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China Is a Problem, but the U.S. Must Not Treat Beijing as an Enemy

April 1, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The Cold War ended three decades ago. People around the world
breathed more freely. For a brief moment the U.S. government cut
military budgets and reduced armament levels.

However, many American policymakers seem to fear living in a
world without an enemy. The Trump administration has targeted the
People’s Republic of China. Vice President Mike Pence
recently spoke of the challenges posed by Beijing—economic,
ideological, military, and political. He denounced the PRC for
“using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors, while
militarizing features in the South China Sea” and announced
that Washington would no longer ignore such threats.

In justifying the Pentagon’s latest budget proposal,
acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan intoned “China,
China, China.” He told the Senate Armed Services Committee
that “We’ve been ignoring the problem for too
long.”

When the People’s Republic of China first turned toward
economic reform and international engagement, many Americans
imagined it morphing into a liberal democratic republic. However,
today Beijing is moving backwards at a rapid rate. The Trump
administration focused on economic issues, but potentially more
significant is the expansion of authoritarian, even totalitarian
controls. Beyond its own borders the PRC is offering a competing
model of economic opportunity, mixed with political control.

Washington and Beijing
are likely to face numerous challenges in their complicated
international dance in the 21st century. But the two states can,
and must, work to reduce the likelihood of conflict.

Despite its international ambitions, China’s principal
challenge to America is not its military. Washington’s armed
forces far outrange those of China in scope and experience. The
U.S. has a vast nuclear advantage. America’s navy roams
around the globe, deploying 11 aircraft carriers. Beijing has one,
with two more under construction. Washington deploys air and ground
forces throughout the Asia-Pacific, while the PRC has no forces
within range of the U.S.

China is investing heavily in its military, and might eventually
match Washington’s armed forces. However, given
America’s lead, that would take years or decades. Even then
the PRC would not seriously threaten the U.S. Deterrence works.

The chief military challenge posed by China is its determination
to prevent America from dominating the former’s neighborhood.
Washington has an interest in maintaining navigational freedom, but
that is not currently at risk, since Beijing cannot prevent
American access. Indeed, the PRC has consciously avoided direct
confrontation with Washington, for good reason.

Although the U.S. benefits from its unnaturally expansive role
in East Asia, the cost of maintaining that against a rising power
like China will become ever more expensive. It costs the U.S. far
more to build and protect a carrier than for Beijing to sink one.
Hence the Pentagon’s concern over so-called anti-access/area
denial.

While the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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