A Brookings Institution Order from Chaos Project Asia Working Paper No.3 of March 2016 by Jeffrey Bader, a Brookings senior fellow affiliated with the John L. Thornton China Centre. He was the first Director of the China Centre, and was John C. Whitehead Senior Fellow in International Diplomacy from 2012 to 2015. He served in the U.S. government for 30 years in various capacities mostly dealing with U.S.-China relations, including as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from 2009-2011.
The following extracts may serve to capture the flavour of the Paper -
"By examining China’s goals, what China is not doing, and its contributions to global prosperity, Jeffrey Bader outlines three broad policy options for the United States to respond to the China challenge:
- Containment, confrontation, or untrammelled strategic rivalry;
- Global cooperation, regional resolve."
"In their extreme versions, the strategies of accommodation and untrammeled rivalry make assumptions about American resilience and Chinese strength that are dubious.
"The accommodation argument, much like the contention in the 1970s that the United States needed to accommodate radically to an emerging multipolar world, seems to project a United States that remains static, that fails to innovate, and that proves unable to maintain its military, political, economic, and cultural advantages. As Lee Kuan Yew said, those who bet against the United States in the 20th century didn’t come out so well, and we have it in our power to ensure, through domestic rejuvenation, that the America short-sellers in the 21st century meet the same fate. A central premise of accommodation also seems to be that China’s rise has a kind of inevitability about it, and that the trajectory of U.S. and Chinese economic strength and national power are converging. Recent weakness in the Chinese economy and signs that systemic reform will remain very challenging undercut the notion that we can make straight line projections from China’s success in the last 20 years in moving from underdevelopment to medium income status."
"The argument for embrace of untrammelled strategic rivalry makes more confident assumptions about U.S. strength and adaptability. But it does not persuasively explain how the United States will be able to subordinate other demanding domestic and foreign priorities to confronting the ambiguous challenge that China poses. Like the proponents of accommodation, its advocates sometimes postulate a China that is 10 feet tall and whose nefarious intentions and secret master plan lie behind normal developments. It dismisses, incorrectly in my view, the wisdom in the trope that if we treat China as an enemy, it will surely become one. Security rivalries lead to security dilemmas and distort destructively the behaviour of those trapped in them. If we conspire to make China an enemy, then every problem we deal with, including Iran, North Korea, climate change, and global terrorism, will become orders of magnitude more difficult to manage. Finally, confrontation with a country that will be our number one trading partner, the major trading partner of many of our friends in Asia and elsewhere, and a foundation of the global economy will impose considerable costs on our own economy and those of numerous other countries and create severe strains with friends who would be negatively impacted."
"Options 1 and 2 have their prominent advocates in the current policy literature, but each would jeopardise important U.S. interests—the former by putting at risk U.S. allies and values, the latter by demanding a greatly expanded U.S. military presence in the region without ensuring greater security. So what kind of actions should the United States take to achieve a balance between acceptance of a larger global role for a constructive China while drawing lines against coercion in China’s neighbourhood? On global issues, a sensible option 3 approach should look for issues on which China, because of its own evolving interests, can and should play a greater role in supporting the global system. A few examples might include:
• Cybersecurity and cyber innovation;
• Protection of the rights of foreign investors;
• Adoption of the standards of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act;
• Central bank coordination, especially at times of global market instability;
• Fisheries treaties and conservation.
• Protection of intellectual property rights."
"In addition, there are political, economic, and security measures the United States should adopt, globally and regionally, to protect its interests in the face of the Chinese challenge, including projecting clarity about our commitments to allies, defending principles and international norms in maritime areas, and restricting access to the U.S. market for companies that engage in cyber-theft. But there are opportunities as well for U.S.-China cooperation, such as along with South Korea in constraining the North Korean nuclear weapons program and with the Chinese-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank on worthwhile projects."
As a huge country with a vastly different political system, a population the size of a fifth of mankind and many provinces at different stages of development, the trajectory of China as a relatively-recent integral part of the global order admits no simple black-and-white interpretations and responses. The reading of China is made the more difficult when China is now at a critical crossroads of development both economically, socially, ecologically, politically, and geopolitically, not to mention other new challenges to global stability. Jeffrey Bader's more nuanced analysis is therefore timely.