney had discussed China in the 2012 presidential campaign. In particular, he wondered whether or not Obama’s remarks identifying China as an adversary reflected elite views.

Culture and Characteristics

Cultural Exceptionalism Is a Challenge to U.S.-China Relations

Both American and Chinese respondents perceived their country’s culture as being superior to that of others, although the percentage of Americans who feel this way has been declining in recent years, particularly among the younger generation. Such feelings of cultural superiority can present a challenge to U.S.-China relations. In order to confront this challenge, a Chinese participant suggested that the two sides need to do more than foster cross-cultural initiatives such as student exchange programs and tourism; they also need to engage in deeper discussion and debate on what these two great civilizations (not just nations) have to offer each other and the world.

One Chinese elite suggested that while China is proud of its long history, the United States is proud of its human rights and values. An American participant concurred, arguing that while Americans tend to see China as a country with a great culture, they take more pride in their own values than their culture. However, value superiority as well as cultural superiority can interfere with inter-country relationships. In fact, this U.S. elite suggested, one of the big deficiencies of American diplomacy is the tendency to moralize and preach about U.S. values and how other countries should behave—something that causes resentment in other nations.

Chinese Self-Criticism May Be Increasing

American survey respondents ascribed negative traits to themselves at a significantly higher level than Chinese did. One Chinese media elite commented that one of the things that is great about Americans is this self-awareness regarding their own shortcomings. However, this individual argued that although it was not necessarily reflected in the survey results, there has also been a growing degree of self-criticism in Chinese social media and culture in recent years, with satirical essays proliferating online that emphasize shortcomings in Chinese culture. This participant felt that such a trend suggests many Chinese recognize they are not perfect.

Features of Culture Change Over Time

Another Chinese participant observed that the perceived features of Chinese culture have arguably changed over time. For example, when he was young, he was taught in school that China had a long history of constant revolution and violence, in contrast to Europe, where religion had been used as an opiate to control the masses and prevent such wide-scale conflict. This supposed Chinese cultural proclivity was seen as dovetailing with the call at that time for continual proletarian revolution and struggle. In recent years, however, “harmony” has become China’s new watchword. The culture of the West—and the United States in particular—is perceived as the more aggressive and competitive, while China prefers to see its own culture as harmonious and peace-loving.

Along similar lines, one Chinese elite suggested that the United States is perceived by Chinese as more aggressive because of its history of nearly continuous warfare since World War II. In response, a U.S. participant suggested that Americans’ perception of themselves as aggressive is likely shaped by the fact that the United States has been engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past decade, conflicts that are increasingly unpopular among Americans.

National Confidence Affects a Country’s Role in the World

Some Chinese participants suggested that a country’s national confidence in its culture shapes the role it plays in the world. One Chinese elite suggested that China lacked confidence, as evident by the extensive Chinese coverage of Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize for Literature. Another participant remarked that low levels of confidence can make a country more sensitive to external influence. Yet another Chinese elite suggested that the lower percentage of American youth (as compared to older Americans) who expressed confidence in American culture indicates that the United States’ confidence in itself and its role in the world may be declining.

Cultural Characteristics Can Translate Into National Policies

One Chinese elite remarked that cultural perceptions are key to analyzing decisionmaking because how people think and behave will translate into national policies. For example, pointing to cultural depictions in American movies, this participant observed that American children are more independent. In contrast, Chinese culture focuses on tradition, family, and community, which he suggested might make China relatively more inward-looking. However, this participant also observed that the two cultures’ differing characteristics can be complementary in a way that enhances cooperation between the two sides.

The Complexity of Cultural Views May Lessen Their Impact on Bilateral Ties

Conversely, some Chinese elites argued that simply asking respondents if they believed their culture was superior was likely to produce artificial results. More nuanced conclusions could be drawn from questions about whether the respondents would prefer to study in or become citizens of the other country.

Similarly, one elite argued that the pluralism in Chinese culture means that the implications of Chinese culture for foreign policy are highly complex. In fact, one Chinese discussant suggested that the issue is likely so complex that it may not have much of an impact on the level of cooperation countries can achieve, since there is a great difference between the operational and conceptual levels. Another Chinese elite countered this perspective, arguing that although culture is difficult to define and cultural attitudes are difficult to measure, narrow factors such as trade volume are inadequate measures for explaining the complex variables shaping bilateral relations.

Perceptions of Cultural Difference Can Portend Conflict

One American elite noted that social science research has shown that people who perceive a large degree of difference between their own social group (the “in-group”) and another social group (the “out-group”) will be more prone to favor conflictual postures toward the out-group. The questions asked of each country’s public about whether or not they perceive a range of character traits as applying to Chinese and Americans could be instructive when placed in this context.

In the general public survey results, there were an average of 20.5 percentage points separating the percentage of U.S. respondents who viewed a given trait as describing Americans and the percentage of U.S. respondents who saw that trait as applying to Chinese. Meanwhile, there was on average a 26.7 percentage-point spread between the share of Chinese who ascribed a given trait to Chinese and the percentage who ascribed that same trait to Americans.

Viewed through the lens of social identity theory, this gap in perceptions on both sides could make each side more likely to view the other in conflictual terms. This effect may be somewhat stronger in the Chinese case given the larger difference in perceptions among Chinese respondents.

Global Roles and Threat Perceptions

The second set of survey findings and workshop discussions focused on questions of global leadership, world order, and international threats. Points of convergence and divergence in American and Chinese elite and public attitudes toward these questions shed light on the underlying sources of amity and tension in U.S.-China relations and can guide decisionmakers in both countries as they work to build a “new type of major-power relationship.”

Major Relevant Findings From Surveys

  • Very low percentages of the U.S. public and American elites thought the United States should be the single world leader.
  • Similarly low shares of China’s public and elites felt that China should be the single world leader.
  • However, strong majorities of elites from both the United States and China felt that their own country should play a shared global leadership role.
    • While 74 percent of the U.S. public shared this attitude, only 45 percent of the Chinese public did.
  • Sizable minorities of China’s public and elites (ranging from 12 percent among scholars and military researchers to 19 percent among the public and 21 percent among government elites) felt that China should play no leadership role at all in the world.
    • In contrast, not a single U.S. elite respondent in any of the five categories felt the United States should play no leadership role in the world. However, 12 percent of the American public did reject a leadership role for the United States (see figure 4).
  • Among those Americans who felt Washington should play a shared leadership role in the world, clear majorities in most categories of U.S. elites thought the United States should be the most assertive among leading nations (only a plurality of media elites held this view).
    • However, only one-third of the U.S. public who favored a shared leadership role agreed with that notion while two-thirds said that America should be no more or less assertive than other leading nations.
  • In partial contrast, among those Chinese who felt Beijing should play a shared leadership role in the world, a strong majority of both China’s elites and public said China should be neither more nor less assertive (qiangshi, 强势) than other leading nations.

Public and elite attitudes in the United States and especially China are exerting a growing influence on the bilateral security relationship.

Global Order and Stability
  • Clear majorities in every U.S. elite category believed that global stability is best served by American dominance (that is, “the U.S. remaining the leading superpower”).
    • Not a single U.S. elite respondent favored China replacing America as the leading superpower.
    • Nonetheless, sizeable minorities of American elites (including as high as 45 percent of business elites) favored a balance of power between the United States and China.
  • In contrast, strong majorities of Chinese elites in all five categories favored a U.S.-China balance of power for world stability, ranging from 58 percent among scholars to 76 percent among government elites.
    • Very few Chinese elites believed that Chinese dominance would produce more stability, ranging from only 3 percent among military scholars to 12 percent among government elites.
    • Sizable minorities of Chinese elites in most categories felt that U.S. dominance would be more conducive to global stability. Nearly one-fourth of nonmilitary and military scholars espoused this view, but only 8 percent of government elites shared this attitude (see figure 5).

Public and elite attitudes in the United States and especially China are exerting a growing influence on the bilateral security relationship.

Mutual Threat Perceptions
    • Far smaller percentages of the U.S. public and American elites viewed China as the country posing the greatest overall danger to the United States than percentages of Chinese who viewed the United States as the country posing the greatest threat (weixie, 威胁) to China.
      • Strong majorities of China’s public and elites identified the United States as the country that posed the greatest threat to China, ranging from 63 percent among the public to 81 percent among business elites.
      • Chinese viewed Japan as the next-most threatening country after the United States, but far fewer Chinese pointed to Japan than America. However, the most recent Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands flare-up, which occurred after the survey was conducted, may have altered this perception.
    • America’s public and elites generally viewed China’s emergence as a world power as a far less serious threat to the well-being of the United States than other enumerated threats, such as international financial instability, Iran’s nuclear program, Islamic extremism, and North Korea’s nuclear program.
      • While a slim majority (52 percent) of the U.S. public saw China’s emergence as a world power as a major threat, only minorities of all elite categories espoused that view.
    • Meanwhile, the Chinese public and elites in most categories viewed the U.S. military presence in East Asia as the most significant among a similar list of enumerated threats, although in general they were less worried than their American counterparts about the other threats.
      • The exception was Chinese nonmilitary scholars, 55 percent of whom described international financial instability as a major threat and only 46 percent of whom said the same of the U.S. military presence in East Asia.
    • The U.S. public was more concerned about China’s economic strength than its military strength by a wide margin (59 percent versus 28 percent).
      • College graduates were four times more likely than those who had not graduated from college to express more concern about China’s economic strength than its military strength (70 percent versus 16 percent).
  • In contrast, the Chinese public was more concerned about U.S. military strength (34 percent) than U.S. economic strength (20 percent). Sixteen percent of the Chinese public expressed concern over both these issues, while 21 percent expressed concern over neither (see figure 6).

Public and elite attitudes in the United States and especially China are exerting a growing influence on the bilateral security relationship.

National Direction and Policies
    • When the surveys were taken in mid-2012, clear majorities of the U.S. public were dissatisfied with the United States’ direction and current economic situation, while most of the Chinese public expressed satisfaction with China’s current situation.
    • Majorities in most categories of U.S. elites expressed overall approval of Obama’s foreign policy, with the exception of retired military elites. Only 38 percent of retired military elites approved of Obama’s foreign policy, while 56 percent disapproved.
    • Similarly, most American elites felt that Obama’s China policy struck the proper balance between being too tough and not tough enough, but a plurality of retired military elites felt that it was not tough enough.
      • Very few elites in any category saw Obama’s China policy as being too tough.
      • The American public was split between those who felt Obama’s China policy was not tough enough (45 percent) and those who felt it was just about right (39 percent); very few (2 percent) felt that it was too tough.
    • Notably larger percentages of U.S. elites than Chinese elites believed their country relies too much on military force.
      • Only 10 percent of the American public and an even smaller percentage of U.S. elites said the United States relies on military might too little.
  • Fairly large percentages of China’s public and elites (ranging from 36 percent of the public to 56 percent of military scholars) believed China relies too little on its military power; a large share (20 percent) of the Chinese public responded “don’t know.”
    • Only small percentages of China’s public and elites, ranging from 3 percent of nonmilitary scholars to 16 percent of the public and of media elites, thought China relies too much on military strength (see figure 7).

Public and elite attitudes in the United States and especially China are exerting a growing influence on the bilateral security relationship.

