Share power? What power?
Power to invade other countries? Well, China is not interested.
We just want U.S. to leave us alone and not send its fleets to our shores day in and day out. You did not see China send her fleets to U.S. shores, right?
Does U.S. enjoy China fleets, nuke subs visit U.S. shores day in and day out in the near future???
PARIS--The only viable policy option for the United States to peacefully coexist with an ascending China is to share power.
So says Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at Australian National University.
White, who formerly served as an adviser to Australia's prime minister, shared his thoughts with The Asahi Shimbun in a recent interview.
"If the United States stays to compete with China for primacy, then rivalry between the United States and China escalates. And we end up with increased risk of conflict," he said.
He also pointed out that in the event of military conflict, the United States would not prevail in spite of a new air-sea battle concept created to deal with China's growing military capabilities.
Excerpts of the interview follow:
Question: In your recent book, "The China Choice," you wrote: "War between the United States and China is already a clear and significant danger." What makes you say that?
Answer: Well, when we look at the U.S.-China relationship today, we see a kind of a paradox. On the one hand, they have a relationship of intense economic interdependence. And we also see many aspects of the relationship in its day-to-day interactions, being quite well managed.
On the other hand, there seems to be a very deep fracture in the underlying relationship. And I think the source of that fracture is very different and incompatible views between Washington and Beijing of the essential nature of their relationship, their status in that relationship and what that means for their respective roles in Asia. What we have seen over the last few years is an increasingly stark demonstration of that difference.
And if we look at, for example, the situation in the East China Sea today, where a territorial dispute between Japan and China exists, there are clear risks of a U.S.-China conflict flowing from it. The further that strategic competition escalates, the higher the risk of war becomes. We're in a very serious, downward trajectory.
Q: You name three options for the United States to deal with China's challenge.
A: The United States can withdraw from Asia, which I believe is unlikely. But I don't think any of us in the Western Pacific should rule out the possibility that in 10 years or 15 or 20 years from now that the United States could find that it has made a series of choices which, taken together, mean that the United States no longer asserts the kind of role in Asia that it has played in the past.
If China and Japan, for example, came to blows over the Senkakus, and if the United States were to choose not to support Japan, I think that would do massive damage to the U.S.-Japan relationship, and could fundamentally change its nature. If Japan is no longer a strategic client of the United States, it's not quite clear what America's role in the Western Pacific is.
The second possibility is that it competes with China and that, as China challenges American primacy, America pushes back. That's what's happening.
And the third possibility is to share power with China.
Q: Why is "power share" the best option?
A: It seemed to me that China was very unlikely to accept American primacy. If America responded by withdrawing, that would be a disaster for Asia, because China is much more likely to try to establish hegemony over the region.
I think, in the end, it's unlikely to succeed in doing that, because other countries, Japan obviously, perhaps also India and Southeast Asian countries, would resist. And if Japan chooses to resist a Chinese bid for primacy, even without American support, we'd end up with an escalating strategic rivalry between China and Japan, which I don't think China can win. I don't think Japan can win it, either. I think it ends up being very destructive for the whole region, disastrous for the region.
On the other hand, if the United States stays to compete with China, then rivalry between the U.S. and China escalates. And even if the United States has the support of Japan and the rest of us, America's chances of prevailing in that competition are very low. But I think what happens is that we end up with increased risk of conflict. And, of course, that rivalry also damages economic interdependence and interaction, impoverishes the region, slows economic growth and reverses all of the trends that we've seen in the last 40 years, which have been so positive for all of us.
So, if withdrawal and competition are bad outcomes for the region, sharing power is the only option that's left. There's the middle option in which the United States accepts that it needs to share power with China. I then started asking, "What might that kind of power sharing look like? How might it work?" And that is how I came to build the model of the "concert of Asia."
Q: But if you talk to U.S. military people, they are confident that they can defeat China militarily.
A: I think they're wrong. I think one of the reasons is that they are focusing on the operational rather than on the strategic level, and that's a mistake military people often make. And it's always disastrous to do so.
I mean, let's go back a couple of steps. The military foundation of America's strategic position in the Western Pacific is its capacity to project power by sea. It's the aircraft carriers and the Marines. And what's happened since 1996 is that China has progressively expanded its capacity to sink American ships.
Q: That is what the United States calls the "anti-access, area denial (A2/AD) capabilities."
