Monday, April 18, 2011

Week 4 Reading Responses

Hi Everyone. Sorry for the delayed posting of the readings. I'm still playing catch-up after the conference last week, so I'm a bit behind. In the future, know that the readings are included on the syllabus and that you can post your responses as individual posts if you'd like.

But regarding this week, we will be examining strategic security and military relations between the U.S. and China. You may want to consider the following questions in your reading responses:

1. Does the China pose a threat to the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific region? Does the U.S. pose a threat to China in the region?
2. What do you think is motivating China's military buildup?
3. How does the demonstration of military strength affect the nation demonstrating the strength, its neighbors, and other interested parties?
4. What is the role of each nation's military in the bilateral relationship?
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"China Challenges US Predominance in Asia-Pacific," (AP) March 7, 2011.

"The Fourth modernisation" (Economist) December 2, 2010

Swaine, Michael. "Q&A: China's Military Muscle," (Carnegie Endowment) January, 19, 2011.

Li, Cheng. "China's New Military Elite," (Brookings) 2007.


  1. I think it's pretty clear at this point that China's military buildup is stemming from self defense. The US can pretty much have their way with them in the South China Sea and China is looking to counter that. The problem is, once China builds enough military power to deter the US, their intentions may change. At the moment, they pose no threat to the US (though maybe to some of our interests abroad). The US still has all the resources needed to win any confrontation and this wont change any time soon. But direct confrontation is unlikely to occur and China is certainly becoming more and more able to deter American forces. This could be problematic in the very near future.

  2. I don’t think China’s military power poses a threat to the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific region. First of all, China’s military expense is only a fraction of that of the US. In addition, China has not been very aggressive in expending its strategic influences in the Asia Pacific region, partly due to the constraints posted by the US military presence.

    Secondly, the relatively rapid growth of China’s military spending in recent years should be put into perspective. For the past 20 years, China has focused most of its attention on economy growth rather than defense and its military spending had lacked far behind its international peers’. Therefore the current high growth to a very large extend is to compensate for the low or even negative growth period in the past 20 years. Also, given that China is geographically surrounded by US’s allies around its Pacific coast, I think a minimal level of military spending is necessary to ensure China’s uninterrupted economic growth in the long term.

  3. At this point, I don't believe China is a threat to US maritime power in the Pacific. China has come a long way in terms of technology and arsenals compared to the PLA days, but still has a long way to go before competing with the US' superior military capabilities. I think China's arms buildup consists of a proactive, preventative measures. It stems from an anticipation of future conflict with the US and Asian countries rather than any current strategic threat. The mentality of a US-China rivalry seems to play a larger role than actual dispute over territorial or sovereign issues.

  4. While it is true that China cannot yet compete with the U.S. in total military capability, it is rapidly reaching the point where it could effectively deny the U.S. military access to a hefty chunk of the Western Pacific if it so chose. The question to ask, when evaluating how the U.S. will respond, is not whether that is in fact what China plans to do (since the U.S. can't know that), but whether China could do that. The U.S. will be driven to plan for the worst-case scenario. So, whether China is in reality a threat to U.S. maritime power in the Western Pacific, the U.S. will perceive them to be one. To be fair, China probably has a permanent perception that the U.S. is a threat to their maritime power, too.

    The really important question is this: how do we stop the train-wreck? China, in their position as the underdog, and without the same sense of global responsibility as the U.S., is very unlikely to stop expanding their power. If that assumption is true, then the question becomes this: what can the U.S. do?

  5. For those interested in further material on the subject, the World Affairs Council of Northern California recently hosted a lecture on the topic "Power Shift: The Future of U.S. Influence." You can listen to it here:

  6. Unquestioningly, security issues must lie at the forefront of every country's concerns and China is no exception in this regard. Nevertheless, its clear to me that China’s military is as of yet nowhere near presenting a challenge to US predominance, while its growing involvement in oil rich states, like Iran, is still relatively small and non-military.

    Although China has invested heavily in high-tech military equipment and other forms of information warfare, I believe that these investments will not materialize into a major threat as long as the United States continues to decisively oppose and prevent China from military engagements outside of its sovereign territory that would signal a shift from China’s traditional system-sustaining nature and sour the US-Chinese relationship to the point of competition.

    In other words, competition must be avoided. If one accepts that the US’s primary challenges of the future will consists of addressing global terrorist threats, limiting nuclear proliferation, and preventing failed-state scenarios, then one must also recognize that China should be an integral partner on virtually all of these matters. By breeding cooperation on issues of mutual interest like the ones mentioned above, competition can and should be avoided.

  7. There is no doubt that US is still holding its predominating position at the stage of world military force, but on the other hand, China has been working very hard to expand its army, improve the equipment, and bring technology into the development of military force. As the second reading mentioned, there has been a huge progress speaking of the expansion of Chinese army, and the PLA is no more a troop of "peasants" but numerous educated college graduates and well-trained elites in the field of military from all over the China.

    If worth mentioning, the National military recruitment plan has started several years ago, and by having thousands of high school boys signed with army and paying their college education in assigned majors (all in technology and science track),there have been a steady amount of incoming college graduates from top universities in China joining the army. At the same time, the government is working on its secret network and has spies to support their raising curiosity of other countries' defense:

    The best choice here, of course, is to build the friendly relationship between US and China speaking of the danger of involving any serious conflicts. I would not see China is a threat right now for US, but I would not say it will never be a threat either, because none of us really know what the "central government" is planning to do, and in theory, they can do whatever they want.

  8. The United States clearly maintains regional military dominance and will for the foreseeable future. However, the U.S. will need to reassess its approach in a variety of ways, such as (1) its engagement with Taiwan - this remains the largest potential source of conflict and ultimately is probably not worth conflict from the perspective of core U.S. interests, (2) adjusting its naval forces to respond to Chinese threats, such as the use of decoys, more submarines, and greater dispersion of forces, (3) given its domestic fiscal challenges, finding ways to create a leaner presence without sacrificing capability, which may demand forging stronger alliances and naval capacity among regional partners, (4) fostering closer engagement with the Chinese military, (5) finding other ways to convince the Chinese government that the U.S. does not pose a threat to its most important interests in order to encourage slower and less threatening Chinese military development.