Major Observations and Conclusions from Workshops


“Shared Leadership” Refers to a Multipolar System

Chinese and American elites concurred that the term “shared leadership” did not necessarily refer to a “Group of 2” arrangement wherein China and the United States form a dual partnership of global leadership. Rather, it refers to a more multipolar distribution of power and leadership.

China Has Traditionally Been Reluctant to Engage in Shared Leadership

Some Chinese elites emphasized that China has traditionally been rather self-centered and reluctant to exercise global leadership, whereas the United States has long been accustomed to being a leader in the world and is generally expected to fulfill that role. The survey results demonstrated these phenomena, with very few Chinese favoring sole Chinese leadership in the world—and a notable minority favoring sole U.S. leadership. As a specific example, one Chinese elite pointed to China’s cautious behavior as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and its hesitance to impose its will on Central Asian countries, which contrasts to the way Russia and the United States interact with the region.

Chinese Attitudes Toward Global Leadership May Be Changing

Several Chinese elites agreed that China’s traditional reluctance to engage in shared leadership may be changing as its interests grow, increasing the incentives for Beijing to cooperate and contribute internationally—particularly on nontraditional security issues. One elite pointed to the fact that a majority of Chinese survey respondents wanted China to play a shared leadership role in the world as evidence that the Chinese people are willing to play by the rules of the current system.

One American elite agreed that Chinese attitudes toward global leadership seem to be changing, recalling that during bilateral U.S.-China negotiations in 2006, Beijing balked at the use of the term leadership and did not even want to discuss the concept. Thus, the substantial proportion of Chinese survey respondents who expressed a belief that shared leadership is a good idea seemed like a major change in a short period of time. More broadly, one American elite interpreted the data to suggest that the Chinese clearly favor a change from the status quo in which the United States is dominant, while Americans—particularly elites—oppose any diminution in U.S. power and any rise of a peer competitor.

However, a Chinese participant noted that there was still a sizable minority of Chinese elites who felt that China should not play any leadership role, whereas there were no American elites who felt the same about their country. One American media elite wondered if the example of U.S. fatigue after a decade of war and nation building, with all of the attendant public relations fiascoes, might have contributed to the reluctance of some Chinese to embrace a global leadership role.

One discussant further emphasized that it will still be a long process to persuade China to join fully in a shared global leadership role. He pointed to sayings from former Chinese leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping—such as Deng’s famous maxim “taoguang yanghui, 韬光养晦,” frequently understood as “to hide one’s capabilities and bide one’s time”—suggesting that even when China becomes powerful, it will not be ready to become a world leader.

But another elite responded by reiterating that many Chinese want China to play more of a leadership role in the world. This elite argued that the phrase taoguang yanghui is often misunderstood; its true meaning is that China should avoid confrontation with the United States, not that China should avoid shared global leadership.

Political Philosophy Shapes Attitudes Toward Leadership

One Chinese participant observed that China eschewed global leadership in the past partly because of its political ideology; Chairman Mao was critical of superpower competition. Today, political ideology continues to drive, at least in part, China’s opposition to interference from other countries in its internal affairs. Conversely, the United States believes that it has the best values and political philosophy in the world and thus feels that it should be a global leader.

Shared Leadership Means Cooperation in Making the Rules

One Chinese elite emphasized that one of the reasons China is increasingly seeking a shared leadership role is that it wants to have more influence in making rules in the international system, a process that has been dominated by the United States in the past. Another Chinese discussant pointed to a concept called idiosyncrasy credits in the social psychology literature. This concept describes how newcomers to an institution will abide by the rules in order to build up credit and eventually seek to use that credit to be involved in shaping the rules of the system themselves.

Potential Future Changes in Chinese Attitudes

Some American elites wondered how Chinese responses to questions about leadership and global power distribution might change in coming years as China continues its rise. In particular, some observers pointed to the traditional structural realist belief that states will seek to maximize power and thus current intentions cannot be taken as sure indicators of future objectives. (This suggests that long-term surveys are necessary to track how people’s expectations change as their country’s power grows—or diminishes.)

As evidence of this phenomena, one U.S. elite pointed to the fact that many Chinese feel Deng Xiaoping’s taoguang yanghui maxim was appropriate for his time but is no longer applicable. This elite also proffered an anecdote from a high-level Obama administration official, who recounted that when he asked the Chinese why they reacted so strongly to Taiwan arms sales that were less than they had been in the past, the Chinese responded, “Well, we’re stronger now.”

Need to Focus on Regional Roles

Several American and Chinese elites emphasized the need to focus more in the future on regional leadership than global leadership and to analyze what roles elites and the general public think China and the United States should play in the Asia-Pacific. For example, one American discussant speculated that although few Chinese favored sole Chinese global leadership, a much higher proportion of Chinese might favor sole Chinese regional leadership. In fact, this discussant suggested that a significant number of American elites believe that China desires to be the dominant power in Asia. Although some of the survey findings seem to contradict that belief, they do not specifically address regional leadership. (This topic could be examined further in future surveys.)

Leadership as a Hierarchical Term in Chinese

One Chinese elite observed that the term “leader” in Chinese (lingdaoren, 领导人) has a more hierarchical and exclusive connotation than it does in English, which could raise some questions among Chinese respondents. Why, for example, would the United States want China to become a leader when it is the primary world leader? In other words, the Chinese people may be more inclined to conflate hegemony with leadership.

Connotations of “Assertive” in Chinese and English

Several elites agreed that the terms “assertive” and “qiangshi (强势),” used as parallel concepts in the survey, are actually not quite equivalent. An American elite argued that assertiveness is not about power but is rather a term that contrasts with passivity. However, qiangshi does have a connotation that implies the assertion of one’s power.

Global Order and Stability

Different Meanings of “Shared Leadership” and “Balance of Power”

One U.S. discussant noted that the terms “shared leadership” and “balance of power” do not necessarily mean the same thing. Balance of power may seem like it has a Cold War connotation, but it in fact has many meanings—among other things, it could refer to an unequal balance of power or a regional balance of power. Another American participant commented that a “concert” of powers is different still from a balance of power. A concert of powers connotes a greater level of mutual agreement and cooperation between states and may be what some elites think of when they hear the term “shared leadership.”

Furthermore, one Chinese elite noted that there are two types of balance of power. One is a peaceful balance, and the other involves confrontation, as in the Cold War. The latter is far more dangerous and unstable. It is unclear which type of balance of power respondents to this survey had in mind.

U.S. Elites Favor Unipolarity Over Balance of Power

One American participant observed that the majority of U.S. elites considered a unipolar system more conducive to global stability while many Chinese favored a multipolar balance of power. Another U.S. discussant speculated that these numbers among American elites may have been even more lopsided in this direction a decade ago, during the administration of then U.S. president George W. Bush, when unipolar U.S. leadership was an explicit part of the U.S. national security strategy. A Chinese discussant stressed that if Americans cling to this old mentality of favoring unipolar American power, they will be more likely to think that China’s rise will be unstable.

Avoid a Binary Approach When Considering Global Roles and Power Structures

One American academic elite stressed the need to avoid a strictly bilateral approach to these questions. Viewing global power distribution in terms of hegemony versus bipolarity is an American mindset that belies the complexity of the international system. Various actors other than the United States and China will play important roles in both U.S.-Chinese relations and the global political arena in coming years.

Another U.S. elite agreed, suggesting that particular issues—for example, financial stability and climate change—will likely necessitate cooperation from several major countries and nonstate actors, and thus different structures of power may be relevant for each issue. In any event, according to this discussant, viewing the international system in terms of dominant leadership or balance of power is an overly binary approach to complex global realities.

Mutual Threat Perceptions

Why Many Chinese Business Elites See the United States as a Threat

A relatively high proportion of Chinese business community elites in the survey reported seeing the United States as a threat. The workshop discussants expressed some surprise at this finding, since businesspeople are generally thought of as more internationally minded. One Chinese elite emphasized that U.S. antidumping duties imposed on Chinese companies are a specific threat that may increase their tendency to see the United States as a threat in general. A U.S. participant also speculated that this phenomena may be because Chinese business elites see the U.S. domestic market as an inhospitable investment environment and perceive the United States as hostile to Chinese business interests around the world.

U.S. Media Elites’ Views of China Not as Negative as Media Coverage Would Suggest

According to one American discussant, many U.S. government officials complain that the media portrays the U.S.-China relationship as highly conflictual, thus affecting public perceptions. In particular, many have faulted the media for painting the U.S. pivot or rebalance to Asia as an effort to “contain” Beijing. However, U.S. media elites in the survey did not themselves view China or the relationship in a particularly negative light.

In response to these observations, one media elite at the workshop recounted a time when he was reporting on a train crash in India and someone said, “There are hundreds of trains every day that don’t crash; why don’t you report on those?” He used this anecdote to demonstrate that journalists report on news-making events and developments because that is the nature of news media. More specifically, this discussant argued that while the U.S. pivot is not entirely about China, it is part of the story. Another media representative emphasized that journalists have to give a range of perspectives in their reporting, even if it may not reflect their personal views.

Translation of “Threat” Versus “Danger”

In the open-ended question about which country presented the greatest danger, one Chinese discussant suggested that “weixian (危险)” may have been a more appropriate translation of the word “danger” than “weixie (威胁),” which means “threat.” This could potentially explain why a higher percentage of Chinese felt the United States was a threat to China relative to Americans’ views of China.

National Direction and Policies

Chinese Public Writ Large Is Not as Hawkish as Netizens

Both American and Chinese participants expressed surprise that only 36 percent of the Chinese general public felt that China should rely more on military strength. One Chinese elite speculated that these numbers among netizens, or citizens active in the online community, would be more like 80 or 90 percent. One American participant suggested that this may indicate that relying upon netizen opinion to measure public opinion writ large may be problematic, as the latter may not be as hawkish as the former. Another U.S. discussant suggested, however, that Chinese decisionmakers may be more influenced by the 80–90 percent among the netizens than the 36 percent among the general public.

Moreover, discussants from both countries agreed that it is likely that the share of the general public that felt this way would have been greater if the survey had been conducted after the recent flare-up in tensions over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands.

On this same question regarding China’s reliance on military strength, one Chinese discussant pointed to the large numbers of “don’t know” responses among the general public (over 20 percent) as a complicating factor in interpreting this data and to the “don’t know” responses among elites, which ranged from 5 to 14 percent, as evidence that many elite respondents may have felt the question was too sensitive.

Explaining Retired U.S. Military Elites’ Disapproval of Obama’s Foreign Policy

When asked why a majority of U.S. military elites disapproved of Obama’s foreign policy, one U.S. government elite suggested that three major issues over the past four years—the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy toward gays in the military—created significant tension between the military and the White House. These issues could have translated into greater dissatisfaction among retired officers, who are able to express their views more freely than active-duty military personnel.

Another American elite with military experience suggested that the cuts that have been made to the defense budget were also a major factor that may have led retired military elites to disapprove of Obama’s foreign policy. However, this discussant did observe that the military appreciates that Obama has been more reluctant to militarily intervene in foreign countries. This relates to the question about use of military force and the fact that a majority of U.S. military elites felt that the United States relies too heavily on the use of military force in its foreign policy.