A: And, of course, that means that the costs and the risks to the United States of projecting power by sea have gone up. And the U.S. response to China's A2/AD strategy has been the air-sea battle concept. It is about degrading China's sea denial capabilities to restore American sea control.
And I think there are three problems with that. The first is it's unlikely to work. The Americans are wrong to be confident that they can sufficiently erode China's sea denial capabilities to the point where it becomes safe for the United States to operate their aircraft carriers.
I think Americans underestimate China's capacity to find American carriers, and there's a real standoff in space. Chinese capacity to use space-based systems to find U.S. carrier groups has gone up a lot. The Americans, I think, believe that they can deprive China of that capability. But the Chinese can deprive the United States of a lot of space-based capability as well.
A second point is it's mistaken to believe that, even if it does win the air-sea battle, that it's achieved very much.
Now, China is a very, very big country. So, if the United States achieved the capacity either to sail the carriers or sail the Marines up to the China coast, I don't see what decisive strategic difference that's going to make. It's not going to make China stop.
The third reason I don't like the air-sea battle concept is that it's massively capable to escalate. Among other things, there is a risk of nuclear escalation. Chinese might make the mistake of thinking that the United States would not retaliate against mainland China if the Chinese staged a nuclear strike on Guam.
Q: Now, how does "power share" work?
A: The essence of it is, first of all, that both the United States and China have to accept that the other will continue to play a very significant strategic role in Asia and that the other will be there to constrain and limit each others' power. They both have to treat one another as equals.
Now, we don't have very many examples in history of this kind of thing. But the best model we have is the concert of Europe that was established during the 19th century. It was a very unusual international system, because you had a series of great powers, six really, all of whom agreed with one another that none would seek to dominate the system, and that if any one of the group tried to dominate the system, the others would all federate together against them. In order to make it work, all of the countries have to accept the legitimacy of the political systems of the others, even though they might be very different. They have to accept that the interests of the other are going to be different from theirs and that they are legitimate.
And if we think about that in relation to the United States, for example, that means the United States would absolutely have to accept the legitimacy of the Chinese system of government, which I don't believe it does today.
Q: But doesn't it require Americans to give up their core values, like democracy and human rights?
A: They don't have to give them up, but they have to recognize that the costs of allowing those values to dictate the way they relate to China is going to be very high, and they've got to set against the values of human rights and freedom of religion and so on, the value on the other side of maintaining peaceful relations.
Now in the end, strong states like the United States can afford to go to war with countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. But going to war with China would be completely different. This could quite easily be the worst war in history. And after that war was over, people would go back and say, "Were those values really worth that much?" "Is the government of China so bad?"
The second thing the United States has to do is to accept the legitimacy of China's interests on international issues, even where they differ from America's.
Q: So, for example, accept China's claim over the entire South China Sea?
A: The United States might say, "OK, we'll accept your claim to the South China Sea, as long as you accept our right to undertake military operations through those waters." So, you do a deal. Or, "As long as you absolutely guarantee freedom of commercial navigation through those waters."
Q: That would invite criticism of appeasement, surely?
A: Appeasement is exactly, in a sense, what it is. And, of course, what people do, then, is to say, "Well, that's what we did in the 1930s."
And they say, "Look at what happened in Munich, where we appeased Hitler, we gave him stuff, and all he did was take more." I think that's a legitimate concern. But I also think there are two really critical points to be made.
The first is we've got to be very careful about exactly what the lesson of Munich in 1938 was, because what some people think the lesson of Munich was is that we were wrong to allow Hitler to take over the Sudetenland and that we should have gone to war with Hitler in 1938.
But what was wrong in 1938 was that Chamberlain didn't make it absolutely clear that he'd go to war over Poland. And when Hitler took over the rest of Czechoslovakia in early 1939, Chamberlain extended a guarantee to Poland, and Hitler didn't believe him.
Now, that was a fundamental mistake. So, to me, the lesson of 1938-1939 is not that you never compromise with ambitious powers; it's that, when you stop compromising, you have to make that absolutely unambiguous. You have to define the boundaries of your compromise absolutely unambiguously. And I think that's relevant to our situation with China.
The second point about appeasement is that China is a very difficult, complex, country, but it's not Nazi Germany. I think it's a country we can do business with. It's certainly worth testing whether we can or not, before assuming the worst.
