Overcoming Uncertainty: U.S.-China Strategic Relations in the 21st Century   [open pdf - 469KB]

Mutual uncertainty colors every aspect of U.S.-China relations. American's worry that China will use its growing military power in pursuit of expanding political and economic interests. Beijing fears that the U.S. will try to prevent it from achieving its comprehensive modernization goals. Thus, there lingers an omnipresent perception on both sides that the United States and China are on a road to inevitable confrontation that could include military hostilities. Policymakers and defense planners on each side are, therefore, required to "hedge" against some future, undefined, military threat from the other which, in turn, feeds mutual distrust. This paper offers a range of policy steps that should be taken to overcome mutual uncertainty and advance responsibly U.S.-China relations. It does so in view of changes in the global strategic environment and an assessment of China's future. The full range of vital and important bilateral security issues are explored, including the goals of both sides, interests, and strategic perspectives regarding these issues. Finally, bilateral military relations are addressed, including why and how they should be stabilized and developed to support the overall security relationship. Ultimately, this paper is intended to provide a framework for a balanced debate on China policy that would contribute to improved stability and predictability in U.S.-China relations. Now more than ever, in the face of myriad complex foreign policy challenges and opportunities, strong bipartisan consensus is needed to formulate and implement policies that best serve America's long-term interests. Yet, now more than ever, such a consensus appears elusive.

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Media Type:
INSS Occasional Paper 29
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