America’s and China’s presidents are meeting amid popular fears that Beijing is set to surpass Washington as the globe’s premier power. However, America’s advantages remain overwhelming, including in military strength.
The U.S. Department of Defense recently published its latest report on the Chinese military, warning that the People’s Republic of China “continues to pursue a long-term, comprehensive military modernization program designed to improve the capacity of its armed forces to fight and win short-duration, high-intensity regional military conflict.”
Beijing’s advances are real. However, as I point out in my latest article on the China-US Focus website, the Chinese military poses little threat to America.
As I explain, the PRC is focusing on Taiwan, a mission which
conflicts with Washington’s objectives but does not threaten U.S. security. The PRC has no interest in war with America or any design to threaten U.S. territory, population, or prosperity. Rather, China envisions a world in which it has greater influence and America has less.
While this world may not be a better place—certainly from Washington’s viewpoint—it will inevitably arrive. The U.S. should not view Beijing’s challenge as primarily military, which must be resisted with force.
Equally important is the question of capabilities. China is the world’s number two in military spending—DOD estimates the equivalent of between $135 billion and $215 billion. But America’s advantage remains huge. Washington possesses the world’s biggest and most powerful military and continues to spend far more than the PRC, three or more times on the U.S. “core,” non-war budget.
China’s real “threat” is the potential of creating a force capable of preventing the U.S. from intervening throughout East Asia along the PRC’s border. This would be inconvenient for Washington policymakers, but they would react the same way if Beijing was attempting to preserve Chinese military domination along U.S. borders. Although some Americans have come to view global hegemony as their birthright, Washington’s dominance is artificial and temporary.
The U.S. has to prepare for a new world. That means expecting allies, such as Japan and South Korea, to defend themselves and their regions rather than America doing everything for them. That means encouraging new powers, such as India, to play a larger security role, even though their objectives will not always match those of America. And that means finding a peaceful accommodation with China, a rising Asian power determined to play a much larger role in regional and ultimately global affairs.