Political affiliations may also account for at least some of this disapproval, as retired military elites were more likely to be Republican than elites in the other categories.

Specific Challenges and Opportunities

The final set of survey findings and workshop discussions dealt with pressing practical issues in the bilateral U.S.-China relationship, ranging from U.S. arms sales to Taiwan to cybersecurity and intellectual property protection. Elite and public attitudes toward these specific topics can suggest directions for Washington and Beijing to pursue as they seek to strengthen cooperation and minimize conflict.

Major Relevant Findings From Surveys

Priorities for the U.S.-China Relationship
    • Strong majorities of U.S. elites (ranging from 81 percent of government officials to 94 percent of media elites) cited building a strong relationship with China as a very important U.S. policy priority (see figure 8).
      • Far smaller percentages cited economic and trade issues, human rights, Taiwan arms sales, and freedom for Tibet as very important.
    • Clear majorities of the U.S. public stressed the importance of being tough with China on economic and trade issues (56 percent); building a strong relationship with China (55 percent); and promoting human rights (53 percent).
      • Much smaller percentages of the U.S. public said the same about advocating more freedom for Tibet (36 percent) and continuing to sell arms to Taiwan (21 percent).
    • In response to an open-ended question about policy priorities, some U.S. experts considered managing the international balance of power between the two nations to be a top priority, though they were divided on the best approach.
      • While some said it was important to contain China by preventing a buildup of its military and countering its growing military power in Asia and the South China Sea in particular, there was also a desire to avoid conflict between the two countries by increasing military-to-military communication and learning to accommodate China’s growth as a world power.
  • Certain economic issues were also mentioned as priorities by U.S. elites—especially protecting intellectual property, improving cybersecurity, and opening up Chinese markets to U.S. exports.
  • Clear majorities of all Chinese elites cited building a strong relationship with the United States as a very important policy priority. This ranked higher than any other policy priority among all elite categories except government elites, who most frequently cited the need to strongly oppose U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
  • Slightly more than one-third of the Chinese public cited building a strong relationship with the United States as an important Chinese policy; 32 percent said it was the most important priority. A larger share (45 percent) identified opposing Taiwan arms sales as the most important priority.
  • In response to an open-ended question about policy priorities, Chinese elites most frequently stated that mutual trust and balance should be the highest priority in U.S.-China relations, followed by the economy and mutual benefit and cooperation.
    • Relatively few Chinese elites cited the need to increase China’s strength and counter threats as the most important policy priority vis-à-vis the United States.

Public and elite attitudes in the United States and especially China are exerting a growing influence on the bilateral security relationship.

Potential Sources of Collaboration
    • In response to an open-ended question about potential sources of cooperation, U.S. elites cited the economy as the primary area for collaboration—for example, fostering global economic stability and developing equally beneficial interdependence.
      • American elites also mentioned the potential to collaborate to confront common threats (climate change, terrorism, pandemics, and hot spots on the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East) and to engage in cultural and scientific exchanges.
  • Similarly, Chinese elites most frequently pointed to the economy as the most helpful way to improve U.S.-China cooperation—more than collaboration in science and technology, cultural exchanges, or other issues.
Greatest Concerns and Potential Sources of Conflict
    • U.S. elites generally expressed less concern than the U.S. public about China’s emergence as a world power (see figure 9).
      • Out of eleven potential sources of concern in U.S.-China relations included in the survey, only alleged cyberattacks from China were considered a very serious problem by at least half of the respondents in all five U.S. elite groups.
      • Relatively small minorities of U.S. elites saw China’s alleged human rights problems, China-Taiwan tensions, or China’s exchange rate policy as a very serious problem.
    • Clear majorities of the U.S. public regarded the U.S. debt held by China, loss of jobs to China, and the trade deficit with China as very serious problems.
      • Among the general public, Republicans were more concerned than Democrats about these three economic issues and about cyberattacks.
      • In contrast, U.S. elites did not express nearly as much concern over U.S. debt held by China, the trade deficit with China, or the loss of jobs to China. In only one case did more than 50 percent of any elite group view one of these issues as a very serious problem (53 percent of media elites saw U.S. debt held by China as a very serious problem).
        • Alleged intellectual property theft, however, was viewed as a very serious problem by U.S. elites, especially businesspeople (62 percent) and retired military elites (60 percent).
    • In response to an open-ended question about potential sources of conflict, U.S. elites most often pointed to regional territorial disputes, economic issues (especially intellectual property and currency), competition for regional dominance, and disagreements over North Korea and Iran.
      • Retired military and business elites also often cited competition over scarce natural resources.
    • There were no problems in the list of eight potential bilateral U.S.-China concerns that a majority of the Chinese public viewed as very serious. U.S. arms sales to Taiwan were regarded by a significant share (45 percent) of the Chinese public as a very serious problem for China, followed by U.S. hegemony (39 percent), curbing China’s rise (that is, containment—37 percent), U.S. support for Tibet (33 percent), U.S. reconnaissance along China’s coast (32 percent), the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific (28 percent), China-U.S. trade (18 percent), and Internet security (last, at 17 percent).
    • Chinese government elites cited the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific as the most serious problem for China (57 percent), followed by U.S. efforts to contain China and U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
      • Chinese media professionals, nonmilitary scholars, and military scholars identified U.S. containment of China as the most serious problem, while business elites pointed to U.S. hegemony.
  • In response to an open-ended question about potential sources of conflict in the relationship, Chinese elites mentioned military issues, followed by the economic realm and then Taiwan.
    • In response to a similar closed-ended question, China’s public and elites viewed Taiwan and then the South China Sea as the most likely among a list of potential sources of conflict over the next two to three years.

Public and elite attitudes in the United States and especially China are exerting a growing influence on the bilateral security relationship.

Taiwan Issue
    • Ten percent of the U.S. public indicated that they had heard a lot about China-Taiwan relations; a majority (54 percent) had heard a little, and a third had heard nothing.
      • The members of the U.S. public who had heard a lot about China-Taiwan relations were split between those who said the United States should use military force to defend Taiwan if China were to use force against the island (48 percent) and those who said the United States should not do so (43 percent).
      • While a strong majority of American elites favored U.S. use of force if China were to attack Taiwan without Taiwan having made a unilateral declaration of independence, a strong majority opposed the use of force if Taiwan were to make such a declaration.
  • More Chinese elites (61 percent) thought the United States would use force to intervene against a Chinese attack on Taiwan without a unilateral declaration of independence than thought the United States would do so if such a declaration were declared (46 percent).

Major Observations and Conclusions From Workshops

Priorities for the U.S.-China Relationship

U.S. Elites Prioritize Building Strong U.S.-China Relations

The majority of American elites surveyed prioritized building a strong U.S.-China relationship above all else. (This is also largely true of Chinese elites, though not to the same extent as American elites.) One U.S. discussant speculated that this could signify that U.S. elites feel that the United States and China are at a critical time when bilateral cooperation could be very positive and beneficial but that tensions could worsen down the road. Therefore, according to this discussant, U.S. elites could believe now is the time to take action and implement confidence-building measures to prevent the relationship from deteriorating.

One elite noted, however, that this does not necessarily mean elites are optimistic about the prospects for a positive relationship. Another discussant commented that although a wide range of elite respondents favored strong relations with China, there is likely wide variation in the policy measures they see as necessary for forging that kind of relationship.

Chinese Government Elites Prioritize a Strong U.S.-China Relationship

Although Chinese government elites in the survey indicated that they strongly endorsed opposing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, when they were asked to choose one policy priority for the bilateral relationship, the highest priority they identified was building a strong relationship with the United States.

However, one Chinese elite observed that if one of the options on the list of policy priorities had been to increase Chinese capabilities to constrain American actions and defeat the United States if necessary, many Chinese would have likely also supported that priority. Another discussant emphasized that the Chinese government and people have a two-sided policy and perspective on the United States. While they want to build a strong relationship, they also want to deter American behavior that they deem threatening, including nearby naval reconnaissance and Taiwan arms sales.

Another Chinese elite agreed, arguing that the Chinese people view America with both admiration and animosity, much as did Mao Zedong with his “American complex.” In policy terms, then, the areas of tension need to be brought under control and the areas of potential cooperation need to be prioritized.

Taiwan Issue

Taiwan Seen as Most Likely Source of U.S.-China Conflict

One survey question asked Chinese respondents what they saw as the most likely source of conflict between China and the United States in the next two to three years. One American elite expressed surprise that even though the question focused on such a short time horizon, most respondents still identified Taiwan, despite the positive state of cross-strait relations at present and the fact that the Kuomintang Party, which favors eventual reunification with the Chinese mainland, is in power.

Some of the Chinese discussants suggested this may have been because the respondents did not pay particularly close attention to the time frame attached to the question and instead focused on general sources of conflict. They also emphasized that this question was asking not about the likelihood of such a conflict in the next few years but rather what the cause would most likely be were such a conflict to occur. In particular, the question focused on conflict between the United States and China, and the Chinese discussants at the workshop felt it highly unlikely that any of the other factors besides the Taiwan issue would bring the United States into armed conflict with China. One Chinese participant explained that this is because China has not renounced the use of force on the Taiwan issue, but it has sworn off firing the first shot in other disputes. Another Chinese elite pointed to the fact that the United States would likely be unwilling to commit military force in other potential conflicts besides Taiwan, for example, with the Philippines over disputed islands in the South China Sea.

One Chinese elite emphasized that the finding shows how seriously the Chinese people take the Taiwan issue. Another Chinese discussant speculated that the percentage of Chinese identifying Taiwan as the most likely source of conflict may have been even higher had this survey been done when the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party was in power in the early to mid-2000s.

Recent Disputes Over Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands Would Have Likely Changed Perceptions

This survey was conducted in spring–summer 2012. However, some Chinese elites suggested that the results to some of the questions on specific issues may have been different if the survey had been conducted after the flare-up in tensions over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands that began in September 2012. In particular, this dispute may have been seen as a more likely source of tension and conflict in the U.S.-China relationship even relative to the Taiwan issue.

Mismatch Between Chinese and Americans in Importance Attached to Taiwan Arms Sales

Chinese respondents viewed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan as a much larger issue than Americans did. The Chinese saw it as a major impediment to U.S.-China relations, whereas the Americans placed it very low on a list of bilateral priorities. When a Chinese elite queried why the United States, then, continued this policy, an American discussant responded by pointing to a variety of factors, including the pressures from the U.S. military-industrial complex and its interests in selling arms to Taiwan, a desire to prevent Congress from intervening too much in the matter, and a genuine effort to deter a military solution and maximize the possibility of a peaceful resolution.

However, this U.S. elite emphasized that the level of arms sales should be related to the cross-strait situation based on objective criteria and the larger political context, particularly since the United States will not be able to maintain the cross-strait balance for the next thirty years in the way it has for the last thirty years because China will continue to build its military for other reasons besides Taiwan.

Another American participant expressed his opinion that arms sales to Taiwan are not viewed as a serious threat to the relationship, even in China, unless they were to grow to a level far above what has been seen previously. Thus, Americans in particular look at this problem and see it as far from the most important issue in the relationship.

Public Opinion on Military Intervention in Taiwan Issue May Not Affect U.S. Policy

American elites noted that although the general public does not strongly favor U.S. military intervention in a Taiwan conflict, this would not necessarily dictate U.S. decisionmaking in the event of a conflict.

