Asia in the Balance: how should the U.S. deal with China?

"China's military modernization, if it continues apace, may allow it to decouple America’s allies from the US extended nuclear deterrent, to destroy US and allied fixed bases in the region, and to threaten US power projection forces. This, in turn, could allow China to coerce US allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region, hold US forces at arm's length, and control the seas along the Asian periphery." Thomas G. Mahnken, Daniel Blumenthal, Thomas Donnelly, Michael Mazza, Gary Schmitt, and Andrew Shearer in the just published Asia in the Balance: Transforming US Military Strategy in Asia.

Is the United States being chased out of the Asia-Pacific by China? What action (if any) should be taken? At a time when President Obama is promoting a pivot toward the Asia-Pacific and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is visiting the region, six strategic, military, and Asian studies specialists examine and analyze America’s current situation there. They propose a series of steps that the United States should take to safeguard US interests.
The authors find that the United States faces three fundamental strategic alternatives:

  • Continue America's current approach to the region--that is, pursue broad objectives even as the military balance shifts against the United States.
  • Or, scale back US commitments and accept a narrower definition of America's role in the world than the nation has played for the better part of a century.
  • Or, (what would be preferable) adopt a forward-leaning strategy that would balance the need to reduce the vulnerability of US forces while maintaining US commitments. This strategy would depend on:
    • An effort to conduct a long-term competition with China in peacetime
    • Measures to convince China that it cannot fight and win a quick regional war

The US is not the only state involved in Asia that has reason to be concerned by the region's changing military balance, explain the authors. Other regional powers are also affected, and the US needs to work closely with those Asia-Pacific countries to forge an integrated and effective response.

They conclude that what is required first and foremost is the political will to explain not just the costs but also the benefits of a vigorous US role in the Asia-Pacific region, to seek adequate funding for an enhanced US presence there, and to work with US allies and partners in the region to make that posture a reality.

Daniel (Dan) Blumenthal (dblumenthal@aei.org), Thomas (Tom) Donnelly (thomas.donnelly@aei.org), Thomas Mahnken (tgmahnken@aol.com), Michael Mazza (michael.mazza@aei.org), and Gary Schmitt (gschmitt@aei.org) are available for interviews. For additional help please contact Alex Della Rocchetta at adr@aei.org (202.862.7152).

Please email vrodman@aei.org (202.862.4871) for other media inquiries.

AEI's in-house ReadyCam TV studio may be booked by calling VideoLink at 617.340.4300. For radio interviews, please e-mail michael.pratt@aei.org to reserve AEI's ISDN facilities.

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About the Author

 

Thomas
Donnelly

 

Dan
Blumenthal
  • Dan Blumenthal is the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on East Asian security issues and Sino-American relations.  Mr. Blumenthal has both served in and advised the U.S. government on China issues for over a decade.  From 2001 to 2004, he served as senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the Department of Defense.  Additionally, he served as a commissioner on the congressionally-mandated U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission since 2006-2012, and held the position of vice chairman in 2007.  He has also served on the Academic Advisory Board of the congressional U.S.-China Working Group. Mr. Blumenthal is the co-author of "An Awkward Embrace: The United States and China in the 21st Century" (AEI Press, November 2012).

  • Phone: 202.862.5861
    Email: dblumenthal@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Shannon Mann
    Phone: 202-862-5911
    Email: Shannon.Mann@aei.org

 

Gary J.
Schmitt

 

Michael
Mazza
  • Currently the program manager for AEI's annual Executive Program on National Security Policy and Strategy, Michael Mazza has studied and lived in China. At AEI, Mr. Mazza studies defense policy in the Asia-Pacific, as well as Chinese military modernization, cross-Strait relations, and security on the Korean peninsula. He also writes regularly for AEI's Center for Defense Studies blog. In his previous capacity as a research assistant in AEI's Foreign and Defense Policy Studies department, Mr. Mazza contributed to studies on American strategy in Asia and on Taiwanese defense strategy. He is a 2010-2011 Foreign Policy Initiative Future Leader.
  • Phone: 202-828-6027
    Email: michael.mazza@aei.org

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