Managing Strategic Competition with China (Strategic Forum, Number 242, July 2009)
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES
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Officials in the Obama administration have highlighted the need for a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China that can help the United States address an array of global challenges. Administration officials have not adopted the responsible stakeholder language that characterized recent U.S. China policy, but their overall approach appears compatible with that concept. Initial policy statements have focused on expanding U.S.-China cooperation, with particular emphasis on addressing the global economic crisis and climate change. This paper focuses on an important but neglected topic how to address the challenges posed by Chinas development of advanced strategic and military capabilities that might threaten U.S. interests within the context of a broader policy emphasizing engagement and cooperation with China. Relations in four strategic areas -- nuclear modernization, space and counterspace, cyber warfare, and conventional force modernization -- are analyzed, and the potential for competitive dynamics in these areas to affect the stability of the broader U.S.-China bilateral relationship is explored. The paper suggests that Chinas approach to nuclear modernization, which has sought to maintain a credible second-strike capability that would induce U.S. restraint while minimizing economic and political costs, may be a model for its future behavior in other areas. However, specific characteristics of these areas -- including the expected costs of competitive behavior and the extent to which deterrence functions effectively -- may also influence competitive dynamics.
- Economics and Cost Analysis
- Government and Political Science