Suggestions for Framing the Question of Intervention in a Taiwan Conflict

Several Chinese elites believed the questions asked of the American public about whether the United States should use military force to intervene in a conflict over Taiwan should have been framed with a hypothetical scenario of some sort (similar to that used in parallel questions posed to the elites, which posited Chinese use of force with and without a declaration of independence from Taiwan).

However, American discussants responded by explaining that most of the American public was ignorant of the complexities involved in this issue and such a framing would not necessarily reveal much beyond how Americans feel about foreign military intervention in general. In fact, because of this concern, this question was only asked of those 10 percent or so U.S. respondents who indicated that they had heard “a lot” about the Taiwan issue. Some of the Chinese participants felt strongly, however, that the question should have been posed to the entire general public sample, not solely those familiar with the issue.

Cyberattacks and Intellectual Property Theft2

Distinction Between Military Cyberespionage and Cyberattacks and Commercial Cybertheft

American elites emphasized the distinction between cyberespionage and cyberattacks conducted against military and governmental targets on one hand and commercial cybertheft on the other. The former is to be expected and is conducted by the U.S. security apparatus as well, although the U.S. government is loath to acknowledge or discuss this. However, according to these elites (and U.S. government statements), the latter is supposedly not conducted by the U.S. government for a variety of reasons. In contrast, these elites believe, rightly or wrongly, that commercial cybertheft is being carried out by official Chinese government- and PLA-affiliated organs.

One American elite noted that military cyberattacks and cyberespionage may become a greater irritant in the future if the U.S.-China relationship becomes more zero-sum and conflictual. For the moment, however, intellectual property theft is front and center in the minds of elites.

Why U.S. Elites See Cyberattacks and Intellectual Property Theft as Such Serious Issues

One American elite speculated that at present it would be irrational for China not to steal American intellectual property because there is no cost to doing so. Thus, according to some U.S. participants, American elites are struggling with how to make alleged commercial cybertheft more costly for China. Whether this viewpoint is based on an accurate assessment of the actual situation or not, there is a sense of anger about alleged Chinese commercial cybertheft in large parts of the community of people who pay attention to this, even some of those sympathetic to China. Although this issue did not register as much among the American public respondents, it did register high among all five U.S. elites as a serious irritant in the relationship.

The American discussants offered several possible explanations for why alleged Chinese cyberattacks and cybertheft of intellectual property rank so high among elites’ concerns. One participant observed that although there has always been intellectual property theft, cybertheft from China is now supposedly taking place on an unprecedented scale. Another discussant pointed to the sense of vulnerability that cyberattacks induce (regardless of the source of such attacks), as they present a new type of threat that elites may not feel prepared to confront.

In addition, one participant noted that the threat of cyberattacks is immediate rather than latent, which elevates its importance for many elites. Furthermore, many elites have themselves been targeted by what they view as supposed cyberattacks from Chinese sources in a way that the general public has not, so it can become more of a personal issue for them. Finally, elites argue, rightly or wrongly, that American industrial superiority is not always guaranteed and that intellectual property theft is one way China could supposedly gain a competitive advantage over the United States.

Chinese Concerns About U.S. Capabilities in Cyberspace and the Need for Rules

A Chinese elite chimed in during the discussion on cybersecurity issues to argue that China too has its own concerns related to these matters. Not only is China also victimized by cybercrimes, but many Chinese also fear that U.S. computer companies insert malicious technologies into their hardware and software. In the event of a U.S.-China conflict, Chinese fear those technologies could be activated and could wreak havoc on Chinese infrastructure. China also feels that the United States is generally far more advanced in computer and Internet technology. This Chinese elite argued that this sense of mutual victimization and vulnerability suggests the need for the two sides to sit down together and work through rules and mutual agreements on issues of cybersecurity.

Taiwan Issue for Chinese Comparable to Cybersecurity Issue for Americans

Chinese and American discussants thought that, in some ways, the cybersecurity issue is to Americans what the Taiwan issue is to the Chinese. American elites take the matter of cybersecurity very seriously but tend to discount the importance of Taiwan arms sales. Meanwhile, Chinese elites express major concern over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan but are less sensitive to U.S. complaints over cyberattacks. Each side feels that the other has cheated on these two issues. Thus, one Chinese elite suggested that if the two sides can make progress on both these matters, the relationship could be greatly improved.

Economic Issues

Partisan Difference in U.S. Concern Over Economic Issues Vis-à-Vis China

Among U.S. respondents, the top three issues for the general public—debt, jobs, and trade—were economic. Republicans were particularly concerned about these issues. One Chinese elite observed that he would have expected Democrats to be more concerned about these economic issues given their traditional skepticism toward free trade and outsourcing. American discussants responded by speculating that the timing of the survey was probably important in shaping the results. In particular, this survey was conducted in the midst of a presidential campaign wherein these issues were frequently raised, especially in the Republican primary, which may explain the partisan difference.

Economics Seen as Source of Both Conflict and Cooperation

In the open-ended questions asked of elites, economic matters were mentioned most frequently as a source of both potential conflict and potential cooperation. One American participant pointed to former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s statement that economics is the backbone of the U.S.-China relationship. However, if the business community were to sour on China, that could pose a serious challenge going forward. (This is one reason why this survey should be repeated in the future, so such attitudes can be tracked longitudinally.)

Another U.S. discussant provided examples of how the economic relationship between the United States and China exhibits a certain duality and how it has cooled in recent years. For instance, there were expectations five to six years ago that clean energy would be a major area of cooperation between the United States and China (and there still are such expectations to some extent). But in reality, clean energy has become an area of significant tension and conflict, with antidumping battles and competitive tensions over issues such as photovoltaics and wind towers.

In another example, although there was effective U.S.-Chinese cooperation through the Group of 20 in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis, that collaboration waned significantly. And even though the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which aims to create a unified free-trade area across the Pacific, was originally not targeted at China and is still by and large not about containing China (though China is not a negotiating party), there is now a competing process—the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which is based on a framework that includes countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus China, Japan, and South Korea but excludes the United States.

Policy Implications and Suggestions3

While the survey data could be interpreted in many ways, what follows are some possible implications for decisionmakers and leaders in each country.

  • Take Advantage of the Political Room for Cooperation: Among elites and the general public in both countries, there is strong majority support for strengthening U.S.-China relations. There are also relatively small proportions of the public on both sides that see the other country as an enemy. This should encourage policymakers to enhance bilateral cooperation.
  • Move Away From Military Solutions: Arms buildups and military-oriented solutions to foreign policy challenges and bilateral conflicts were not strongly favored in either country, suggesting support among both publics and elites for decisionmakers to pursue policies designed to reduce such activities.
  • Top Leaders Need to Set the Example: Elites in particular emphasize the need to strengthen bilateral relations. However, there are a range of specific issues that could derail positive relations if they are not given effective policy attention (most importantly, military competition, cybersecurity and intellectual property concerns, and the Taiwan issue, among other topics). Sustained top-level leadership, including at the presidential level, is needed to guide and strengthen public opinion in support of a positive U.S.-China relationship. This will help give the relationship a stronger foundation that can withstand crises or tensions on certain issues.
  • Emphasize Cooperative Elements: The surveys clearly confirm the existence of both highly competitive and highly cooperative elements in the bilateral relationship. Some specific issues, especially in the economic realm, also contain both competitive and cooperative dynamics, likely reflecting mixed sentiments among elites and publics in both countries. This confirms the need for policymakers in the United States and China to better understand how and why specific policy issues generate competitive or cooperative behavior (or both) and to develop more effective policies designed to minimize competition and maximize cooperation. This is especially important given the possibility that the U.S.-China relationship could be entering a period of growing tension over a wide range of issues, from cybersecurity to maritime territorial disputes in East Asia.
  • Build Mutual Trust Through Cooperation, Exchange, and Dialogue: There are relatively low levels of trust between the United States and China, even though the relationship is generally seen as positive and both countries’ publics and elites alike favor strong ties. This could be problematic, as it suggests that there is only a thin buffer to protect the relationship when crises or acute tensions arise. To some extent, it may be that some of the most important ways to build trust are through implementing specific measures of policy cooperation and keeping bilateral commitments. However, these policy measures can encounter difficulties when trust is lacking (for example, the Chinese are very suspicious of the U.S. rebalance in part because they do not trust U.S. assurances that it is not about containing China). Thus, in order to build trust as a basis for cooperation, the two sides should work to deepen official and unofficial exchanges—especially in areas relating to security issues, such as military-to-military contacts—and engage in a more meaningful, deeper dialogue about long-term strategy and interests.
  • Explain Policy Intentions: Many Chinese elites express concern that the United States is seeking to contain China. Likewise, on the part of U.S. elites, there is concern over the uncertainty of China’s long-term intentions. Both sides need to do more to explain their intentions, particularly regarding the U.S. rebalance and China’s military growth.
  • Reconcile Divergent Views of Global Order: In particular, there is a clear divergence between American and Chinese elites on what distribution of power will best serve the interests of both sides and ensure global peace and stability. U.S. elites tend to favor a continuation of dominant or sole U.S. leadership in the world, whereas Chinese elites favor a more multipolar system. This difference could present a serious challenge to the relationship, especially in the Western Pacific, where Beijing is increasing its economic and military capabilities at a significant rate. The two countries would benefit from a much more far-reaching and in-depth discussion of how they intend to coexist and accommodate each other’s interests in the medium to long term in this vital region.
  • Rethink the Taiwan Issue: Elites and the public in the United States tend to underestimate the importance that the Chinese attach to the Taiwan issue (both American groups rank arms sales to Taiwan as a low priority while the Chinese attach strong importance to opposing these arms sales). At the same time, the Chinese do not sufficiently recognize the balance present in U.S. policy when they focus so heavily on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and apparently undervalue U.S. support for the One-China policy. This leads them to allow the issue to damage the overall U.S.-China relationship and military-to-military relations in particular. Both sides should rethink their understanding of this issue to enhance mutual trust.
  • Do Not Treat the Taiwan Issue as an Insurmountable Obstacle: At the same time, the data suggest that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan need not be an automatic and insurmountable impediment to the relationship. On one hand, U.S. elites and the public do not strongly prioritize this issue. On the other, while the Chinese do emphasize the need to oppose U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, they place an even higher priority on building strong relations with America. These data suggest that there may be room for the two sides to work together to reach an understanding on the Taiwan issue—or at least that it does not have to derail the broader relationship.
  • Establish Bilateral Rules on Cybersecurity: Elite opinion in the United States suggests that supposed Chinese intellectual property theft and cyberattacks are seen as the greatest sources of conflict and tension in the bilateral relationship at present. These views are particularly acute among business elites, who have historically been a stabilizing constituency in the U.S.-China relationship. Thus, these issues urgently need to be addressed by the two governments, with mutual rules and procedures to ensure better protections for commercial interests on both sides.
  • Media Should Emphasize the Positive: Representatives from the media in each country do not necessarily espouse more negative views toward the other country than other elite groups or the public. In fact, in some cases, their attitudes are more positive. This suggests that there may be room for them to do more positive reporting on the U.S.-China relationship, particularly since elites who might provide commentary and expert opinion tend to favor stronger bilateral relations. The media should reach out to experts who will provide positive commentary, not only those who are inflammatory. Likewise, governmental, business, and scholarly elites should reach out to the media to help guide the conversation in a positive direction.
  • Keep Social Media Opinion in Perspective: The Internet and social media tend to amplify and reward extremist viewpoints. Much of the data in this survey reveal a general public in both countries that is less extreme, less hawkish, and less adversarial than the tone of social media (or the media in general) might suggest. Chinese and American policymakers should keep this in mind and not let extremist views expressed online or in the broader media hijack the relationship or force their hand on policy decisions.
  • Engage in Cultural Exchanges: There is an appreciation in both countries of various positive characteristics associated with the other country’s people. This suggests that there may be room for more cultural exchange and that people on both sides may be open to learning from each other’s culture.


