Not Congruent but Quite Complementary: U.S. and Chinese Approaches to Nontraditional Security
NAVAL WAR COLLEGE Newport United States
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U.S.-China relations, difficult in the best of times, have lurched in a dangerous direction since 2009. Against the backdrop of a weakened global economy and sharpened ideological tensions, there has been a disturbing new atmosphere of crisis in East Asia over the last two years, with incidents occurring in greater frequency and sowing serious doubts about the sustainability of the long peace that this region has enjoyed for decades. Indeed, any one of the following incidents could have escalated into a serious regional crisis the sinking of the South Korean frigate Cheonan the collision between a Japanese coast guard cutter and a Chinese fishing trawler and the ensuing Chinese restrictions on the export of rare-earth minerals and a string of confrontations between Chinese patrol ships and vessels from both Vietnam and the Philippines. Taken together, these incidents starkly illustrate the fundamental fragility of international security arrangements in the Asia-Pacific region and the troubling failure of the United States and China to adequately manage vexing regional challenges. In the United States and elsewhere in the West, the pervasive view is that Beijing is feeling its oatseager to reap the strategic benefits of its dynamic economy even as Washington confronts major difficulties at home and abroad. Not surprisingly, Chinese observers are inclined to view these tensions differently. Difficulties with many neighboring states, such as Vietnam, are seen as encouraged and abetted by Washington, which is viewed as all too eager to exploit regional differences as a way to contain Chinas rise. Without significant course corrections in both capitals, the United States and China seem destined to follow the path of intensified rivalry that may even lead to the possibility of large-scale armed conflict. As Henry Kissinger has recently written, this path is the road to disaster.