The U.S.-China Relationship Doesn’t Have To Be ‘Increasingly Adversarial’
America’s relationship with China can’t be reduced to a single label, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN’s Dana Bash in an interview last week. Beijing is not merely a U.S. “adversary,” Blinken said. “There are clearly and increasingly adversarial aspects to the relationship,” he allowed, and there are “certainly competitive ones. There are also still some cooperative ones.”
That nuanced thinking has been evident in a handful of recent remarks from Blinken about China, and it bodes well for the Biden administration’s policy in this arena, which just a few weeks ago was couched in more extreme language. But Blinken’s comments also evince an unjustified—and pessimistic—determinism grounded in a misguided perspective on China’s military situation. The U.S.-China relationship is indeed multifaceted, and it does not have to become “increasingly adversarial.”
Blinken didn’t speak about Chinese military posturing on CNN, but he did address it in a speech at Brussels one day prior, where he named China first on the list of military threats facing the United States. “Beijing’s military ambitions are growing by the year,” Blinken said. That includes “efforts to threaten freedom of navigation, to militarize the South China Sea, to target countries throughout the Indo-Pacific with increasingly sophisticated military capabilities,” he claimed, and “the challenges that once seemed half a world away are no longer remote.”
It’s true that Beijing’s military might is not to be underestimated. Though its nuclear arsenal is still far smaller than those of the U.S. and Russia, by spending and many measures of conventional strength, China’s military is second only to ours. Blinken is likewise correct that Beijing has expanded its maritime power over the past few decades, especially in the South China Sea, and seeks regional preeminence.
Yet this is not the cross-global threat to U.S. security that Blinken suggests, thanks in significant part to unalterable geographic realities. Consider the differences between U.S. and Chinese geography for defense. The United States spans our continent and borders only two neighbors, both close allies. We are insulated from three quarters of the world’s nations by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the world’s greatest natural “moat.”
China, by contrast, is surrounded. It borders four nuclear states—Russia, North Korea, Pakistan, and India—and must pass through multiple island chains to reach open ocean. Many of China’s regional neighbors have robust militaries of th
Article from Latest – Reason.com