1  For the report on U.S. survey results, see “U.S. Public, Experts Di¬ffer on China Policies,” Pew Research Center, September 18, 2012, www.pewglobal.org/2012/09/18/u-s-public-experts-differ-on-china-policies. For the report on Chinese survey results, see “Report on 2012 China-U.S. Security Perceptions Project,” Research Center for Contemporary China, December 2012, available at www.for-peace.org.cn.

2  These workshops took place in early 2013, prior to the revelations by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about the agency’s cyberespionage activities. As those activities have come to light, many Chinese have expressed their feeling that the revelations blunted the force of U.S. complaints about China in this area.

3  The Pew Research Center does not take policy positions and was not involved in developing any of the policy recommendations contained in this report.

Balancing Without Containment: An American Strategy for Managing China

Ashley J. Tellis

January 22, 2014

Источник: http://carnegieendowment.org/2014/01/22/balancing-without-containment-american-strategy-for-managing-china/i0lq

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China is poised to become a major strategic rival to the United States. Whether or not Beijing intends to challenge Washington’s primacy, its economic boom and growing national ambitions make competition inevitable. And as China rises, American power will diminish in relative terms, threatening the foundations of the U.S.-backed global order that has engendered unprecedented prosperity worldwide. To avoid this costly outcome, Washington needs a novel strategy to balance China without containing it.

Key Themes

  • The loss of American primacy to China would pose unacceptable risks to the security and interests of the United States and its allies.
  • China’s power—unlike that of previous U.S. competitors—stems from Beijing’s deep integration in the U.S.-led global economy.
  • The containment strategy that the United States used to great effect during the Cold War cannot succeed today. Cutting off ties with Beijing and urging China’s neighbors to do the same is politically, economically, and practically unthinkable.
  • Washington should balance Beijing’s growing capabilities by pursuing policies that simultaneously increase China’s stake in the existing global system and raise the costs of abusing its power.

Recommendations for U.S. Policymakers

Bolster Regional Actors. By increasing the national power of China’s neighbors, the United States can constrain Beijing’s behavior and limit its capacity for aggressiveness. This investment is in Washington’s best interest irrespective of whether it is repaid in kind because it will diminish China’s ability to misuse its growing strength and increase American geopolitical maneuverability in the Indo-Pacific. But the United States must be wary of Chinese tactics to subvert these efforts.

Selectively Deepen Globalization. The United States should make trade liberalization a top priority. Since comprehensive global liberalization remains a distant goal, Washington should work to quickly conclude key regional trade pacts, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which promise increased relative gains to the United States and its allies vis-à-vis China.

Bolster U.S. Military Capabilities. To preserve its military superiority in the face of growing Chinese power, Washington should invest in improving U.S. power projection capabilities that will allow it to defeat challenges posed by China’s new strategic denial systems and regain U.S. freedom of action in the Indo-Pacific.

Reinvigorate the U.S. Economy. Revitalizing the domestic economy is imperative to sustaining American hegemony. To maintain its global economic dominance, the United States must emphasize labor force renewal, promote disruptive technological innovations, increase efficiency in production, and resolve the political squabbles that prevent Washington from fixing the country’s public finances.

Beyond American Predominance in the Western Pacific: The Need for a Stable U.S.-China Balance of Power

Michael D. Swaine

April 20, 2015

Источник: http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/04/20/beyond-american-predominance-in-western-pacific-need-for-stable-u.s.-china-balance-of-power/ijn1

Policymakers in the United States, China, and other Asian powers must choose whether to deal forthrightly and sensibly with the changing regional power distribution or avoid the hard decisions that China’s rise poses until the situation grows ever more polarized and dangerous.

A shorter version of this essay entitled “The Real Challenge in the Pacific: A Response to ‘How to Deter China’” appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of Foreign Affairs.

In 2011, I argued in a book entitled America’s Challenge: Engaging a Rising China in the Twenty-First Century, that, while Washington and Beijing are by no means fated to enter into a hot or even a cold war, the competing assumptions they hold regarding the necessary conditions for long-term stability and prosperity in Asia, if not moderated through a process of mutual accommodation, would likely result in steady movement toward a zero-sum, adversarial mind-set. I wrote that this dynamic could eventually polarize the region and undermine the goals of continued peace and prosperity toward which all sides strive. Unfortunately, in the past three years, this type of mind-set has deepened, in and out of both governments and across much of Asia. Indeed, the international media, along with a coterie of regional and international relations specialists, increasingly seem to interpret every action taken by one government, no matter how small, as being by necessity designed to diminish the position of the other.

Even more worrisome, this deepening mind-set is driving policy statements and recommendations in Beijing and Washington that serve to reinforce and strengthen, rather than moderate, the differences between the two sides. While China’s leader, Xi Jinping, speaks of the need to develop an “Asia for Asians” and to create a new regional security architecture as an alternative to the “Cold War era” U.S.-led bilateral alliance structure, American policymakers and analysts criticize Beijing for establishing an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea of the sort long possessed by Washington and Tokyo and encourage other Asian states to resist joining Chinese-initiated economic institutions, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Clashing Assumptions on the Foundations of the Asian Order

The core assumptions underlying this negative dynamic juxtapose, on the one side, the post–World War II American notion that long-term order and prosperity depend on the unique leadership role and dominant military power of the United States as a security guarantor, dispute arbiter, deterrent force, supporter of international law, and provider of public goods for states located in critical regions of the world, including the maritime Asia-Pacific. Indeed, for virtually all U.S. officials and many Asian leaders, American military predominance, meaning the clear ability to defeat any potential military challenge to U.S. and allied interests anywhere along the Asian littoral and across the Western Pacific, from the continental United States to the Indian Ocean, has provided the foundation for a seventy-year-long period of relative peace and economic growth throughout most of the region. In this view, U.S. maritime primacy has forestalled arms races and armed disputes over long-standing rivalries and permitted a sustained focus on peaceful economic development.

On the other side, the Chinese espouse the belief that order and prosperity, especially in an increasingly multipolar and interdependent world, should rely on a largely benign and roughly equal balance of power between the major nations, rooted in the need to cooperate to manage an arguably increasing number of common challenges and mediated, whenever possible, through international institutions such as the United Nations. In this more broadly dispersed yet hierarchical power structure, stronger powers have a duty both to guide and shape smaller powers in mutually beneficial directions, not to dominate and manipulate them. In this world, no single power should have the ability or the intention to keep other powers in a condition of military or political subservience, and no power should seriously infringe on the sovereignty of another power without the endorsement of the international community.

To some extent, these U.S. and Chinese views are self-serving. While taking on many burdens across the globe in defending public goods such as sea lines of communication and enduring persistent trade deficits in order to stimulate global development, Washington nonetheless benefits enormously from a U.S.-led international order in which its views and preferences are given special consideration. Its military power and economic clout ensure a privileged position in major finance, trade, and security-oriented regimes, meaning that the makeup, purpose, and rules of those regimes largely reflect its power and interests, operate in ways that affirm U.S. views on the most critical issues, and cannot be changed in major ways without Washington’s approval. Conversely, the Chinese seem to believe that a genuine balance-of-power system and a strengthened process of rules-based, international decisionmaking—meaning that no single power has the clear unilateral ability to compel others to accept its rules and procedures—will benefit China by giving it a greater voice among nations and serving to restrain a supposedly arrogant, unilateralist, and at times threatening the United States.

Aside from such obvious self-interest, however, policy communities in both nations genuinely believe that their preferred international distribution of power best reflects the current and future reality of the international system: For most Americans, despite the forces of globalization, which are creating ever more dispersed and interdependent levels of economic, political, social, and military power among nations, peace and stability only results from the unique ability of a single, relatively benign superpower to shape, lead, and deter major threats to global peace and prosperity. For the Chinese, all major industrialized powers seek to control the international order in ways that can and at times do weaken or threaten lesser (and especially developing) powers and to varying degrees diminish the overall stability and prosperity of the system. However, in light of the steady diffusion of power occurring across the international system, many Chinese also believe that even the most powerful states will need to overcome their drive for dominance and cooperate in unprecedented ways.

Despite such stark differences, these views coexisted more or less peacefully for many decades after World War II, primarily because Beijing had neither the capacity nor the desire to alter the U.S.-dominated order, both globally and in maritime Asia. From the 1950s through the late 1970s, China was wracked by economically and socially destructive Maoist ideological campaigns and internecine political struggles, and it was threatened by the Soviet Union, its huge, better-armed continental neighbor to the north. Such problems not only distracted China’s leaders for decades but also eventually compelled them to embark on an unprecedented overture to the West, both to counter the Soviet Union and to facilitate the kind of market-driven economic development strategy that was needed to reestablish China as a major regional and possibly global power. In fact, under such conditions, many Chinese viewed American predominance in maritime Asia and the U.S.-led alliance system that sustained it as on balance beneficial to China. It kept the Soviets largely out of the region, kept Japan nonmilitarized and oriented toward peace, and allowed Beijing’s Asian neighbors to concentrate on outward-oriented, beneficial economic growth instead of disruptive arms races or historical rivalries. Washington was only too happy to oblige Beijing in sustaining such an order.

All this is now changing, at least in Asia. China’s overseas trade- and investment-driven economic success, the collapse of the Soviet Union and other Communist regimes, and the fear—intensified by the massive Tiananmen demonstrations and bloody crackdown of 1989 as well as the more recent color revolutions—that the Chinese regime could be the next to fall, have vastly increased China’s dependence on and influence over external economic, political, and social forces across Asia and beyond, while deepening its sense of vulnerability and suspicion toward the United States. Prior to the reform era, China’s wealth and power derived largely from domestic sources, many located far from its coastline, and its security relied, by necessity, on a largely peasant-based but massive army and only rudimentary air and naval forces. These factors, along with its acquisition of a small nuclear weapons arsenal in the 1960s, made it possible for Beijing to rely on a security strategy of nuclear deterrence through a modest second-strike capability and attrition through a protracted conventional defense centered on “luring the enemy in deep.”1

This strategy can no longer provide adequate security for China. Beijing must now defend against threats before they can reach the Chinese homeland and vital coastal economic centers. For the first time in its history, Beijing now has both the ability and the motivation to seek to diminish significantly if not eliminate the potential threat to its domestic and growing regional economic interests posed by America’s long-standing predominance in the Western Pacific. Indeed, its ongoing acquisition of military capabilities designed in large part to counter or complicate U.S. and allied air, naval, missile, space, and cyber operations along its maritime periphery, as well as its increasing economic and political-diplomatic initiatives across the Asian littoral and its call for a new, post–Cold War cooperative security architecture for the Asia-Pacific, partly serve such ends. Moreover, the desire to reduce America’s past maritime superiority and economic power has become more achievable and hence more compelling to many Chinese as a result not only of China’s continued economic success but also of the troubles now plaguing America and the West, from anemic economic growth and domestic political dysfunction to image concerns resulting from arguably unjust Middle East wars and apparent egregious human rights abuses.

