A Coming War With China?

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by Zack Beauchamp

Gulliver pushes back against Stephen Glain's worry that "some kind of Sino-American conflict is inevitable":

I am more sanguine than Glain about the prospects for peaceful management of the U.S.-China relationship in the future. It seems certain that this is a result of my greater confidence in the U.S. foreign and security policy establishment to think strategically and behave rationally, a confidence that's inexplicable in light of my tendency to offer near-constant criticism of America's strategic failures. But I'd like to believe that we'll develop a somewhat more sophisticated understanding of our economic and security interests in the future, an understanding that will allow us to perceive and react to the legitimate interests of others in cool-headed and even-handed fashion, one that will help us move past the current fad for primacy everywhere and at all times.

Courtney Messerschmidt, reading the new Defense Department annual report on China (pdf), sees China prepping for a military challenge to the US:

China foresees comparative advantages stemming from its development of asymmetric capabilities, including in electronic warfare; from preparing to wage modern war in a battlespace where information dominance is a key to victory; and from undertaking military modernization with the benefit of new technologies not available to great powers that modernized earlier in history. China’s copy cat of American rhetoric about force doctrine, the Revolution in Military Affairs, and information warfare is striking and presents one conclusion:

China is the only military in the world [explicitly] prepping, training and equipping to fight Great Satan.

First thought is that there's something off about that statement – isn't Iran, for example, "prepping, training, and equipping to fight Great Satan?" Second thought is that China's moves aren't all that surprising – given American commitment to defending Taiwan, Chinese leaders would have to be crazy not to think about how to fight a war with the U.S. It's important to note here that intent to fight doesn't follow from said military preparation. Even if China is getting ready for a potential military confrontation, it doesn't mean they want one. Indeed, the bulk of the evidence indicates China realizes that cooperation is the best approach for the time being, as Spencer Ackerman suggests in his write-up on the DoD report.

(Photo: U.S. and Chinese top generals talk during a meeting at the Bayi Building on July 11, 2011 in Beijing, China. Mullen is on a four day visit to China to discuss disputes China is having with the Philippines and Vietnam over the South China Sea, and the stalled nuclear talks with North Korea. By Alexander F. Yuan-Pool/Getty Images.)