Q: When you say "concert of Asia," the membership is not limited to China and the United States, is it?
A: No. A very key thing about a concert is that it has to include all of the great powers in the system, countries which are strong enough that they can disrupt the whole thing. I think, in Asia at the moment, they are the United States, China, Japan and, eventually, India.
Q: What kind of reactions did you get to your idea of "power share" from the United States?
A: A lot of Americans argue that I'm too pessimistic about the trajectory of U.S.-China relations, because they don't believe that China is really that strong. They say the economy's bung, the political system doesn't work, the environment's "shot to ribbons," and the population is aging.
The second part of the argument is that, OK, maybe China will keep growing economically, but it's not that strong strategically and politically, and so, even though our economy is relatively lower, our military and diplomatic strength will sustain us. And I think that's wrong.
If you look at all the countries in Asia other than Japan, which I think is in a very special position, all of us want the same thing. None of us wants to live under Chinese primacy. All of us recognize that having the United States stay engaged in Asia is the best way to avoid that. On the other hand, all of us want to get on well with China. All of us see it as economically essential to our futures. All of us really fear being drawn into a U.S.-China strategic conflict on America's side against China.
All of us want the U.S. to stay engaged in a way that doesn't lead to escalating strategic rivalry with China. We want America to stay to balance China, but not to try to dominate it.
Q: The reactions from China?
A: The China reaction is more complex. They like the argument about America treating China as an equal. But, on the other hand, there are some aspects of the argument that the Chinese find hard to accept. It is the idea that the concert involves Japan as well as America.
I think the Chinese are ambivalent about America's future role in Asia, because some aspects of Chinese policy and rhetoric emphasize that they expect and accept that the United States will remain a significant strategic player in Asia.
On the other hand, when they're talking about the South China Sea, for example, they say the United States has no role there. And so I think there's a tension in the Chinese position, and I don't think that’s resolved.
Q: What do you think of the decision by Australia and the United States to have a new rotational deployment of the U.S. Marine Corps in Northern Australia?
A: I think it is a very unwise decision, not because China might punish us directly but because it encourages the United States to pursue an approach to China which is not in our interests and not in America's interests.
Q: So, you think the pivoting, or rebalancing of the United States to the Asia-Pacific region is not a good idea?
A: It's always important to separate the operational from the strategic. There's nothing wrong with the United States maintaining a strong military presence in the Western Pacific. In fact, it is essential to my concept of how the U.S. role should play out. But, if the intention of that presence is to support a posture of containment against China, of resisting any accommodation with China, then it's wrong, because it won't work.
Q: How should Japan and China solve the Senkaku Islands issue?
A: If the U.S. found itself drawn into a Japan-China war over the Senkakus, America would expect Australia to support it. And Australia would find that an extremely difficult choice. If I was the prime minister of Japan, I would say, "Let's put that to one side. We need to have a conversation, we three, Japan, China and the United States, about our basic relationships." That would be the really statesmanlike thing to do.
* * *
Hugh White, 58, is a professor of Strategic Studies at Australian National University. His book, "The China Choice," was published in August. He was deputy secretary for strategy and intelligence in the department of defense of Australia.
INTERVIEW/ Hugh White: U.S. should share power with China - AJW by The Asahi Shimbun
China May Not Be A U.S. Ally, But It's Also Not An Adversary - Forbes
Of the foreign-policy challenges that will confront the president of the United States on January 20, 2013 few are as complex and consequential as managing the ongoing rise of China—a continental country that will soon have the world’s largest economy and, within three decades, could be the world’s largest defense spender. Henry Kissinger recently argued that “deal[ing] with China” is “the fundamental problem of American foreign policy.”
It is difficult to imagine a more different pair of countries that must accommodate one another. With roughly 315 million people, America’s population is less than a quarter of the size of China’s. At 236 years, its history is less than a sixteenth of the length of China’s. The U.S. prides itself on attracting talent from around the world, and is undergoing demographic shifts that could render non-Hispanic whites a minority by 2050. China, meanwhile, is warier of external influences, and remains about 90% Han Chinese. Despite being roughly the same size—the U.S. is 9.83 million square kilometers in area, while China is 9.6 million—the former has two friendly neighbors and enjoys comfortable access to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The latter has 14 neighbors—only Russia has as many—several of which are unstable and/or concerned about the prospect of Chinese dominance in the Asian-Pacific; furthermore, it confronts numerous challenges when it turns its gaze eastward: completing a long-term effort to integrate Taiwan’s economy into its own, minimizing the impact of territorial conflicts in the South China Sea on its reputation in the region, and responding to a rebalancing that is projected to station 60% of America’s naval fleet in the Asia-Pacific by 2020.