This should not be surprising to anyone who understands modern Chinese history and great power transitions. Beijing has an ongoing and likely long-term and deep incentive to work with the United States and the West to sustain continued, mutually beneficial economic growth and to address a growing array of common global and regional concerns, from pandemics to climate change and terrorism. At the same time, it understandably wishes to reduce its vulnerability to potential future threats from the United States and other politically and militarily strong nations, while increasing its overall influence along its strategically important maritime periphery. As Beijing’s overseas power and influence grow, its foreign interests expand, and its domestic nationalist backers become more assertive, it will naturally become less willing to accept or acquiesce in international political and economic relationships, norms, and power structures that it believes disproportionately and unjustly favor Western powers; put China at a strategic, political, or economic disadvantage; or generally fail to reflect movement toward a more multipolar global and regional power structure. It will also likely become more fearful that a declining (in relative terms) Washington will regard an increasingly influential China as a threat to be countered through ever more forceful or deliberate measures. Indeed, this view is already widespread among many Chinese observers.

One does not need to cast Beijing as an evil or predatory entity to understand the forces driving such beliefs. They stem from national self-interest, historical insecurity (and nationalist pride), suspicion, fear, and uncertainty. To some degree, they also stem from a level of opportunism, driven in part by fear, but also in part by the understandable desire to take advantage of China’s growing regional and global influence and America’s apparent relative decline in order to strengthen Chinese leverage in possible future disputes.

At the same time, heightened Chinese nationalism, arising from a combination of impressive economic success and a much greater public awareness, through social media and other means, of China’s external policies and influence, has greatly accentuated a self-righteous assertiveness in Chinese foreign and defense policy. Many Chinese observers now believe that Beijing’s past weakness and its need to cooperate with the United States and the West in general had made it too accommodating or passive in dealing with many perceived challenges to China’s vital national interests, from U.S. support for Taiwan and Asian disputants over maritime claims, to close-in U.S. surveillance and intelligence-gathering activities along the Chinese coast. For these analysts, China’s growing capabilities and influence, along with its expanding interests, make it both possible and necessary for Beijing to defend such interests in a more deliberate and in some cases a more forceful manner. Moreover, the intensity of emotion and resolve that usually accompanies such views is often associated with deep resentment of the allegedly sanctimonious arrogance of a hegemonic America.

The more extreme variants of this ultranationalist viewpoint threaten to transform China’s long-standing peaceful development policy, keyed to the maintenance of amicable relations with the United States and other powers, into a much more hard-edged approach that is deliberately and perhaps openly calibrated to undermine U.S. influence in Asia. In fact, there have been indications of some possible first steps in this direction, reflected in the so-called bottom-line concept of Xi Jinping’s foreign policy, which stresses the need for China to stand resolute in managing territorial and sovereignty issues, such as the disputes with Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and with Vietnam, the Philippines, and others over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Despite a continued stress on the search for “win-win” outcomes with all powers, such trends could eventually weaken existing Chinese support for a cooperative and peace-oriented foreign policy and for movement toward a genuine balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region, favoring instead a more Sino-centric Asian order.

On the U.S. side, for an arguably growing number of American and some foreign observers, Beijing’s de facto challenge to American predominance in the Western Pacific is a mere prelude to a larger effort to eject the United States from Asia and eventually replace it as the regional (and for some, global) superpower. Chinese support for a multipolar, balance-of-power system is thus seen as a mere tactical feint designed to undermine U.S. power while Beijing prepares to become the new hegemon. Indeed, for such observers, Beijing’s greater assertiveness regarding maritime territorial disputes as well as U.S. and Japanese intelligence and surveillance activities along its coastline constitute strategic gambits designed to “test” U.S. and allied resolve and ultimately to create “no-go” zones essential for the establishment of Chinese control over the Western Pacific. Such an outcome would directly threaten both U.S. and allied interests in an open, secure, and peaceful Asia-Pacific region. Given this supposedly unambiguous threat, for these observers, the only logical course of action for the United States is to decisively disabuse Beijing of its aspirations by enhancing American predominance and thereby increasing, rather than reducing, Chinese vulnerability in the Western Pacific.

This view is held not only by scholars and policy analysts outside Washington. It is also fairly common among U.S. government officials, both civilian and military. It offers a black-and-white, Manichean-type solution to a supposedly clear-cut threat, and one that is extremely appealing to those many U.S. policymakers and analysts convinced of the huge merits (and necessity) of continued American predominance in maritime Asia. In fact, even for those who reject the notion that Beijing is working to dislodge the United States from the region, predominance remains the best insurance against an uncertain future, for the reasons outlined above. While the type of U.S. predominance in Asia espoused by most U.S. observers can vary somewhat, depending in part on how one views China’s capabilities and intentions, the bottom line for virtually all such individuals is the need for a clear U.S. ability to prevail in any important military-political contingency involving China. Moreover, this view is reinforced, in their minds, by the notion that America’s allies and friends also supposedly desire and require continued U.S. maritime predominance.

The problem with this outlook is that it is based on an inaccurate, increasingly unrealistic, and dangerous assessment of both the threat the United States confronts in Asia and the likely consequences of the remedy proposed. Beijing’s de facto attempts to limit or end U.S. predominance along its maritime periphery are motivated almost entirely by uncertainties, fears, insecurities, and a certain level of opportunism, not a grand strategic vision of Chinese predominance, despite the arguably growing expression of ultranationalist views within China. Those who view China as an aspiring hegemon seeking America’s subordination and ultimate ejection from Asia almost without exception base their argument on shaky theoretical postulates and faulty historical analogies or on the decidedly non-authoritative views of a few Chinese analysts, not current, hard evidence regarding either Chinese strategies and doctrines or Chinese behavior, past and present.

Such observers argue that all rising powers seek hard-power dominance in an anarchic interstate system and that China is a power that always sought to dominate its world. However, such absolutist beliefs run counter to the very mixed record of power grabbing and power balancing, aggression and restraint, deterrence and reassurance that has characterized great power relations historically. They also ignore the fact that, in the premodern era, Chinese predominance within its part of Asia most often consisted of pragmatic and mutually beneficial exchanges of ritualistic deference for material gains, not Chinese hard-power control. While implying a preference for symbolically hierarchical relationships with smaller neighbors, China’s premodern approach did not amount to a demand for clear-cut dominance and subordination. Moreover, the advent of modern, independent, and in most cases strong nation-states along China’s borders; the forces of economic globalization; and the existence of nuclear weapons have enormously reduced, if not eliminated, both the willingness and the ability of Chinese leaders today to dominate Asia and carve out an exclusionary sphere of influence, especially in hard-power terms. By necessity, their objective is to reduce their considerable vulnerability and increase their political, diplomatic, and economic leverage in their own backyard to a level where Chinese interests must be reflected in those major political, economic, and security actions undertaken by neighboring states. This is a much less ambitious and in many ways understandable goal for a continental great power. And it does not necessarily threaten vital U.S. or allied interests.

The Unsustainability of American Predominance and the Chinese Response

While continued American predominance cannot, at present, be justified on the basis of a Chinese drive for predominance, what of the widespread argument in U.S. policy circles that such predominance is necessary regardless of Chinese intentions, as the best possible means of ensuring regional (and global) order? While deeply rooted in both American exceptionalism and beliefs about the benefits of hegemonic power in the international order, the notion that unequivocal U.S. predominance in the Western Pacific constitutes the only basis for long-term stability and prosperity across the Asia-Pacific is a dangerous, increasingly obsolete concept, for several reasons.

First, it is inconceivable that Beijing would accept the unambiguously superior level of American predominance that the many proponents of this course of action believe is required to ensure long-term regional stability in the face of a rising China, involving total U.S. “freedom of action” and a clear “ability to prevail” militarily without excessive costs in any conceivable contingency occurring up to China’s mainland borders. The United States would never tolerate such predominance by any power along its borders, and why should an increasingly strong China? Given China’s expanding interests and capabilities, any effort to sustain an unambiguous, absolute level of American military superiority along Beijing’s maritime periphery will virtually guarantee an increasingly destabilizing and economically draining arms race, much greater levels of regional polarization and friction than at present, and reduced incentives on the part of both Washington and Beijing to work together to address a growing array of common global challenges.

U.S. efforts to sustain and enhance its military superiority in China’s backyard will further stoke Beijing’s worst fears and beliefs about American containment, sentiments inevitably reinforced by domestic nationalist pressures, ideologically informed beliefs about supposed U.S. imperialist motives, and China’s general commitment to the enhancement of a multipolar order. In fact, by locking in a clear level of long-term vulnerability and weakness for Beijing that prevents any assured defense of Chinese territory or any effective wielding of influence over regional-security-related issues (such as maritime territorial disputes, Taiwan, or the fate of the Korean Peninsula), absolute U.S. military superiority would virtually guarantee fierce and sustained domestic criticism of any Chinese leadership that accepted it. This will be especially true if, as expected, Chinese economic power continues to grow, bolstering Chinese self-confidence. Under such conditions, effectively resisting a U.S. effort to sustain predominance along China’s maritime periphery would become a matter of political survival for future Chinese leaders.

Second, and equally important, it is far from clear that American military predominance in the Asia-Pacific region can be sustained on a consistent basis, just as it is virtually impossible that China could establish its own predominance in the region. Two Carnegie reports on the long-term security environment in Asia, China’s Military and the U.S.-Japan Alliance in 2030 and Conflict and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region,2 concluded that, while the United States will remain the strongest military power on a global level indefinitely, Washington will almost certainly confront increasingly severe, economically induced defense spending limitations that will constrain efforts to decisively keep well ahead of a growing Chinese military and paramilitary presence within approximately 1,500 nautical miles of the Chinese coastline, that is, the area covered by the so-called first and second island chains. This will occur despite Washington’s repeated assertion that the rebalance to Asia will sustain America’s predominant position in the region. Moreover, such largely economic constraints will almost certainly be magnified by the persistence of tensions and conflicts in other parts of the world, such as the Middle East and Central Europe. These events are likely to complicate any U.S. effort to shift forces (and resources) to the Asia-Pacific.

Of course, a continuing U.S. capacity to shift military assets from other parts of the globe to Asia in a crisis or conflict could conceivably correct America’s relative military decline in the Western Pacific. But such a surge-based “solution” would require considerable time to implement, while any future threatening Chinese military action, for example, with regard to Taiwan or maritime disputes near its border, would almost certainly involve a very rapid strike aimed at establishing a fait accompli that could prove extremely difficult and costly to undo. Equally important, a growing day-to-day Chinese capability and presence along the Asian littoral and a perceived relative U.S. military decline in daily presence would inevitably affect the security calculations of other Asian states, especially American allies and friends, regardless of the overall ramp-up capacity of the U.S. military in any confrontation. In the current, increasingly competitive U.S.-China relationship, a clear relative shift in day-to-day regional power toward China would likely cause such states to hedge more deliberately against a U.S. failure to prevail in a crisis or conflict by developing stronger, more independent, and potentially destabilizing military capabilities and/or by accommodating Chinese interests, possibly at the expense of the United States, for example, by spurning past or future security arrangements with Washington.

The limits on U.S. maritime predominance do not mean that China will eventually grow into the position of Asia’s next military hegemon, however. The above-mentioned Carnegie reports also concluded that American military power in Asia will remain very strong under all but the most unlikely, worst-case scenarios involving a U.S. withdrawal from the region. While China’s regional military capabilities will continue to grow significantly in key areas such as submarines and surface warships, ballistic and cruise missiles, offensive aircraft, air defense, and joint warfare, they will not provide an unambiguous level of superiority over U.S. forces in the Western Pacific, and certainly not in any other region. Therefore, any eventual Chinese attempt to establish predominance in Asia would almost inevitably fail, and not only because of U.S. capabilities and resolve, but also because such an effort would drive regional states much closer to the United States. The result would be either a cold or a hot war in Asia, with intensifying polarization, arms races, and an increased likelihood of crises and conflicts.

The Chinese leaders understand this and hence might only seek some form of predominance (as opposed to acting opportunistically and in a more limited manner) if American words and actions were to convince them that even the minimal level of security they seek were to require it. Such a belief could emerge if Washington insists on maintaining its own historical level of military superiority in Asia by attempting to neutralize entirely Chinese military capabilities right up to China’s 12-nautical-mile territorial waters and airspace or to develop a force capable of blockading China from a distance. Variants of operational concepts currently under consideration in U.S. policy circles, such as Air-Sea Battle or Offshore Control (the former designed to defeat Beijing through preemptive, precision strikes deep into Chinese territory, and the latter to throttle China via a blockade along the first island chain bordering the eastern and southern Chinese mainland), contain such features. Indeed, any effort to sustain U.S. predominance in the face of a growing relative decline in U.S. capabilities alongside steady increases in Chinese power and influence will almost certainly intensify the U.S.-China security competition, deepen tensions between the two powers, and greatly unsettle U.S. allies and friends.

Fortunately, this zero-sum dynamic has yet to emerge, but growing suspicions and beliefs in both capitals—founded on the above clashing assumptions held by each side regarding the necessary conditions for long-term order and prosperity in Asia—are certainly moving events in this direction.

Of course, a fundamental shift in the Asian power balance and its likely consequences will become moot if China’s economy collapses or declines to such a level that it is unable to meaningfully challenge American maritime predominance. Indeed, for some analysts of the Asian security scene, such a possibility is real enough to justify a rejection of any consideration of alternatives to such predominance. But the above-mentioned reports, China’s Military and the U.S.-Japan Alliance in 2030 and Conflict and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region, found that such an adverse outcome for China is highly unlikely in any foreseeable time frame. Equally important, a major delay in adjusting to current and likely future realities due to a misplaced belief in China’s ultimate decline will make it far more difficult to undertake adjustments years hence, given both the long lead time required to implement them and the likelihood that mutual suspicions will have by then deepened to the point where neither side is willing to make the required accommodations.

The Need to Transition to a Stable Balance of Power

Thus, for both the United States and China, the primary future strategic challenge is to develop a mutually beneficial means of transitioning away from U.S. maritime predominance toward a stable, genuine balance of power in the Western Pacific in which neither nation has the clear capacity to prevail in an armed conflict. This will be difficult to achieve and potentially dangerous, but nonetheless necessary, given the existing and future trends shaping the region.

In general, true balance-of-power environments can at least potentially increase both risk taking and miscalculation, especially if one or both sides conclude that they must confirm or consolidate a perceived increase—or compensate for a perceived decline—in leverage by acting more aggressively to test the resolve of the other side, advance specific interests, or manage a serious political-military crisis. Avoiding or effectively controlling such situations will require not only a variety of crisis management mechanisms and confidence-building mechanisms (CBMs) beyond what have been developed thus far in Asia, but also high levels of mutual strategic reassurance and restraint, involving substantive and verifiable limits on each side’s freedom of action or ability to prevail militarily along China’s sensitive maritime periphery, as well as the maintenance of deterrent and shaping capabilities in those areas that count most.

Many knowledgeable observers have offered a variety of recommendations designed to reduce mistrust and enhance cooperation between Washington and Beijing, involving everything from caps on U.S. and Chinese defense spending to mutual, limited concessions or understandings regarding Taiwan and maritime disputes, and clearer, more calibrated bottom-line statements on alliance commitments and core interests.3 While many of these initiatives make eminent sense, they generally fail to address both the underlying problem of clashing assumptions and beliefs about the requirements for continued order and prosperity in Asia and the basic threat perceptions generated by inaccurate historical analogies about China’s past and domestic nationalist views and pressures. Moreover, almost no observers offer recommendations designed to significantly alter the power structure in volatile areas along China’s maritime periphery, such as on the Korean Peninsula and in and around Taiwan, in ways that could significantly defuse those areas as sources of conflict over the long term.

In order to minimize the potential instabilities inherent in a roughly equal balance-of-power environment, specific actions must be taken to reduce the volatility of the most likely sources of future U.S.-China crises and the propensity to test each side’s resolve, and to enhance the opportunities for meaningful cooperation over the long term. In particular, Washington and Beijing will need to reach reliable understandings regarding the future long-term status of the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, the management of maritime territorial disputes, and the scope and function of U.S. (and other foreign) military activities within the first island chain—or at the very least within both China’s and Japan’s exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Such understandings should almost certainly involve some credible form of neutralization of these areas as locations from which to project U.S. or Chinese power, or the creation of a stable U.S.-China balance of power within them, thereby creating a de facto buffer zone along China’s maritime periphery.

In the case of Korea, this implies the emergence of a unified, nonaligned (or loosely aligned) peninsula free from foreign military forces. This would require prior credible security assurances by both the United States and China that a unified Korea would remain free from coercion and always open to close economic and political relations with both countries. Such assurances might involve a continuation in some form of a greatly reduced security relationship with Washington, at least in the short to medium term. This process might also require Japan to provide security assurances to a unified Korea, at least to the extent of agreeing to not acquire nuclear weapons or some types of conventional weapons that Korea might find threatening, such as precision ballistic and cruise missile strike capabilities. Of course, none of this could happen as long as the Korean Peninsula remains divided, with South Korea under threat of attack from North Korea. Thus, ideally, the development of a stable balance of power in the Western Pacific will require Korean unification sooner rather than later. Failing that, a clear, credible understanding must be reached as soon as possible among the powers concerned regarding the eventual disposition of the Korea problem.

In the case of Taiwan, any credible neutralization of the cross-strait issue as a threat to either side’s interests would require, as a first step, a U.S.-China understanding regarding restrictions on U.S. arms sales in return for certain types of verifiable limits on Chinese military production and deployments relevant to the island, such as ballistic missiles and strike aircraft. Beijing would also likely need to provide credible assurances that it would not use force against Taiwan in any conceivable contingency short of an outright Taiwanese declaration of de jure independence or the U.S. placement of forces on the island. In the past, Beijing has resisted providing assurances regarding any non-use of force toward the island, viewing such an assurance as a limit on Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. However, as in the case of Korea, Beijing would likely view such a conditional limitation on its right to employ force as acceptable if viewed as a requirement for the creation of an overall stable balance of power in the Western Pacific; Chinese leaders might also regard it as a step toward the eventual unification of the island with the mainland. In addition, Beijing would also likely need to accept: a) explicitly that such unification could only occur on the basis of a peaceful process involving the willing consent of the people of Taiwan, and b) tacitly that eventual unification would likely not occur, if at all, for many decades. For its part, the United States would likely need to provide assurances to China that it would neither place forces on the island nor provide any new level of defense assistance to Taipei, as long as Beijing abides by its own assurances. And both countries would need to consult closely with Taiwan and Japan at each step of this process and provide clear and credible assurances regarding the understanding reached between them.

Regarding territorial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea, the United States needs to make clear that it has little if any direct interest in the interactions occurring between the disputants, beyond clear security threats leveled against the two U.S. allies involved: Japan and the Philippines. While supporting, in an even-handed manner, a binding code of conduct and established legal procedures for resolving clashes and arbitrating claims, Washington should avoid staking its credibility on ensuring that a noncoercive process is followed in every instance. That said, it should also make clear that it will oppose, forcefully if necessary, any attempt to establish an exclusion zone or de facto territorial waters beyond accepted 12-nautical-mile limits. For its part, Beijing must clearly affirm, through its words and actions, that there is no military solution to these disputes and that it will never seek to dislodge rivals forcefully from occupied areas. It must also credibly and convincingly state, privately if not publicly, that those waters in the South China Sea located within its so-called nine-dashed line and outside the territorial waters and EEZs of specified land features constitute open ocean. Although doubtless difficult to achieve, such understandings will likely become more possible in the larger context of a neutralized first island chain as U.S.-China suspicions abate.

In the larger conventional military realm, U.S. military primacy within at least the first island chain will need to be replaced by a genuinely balanced force posture and accompanying military doctrine. This should likely be centered on what is termed a “mutual denial” operational concept in which both China and the United States along with its allies possess sufficient levels of anti-access and area denial (A2/AD)–type air, naval, missile, and space capabilities to make the risks and dangers of attempting to achieve a sustained advantage through military means over potentially volatile areas or zones clearly prohibitive. In such an environment, neither side would have the clear capacity to prevail in a conflict, but both sides would possess adequate defensive capacities to deter or severely complicate an attack, for example, on Taiwan, on the Chinese mainland, and against U.S./allied territory, or any effort to close or control key strategic lines of communication (SLOCs) in the Asia-Pacific. This will likely require agreed-upon restraints on the production and/or deployment of certain types of weapon systems operating in the Western Pacific, such as deep-strike stealth aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles, and deployed surface and subsurface warships.

On the nuclear level, a stable balance-of-power environment in the Western Pacific requires a clear set of mutual assurances designed to strengthen the deterrence capacity of each side’s nuclear arsenal and thereby reduce significantly the dangers of escalation from a conventional crisis or conflict into a nuclear confrontation. To attain this goal, American and allied defense analysts need to discard the dangerous notion that U.S. primacy must extend to the nuclear realm, via the establishment of a clear ability to neutralize China’s nuclear arsenal. Instead, Washington should authoritatively indicate that it accepts and will not threaten China’s retaliatory nuclear strike capability. In other words, it must unambiguously affirm the validity of a U.S.-China nuclear balance based on a concept of mutual deterrence, something it has never done. Moreover, to make this credible, Washington must abandon consideration of a long-range, precision global strike system, or any other new type of system capable of destroying China’s nuclear arsenal through both nuclear and conventional means, and provide greater assurances that its ballistic missile defense capabilities cannot eliminate a Chinese second strike. For its part, Beijing must be willing to accept such U.S. assurances and eschew any attempt to transition beyond its existing modest minimal deterrent, second-strike nuclear capability to a much larger force.