Although this list of surface comparisons could be extended considerably, it is more important to scrutinize the basic framework that governs most discussions of U.S.-China relations. While China’s rise may simply appear to be the latest instance of the phenomenon that has long shaped international relations—a rising power meets the leading one—the nuances that this interpretation omits are as important as, if not more important than, the insights that it provides.
For starters, the interactions between the U.S. and China are far more numerous and substantive than they have been in previous meetings between rising powers and leading powers. It is often observed that China has a strong interest in a revitalized U.S. economy. By virtue of their thick economic interdependence, however, the U.S. also has a strong interest in continued Chinese growth. Paradoxically, then, each country’s ability to compete with the other depends in part on the other’s health. While the U.S. may not be pleased that its gross domestic product (GDP) will soon be overtaken, schadenfreude over the current slowdown in China would be misguided.
After all, the Financial Times notes, “the trudging U.S. economy” has been one of the deceleration’s “most obvious victims”: “China is so integrated into the global economy that even relatively minor shifts in its domestic production or spending can have a big impact on the other side of the world.” China’s economy is notable for another reason: even when it overtakes America’s in absolute terms, it will still be poor in relative, per-capita terms. Thus does Gideon Rachman observe that China’s rise challenges “the idea that the world’s largest economy [is] also the world’s most obviously affluent nation….China is both richer and poorer than the [W]estern world.”
Befitting their independence, while there are many points of friction between the U.S. and China, they are not—and, as they both understand, cannot afford to become—outright antagonists. Consider how John F. Kennedy characterized Soviet aims in September 1960: America’s “enemy,” he declared, “is the Communist system itself—implacable, insatiable, unceasing in its drive for world domination….this is not a struggle for supremacy of arms alone—it is also a struggle for supremacy between two conflicting ideologies: [f]reedom under God versus ruthless, godless tyranny.” It is difficult to imagine a U.S. president or senior policymaker’s describing Chinese ambitions in this manner. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the comparatively tame observation last March that, leaving aside “the moral, humanitarian, do-good side of what we believe in…[w]e are in a competition with China,” she was widely characterized as being blunt, even provocative. (Of course, she and her colleagues always hasten to add, and prefer to emphasize, that the U.S. and China are also partners.)
Furthermore, the competitive dimension of their relationship is not particularly ideological. There is, to be sure, a pronounced gap between their core values, but it is not as stark as the slogans “capitalist vs. communist” and “democratic vs. authoritarian” suggest. Instead, China fuses state capitalism with adaptive authoritarianism. Despite the power of its state-owned enterprises, it is taking incremental, but important, steps to liberalize the renminbi and give foreign companies greater access to its vast consumer market. It is also growing more skilled at using the country’s social media platforms to understand citizens’ grievances, often addressing them before anger spreads widely. These steps suggest that China is unlikely to repeat the Soviet Union’s mistake: doubling down on an ossified system of governance and engaging in an arms race with the U.S. Even so, Chinese officials hesitate to discuss, and sometimes even question the existence of, a “Beijing Consensus,” in part because the difficulties of sustaining such a paradigm are increasingly apparent. Indeed, in a September 29th Facebook post, political-risk expert Ian Bremmer said that the“[w]orld’s biggest risk” is “China’s continued efforts to run a 21st[-][c]entury economy with a 20th[-][c]entury political system.”
Unlike past rising powers, China is not expansionist, a reality that is sometimes obscured in discussions of its assertiveness in settling territorial claims. While a military conflict between the U.S. and China is a real possibility, it is not the principal concern. However frail the relationship between their military establishments may be, each country appreciates the damage that it would suffer were one to occur—not only from the other’s military, but also from the aftershocks that such a conflict would send through global markets. Rather, the chief concerns are economic—consider the impact of a “trade war” between the world’s two largest economies—and diplomatic—strategic trust between them is not developing fast enough (assuming that it is not stagnating or even diminishing) to address the global challenges for whose mitigation it is of singular importance.
There is at least one another respect in which China is not a typical rising power: it considers itself a returning power. It is accustomed to having the world’s largest economy and to being the center of an Asian-Pacific order in which its neighbors paid it tribute. Thus, when Kenneth Lieberthal and Wang Jisi conclude that there is a “real and widespread” judgment amongst the Chinese leadership that China will displace the U.S. “as the world’s largest economy and a potential global hegemon,” it is important to realize that that judgment does not simply reflect the excitement inherent to the possibility of displacing the world’s leading power. It derives power from at least two other sentiments. First, it reflects the conviction that an historic aberration is being redressed. While Americans might regard their country’s preeminence as a fact of international relations—the U.S. has, after all, been the world’s leading power for nearly 30% of its existence—the Chinese view it as the culmination of an aberrant, post-Industrial Revolution period of Western preeminence. Second, it reflects the belief that China is finally poised to transcend the indignities that it suffered over the past 150 years—including the Taiping Civil War of 1851-64, the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, the Great Famine of 1958-61, and the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76—during which time the U.S. ascended to superpower status amidst far less hardship, and in considerable measure because of the wartime devastation of Europe and Asia.
Given current trends, the likeliest end state of U.S.-China relations is neither an internecine military conflict nor a straightforward leadership transition from the former to the latter, but rather, a tense and occasionally volatile balance. Neither country is accustomed to, let alone comfortable with, an international system whose functionality rides in large measure on cooperation between two countries. In America’s one experience with bipolarity, the Soviet Union was to be defeated, not engaged, and China, as noted earlier, is used to a Sinocentric system. The question, then, arises: how to reconcile the impossibility of either country’s dominating the other with the desire of each to be “number one,” however one defines that phrase? As Zbigniew Brzezinski explained to me recently, a durable U.S.-China relationship will emerge only if both countries explicitly “eschew the quest for hegemony” and “accept the reality of the other’s central role in world affairs.”
The preceding two paragraphs assume, however, that China seeks to be the world’s leading power. In truth, it is not self-evident that China harbors such an aspiration—at least not for now. If China could, it would likely be content to increase its shares of global GDP and military spending indefinitely without assuming proportional responsibility for global governance. It has arguably been the greatest beneficiary of the postwar order that the U.S. continues to underpin, however weakly, and it would like to prosper as much as possible within that arrangement while it lasts. Despite its desire to be seen as an equal of the U.S., it has been wary of proposals for either an implicit or formal “G-2.” Suisheng Zhao observes that “while many Chinese were initially flattered by the G-2 idea, the Chinese leadership quickly criticized the notion as a potential trap for China, making it more exposed on the world stage.”
It is not only such exposure that concerns China’s leadership. Hu Jintao’s likely replacement, Xi Jinping, will face an array of daunting internal challenges upon taking the reins next year: a declining share of working-age individuals, a growing share of elderly ones, an ongoing influx of migrants into urban areas, worsening environmental degradation, and increasing dependence on energy imports are but a few on the list. These challenges suggest an overarching question: how can China continue to deliver robust, sustainable material gains to its citizens—the very gains that are enabling more and more of them to move into the middle class and challenge the leadership’s decisions—without compromising the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party?
Securing the prodigious raw materials, natural resources, and energy reserves that it needs to do so leaves it with little choice but to scour the world and negotiate agreements wherever it can. This reality means, in turn, that despite its inexperience in, and perhaps even aversion to, conducting a truly “global” foreign policy, it must improvise one as it proceeds, attempting to reconcile its professed principles—chiefly, non-interventionism—to the actions that it takes to achieve its aforementioned domestic imperatives—for example, cultivating alliances with repressive regimes that can help satisfy its import requirements. China’s comprehensive national power has soared over the past decade because of its internal needs, not its external ambitions—the reverse of what one would expect for a rising power that is consciously striving to supplant a leading power.
It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that the U.S.-China relationship is quantitatively and qualitatively unprecedented in history. Given the stakes, trying to identify more precisely where China falls along the continuum between adversary and ally is not some petty analytical exercise, but rather, one with profound implications for international order. The recognition that China is unlikely to be an ally of the U.S. should not be used to justify a policy that brands it an adversary. As its weight in the global strategic balance draws closer to America’s, the temptation to discard that proposition will increase; so, too, will the imperative of affirming it.
Ali Wyne is a researcher at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a contributing analyst at Wikistrat.