Obviously, these sorts of changes will present major implications for U.S. allies and friends in the region. Japan in particular would play a major role in any effort to create a stable U.S.-China balance of power in the Western Pacific. In order for Tokyo to provide Seoul with the kind of assurances identified above, and to accept the above adjustments in the U.S. force posture and stance toward Taiwan, certain clear understandings with Washington and Beijing would be necessary. In general, the creation of a de facto buffer zone or a neutral/balanced area within the first island chain would almost certainly require that Japan significantly strengthen its defense capabilities, either autonomously or, more preferably from the U.S. perspective, within the context of a more robust yet still limited U.S.-Japan security alliance. In the latter case, Tokyo would become a critical partner in the creation of the sort of defensive, mutual denial operational concept. This would entail the creation of a more fully integrated U.S.-Japan C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) infrastructure, stronger passive defenses against possible Chinese ballistic and cruise missile threats to U.S. and Japanese military assets, and enhanced Japanese logistics and support facilities, alongside improvements in specific defensive-oriented Japanese military capabilities, such as ASW (antisubmarine warfare) and interceptor aircraft. However, this would not require Japan to become a fully normalized security partner alongside the United States, undertaking alliance-based security activities across the Western Pacific and beyond.

For China, acceptance of a strengthened but still limited U.S.-Japan alliance, a unified, largely nonaligned Korean Peninsula, verifiable limits on Chinese capabilities vis-à-vis Taiwan, and the other elements of the stable balance-of-power structure mentioned above would require a clear willingness to forgo those more ambitious security objectives toward which some Chinese might aspire, either now or in the future. These include, most notably, the clear ability to establish control over the waters and airspace along China’s maritime periphery and a Sino-centric Asian economic and political order that largely excludes the United States. This will likely require, in turn, that Beijing make concerted, public efforts to reject and invalidate among the Chinese citizenry those more extreme interpretations of Chinese nationalism that call for China to dominate Asia and to employ aggressive or violent means to resolve various sovereignty and other disputes with its neighbors. Although not mainstream at present, such notions nonetheless could become more popular and influential as China’s power grows (and if Washington responds to such growth by seeking to sustain its past predominance), and would in turn represent a clear threat to regional stability. The benefits for China of these accommodations would be an enhanced level of security via a reduced U.S. threat to vital Chinese interests and the avoidance of a costly and likely increasingly dangerous security competition. These new circumstances would also allow China to concentrate even more than at present on establishing a stable and prosperous domestic environment.

Obstacles to Establishing a Stable Balance in Asia

Several obstacles stand in the way of Washington and Beijing undertaking such a substantial change in perceptions and practices, force deployments, and power relations in the Western Pacific.

On the U.S. side, first and foremost is the general refusal of most if not all U.S. decisionmakers and officials to contemplate an alternative to U.S. military predominance in this vital region. Such maritime predominance has arguably served Washington and most of the region well for many decades, and it accords with the deep-seated notion of American exceptionalism, which prescribes a dominant U.S. leadership role throughout the world. In addition, the short-term perspective, natural inertia, and risk avoidance of bureaucrats and policy communities in Washington (and elsewhere) militate against major shifts in policy and approach, especially in the absence of an urgent and palpable need for change. Indeed, it is extremely difficult for any major power, much less a superpower, to begin a fundamental strategic shift in anticipation of diminished relative capabilities before that diminishment fully reveals itself.

In the Western Pacific in particular, with regard to both U.S. ISR activities along the Chinese coast and the larger U.S. military presence within the first island chain, the United States Navy and many U.S. decisionmakers are wedded to the notion that American power (and in particular naval power) must brook no limitation in areas beyond a nation’s 12-nautical-mile territorial waters and airspace. This derives in part from the belief that any constraints on U.S. naval operations will lead to a cascade of coastal states challenging the principle of U.S. maritime freedom of action and to possible reductions in the level of resources and the scope of operations available to support U.S. naval power. Moreover, the specific U.S. desire to maintain a strong naval presence along China’s maritime periphery reflects a perceived need to acquire more accurate intelligence regarding Beijing’s growing offshore air and naval capabilities. Such a presence is also viewed as essential to sustaining U.S. credibility with Asian allies such as Japan and the Philippines, and to the maintenance of deterrent capabilities against a possible Chinese attack on Taiwan. This combination of service interests, intelligence needs, and perceived security requirements reinforces the general U.S. bias in favor of continued maritime predominance. However, an inevitable Chinese refusal to accept that predominance over the long term will be expressed first and foremost in opposition to the past level of U.S. naval activities along the Chinese coastline, that is, within China’s EEZ at the very least, and possibly within the entire first island chain.

Second, and closely related to the prior point, U.S. decisionmakers are extremely loath to contemplate significant adjustments in the current status of the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan. From the U.S. perspective, any movement toward a reduction in or even a significant modification of the U.S. security commitment to these two actors (a U.S military ally and a de facto U.S. protectorate, respectively) could result in either moving to acquire nuclear arms, and/or threats or attacks from North Korea or China. In addition, Japan might react to such movement by questioning Washington’s basic security commitment to Tokyo, which could result in a break in the U.S.-Japan alliance and/or Japanese acquisition of nuclear arms. These concerns are real, if no doubt exaggerated by some in Tokyo or Taipei in order to justify maintenance of the existing U.S. relationship, and in some cases to avoid undertaking costly defense improvements of their own.

On the Chinese side, perhaps the most significant obstacle to undertaking a transition toward a stable balance of power in Asia derives from the insecurities and weaknesses of the Chinese government, both domestically and abroad. China’s leaders rely, for their legitimacy and support, not only on continued economic success and rising living standards, but also on a form of nationalism that prizes the ability of the regime to correct past injustices meted out by “imperialist” powers during China’s so-called “century of humiliation” and to stand up to current slights, both real and imagined. Thus, their policies often capitalize on the resentments felt by many Chinese citizens toward the supposedly arrogant West and Japan.

This viewpoint makes the Chinese leadership hesitant to quell the more extreme forms of nationalism described above and deeply suspicious of the United States and its allies. It also makes it more receptive to the notion that a rising yet still underdeveloped and relatively weak China must continue to conceal its military capabilities while developing its overall capacities to the maximum extent possible. In other words, the Chinese regime is both excessively vulnerable to ultranationalist pressures and disinclined to contemplate self-imposed limitations on its sovereign rights (for example, with regard to Taiwan) and its political, economic, and military abilities, especially in Asia. While this does not translate into a drive for predominance, it does make Beijing less willing to accept the kind of mutual restraints necessary to achieve a stable balance of power in the Western Pacific.

No Grand Bargain, but a Clear Understanding and a Staged Process Are Required

These obstacles clearly indicate that Washington and Beijing are not about to undertake, much less reach, a formal grand-bargain-type of agreement to establish a new regional security environment anytime soon.4 Such a fundamental shift in policies and approaches can only occur gradually, in stages, and over an extended period of time. But it can only begin if elites in Washington, Beijing, and other Asian capitals seriously examine the enduring trends under way in Asia and accept the reality of the changing power distribution and the need for more than just marginal adjustments and assurances. Only then will they undertake a systematic examination of the requirements of a stable balance of power over the long term, involving a serious consideration of the more fundamental actions. Such an examination and acceptance must initially occur domestically, then among allies and protectorates, and finally via a bilateral U.S.-China strategic dialogue aimed at developing understandings about the process and actions required. Such understandings must provide for ample opportunities and means for both sides to assess and evaluate the credibility and veracity of the actions of the other side.

If such understandings can be reached regarding the overall need for strategic adjustment, then the specific concessions to minimize potential instabilities and arrangements for meaningful cooperation, involving Korea, Taiwan, and maritime issues within the first island chain, will become much more possible. In particular, a strategic understanding designed to achieve a peaceful and stable transition to a genuine balance of power in the Western Pacific could make Beijing more likely to pressure or entice North Korea to abandon or place strong limits on its nuclear weapons program and undertake the kind of opening up and reforms that would almost certainly result eventually in a unified peninsula. While difficult to envision at present, such a shift in Chinese policy is certainly possible, given the obvious incentives to do so. While South Korea might also resist movement toward a nonaligned status in a post-unification environment, the obvious benefits that would result from a stable balance of power, if presented properly, could very likely overcome such resistance. Regarding Taiwan, if both U.S. and Chinese leaders can convince Taipei of the benefits of the kind of mutual assurances and restraints necessary to neutralize the cross-strait issue, none of which require the U.S. abandonment of the island, these possible adverse outcomes of the proposed or ongoing shift, including any resort to nuclear weapons, would almost certainly be avoided.

As for Japan and the U.S.-Japan alliance, in the past, many observers viewed a much-strengthened alliance and a stronger Japan as either a major provocation to Beijing not worth the cost or as a largely unfeasible option for Tokyo, given domestic political and economic constraints. However, as with the Taiwan and Korea cases, if viewed as a requirement for the creation of a buffer-like arrangement basic to a stable balance of power in the first island chain, and if limited in scope and purpose, such a calibrated strengthening would almost certainly prove acceptable to Beijing, and eventually necessary for Tokyo, particularly considering the unpalatable alternatives.

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula or technique that will guarantee or facilitate the transition to a new security environment based on a stable balance of power. It will require courageous and farsighted leadership in all relevant capitals, some significant risk taking (especially in the domestic political arena), and highly effective diplomacy. But the alternative, involving current attempts to sustain American predominance in the Western Pacific while muddling through by managing various frictions with Beijing in a piecemeal and incremental manner and cooperating where possible, will likely prove disastrous. And a much-delayed attempt to transition to a more stable balance, perhaps as a result of a clear failure of the existing strategy, will simply make the process more difficult.

Ultimately, the choice facing policymakers in the United States, China, and other Asian powers is whether to deal forthrightly and sensibly with the changing regional power distribution or avoid the hard decisions that China’s rise poses until the situation grows ever more polarized and dangerous. There are no other workable alternatives.

The author is deeply indebted to Mike M. Mochizuki, Avery Goldstein, Douglas H. Paal, Chas W. Freeman Jr., Charles L. Glaser, and Rachel E. Odell for their comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this essay.


1 Michael K. Metcalf, Imperialism With Chinese Characteristics? Reading and Re-reading China’s 2006 Defense White Paper (Washington, DC: Defense Intelligence Agency, 2013) 29.

2 Michael D. Swaine et al., China’s Military & the U.S.-Japan Alliance in 2030: A Strategic Net Assessment (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2013) and Michael D. Swaine et al., Conflict and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region: A Strategic Net Assessment (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2015).

3 For a recent, excellent example, see James Steinberg and Michael O’Hanlon, Strategic Reassurance and Resolve: U.S.-China Relations in the Twenty-First Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014).

4 Those few analysts, such as Hugh White, who recognize the changing power distribution in Asia, incorrectly identify China as seeking its own form of regional predominance and/or call for highly unrealistic means of addressing the overall problem, such as via a formal U.S. presidential declaration of the abandonment of American primacy and the establishment of a formal Concert of Europe–type agreement between Beijing, Washington, and other major Asian powers. See Hugh White, The China Choice: Why We Should Share Power (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). For an example of an argument in support of a bilateral grand bargain between Washington and Beijing, see Charles L. Glaser, “A U.S.-China Grand Bargain? The Hard Choice Between Military Competition and Accommodation,” International Security 39, no. 4 (forthcoming).