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Be Unashamedly Wary of China’s Rise

4:08 PM, Apr 3, 2012 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
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And, in any case, trust is a very slender reed upon which to premise the future global balance of great powers or American security interests. Arguably, there have been occasions of such trust in international affairs, but the examples that leap to mind stem not only from shared strategic interests but a broadly shared political and strategic culture: I think of the Dutch and British in the early modern era or Great Britain and the United States from the late 19th century until the present day. Whatever “strategic trust” means, it’s one of those character-of-the-regime qualities, not something that stems from structures of power or even shared security interests. And it’s hardly clear that China and the United States have anything like genuinely shared security interests; if the commonality of interests had been as obvious as the architects U.S.-China policy have believed, there wouldn’t be a trust deficit today.

Rather, the United States ought to be unashamedly wary of China’s rise. Certainly the rest of East Asia and an increasing number of other nations across the world are wary. Nor should “strategic wariness” necessarily lead to hair-trigger confrontation or conflict.  But it does suggest the need for a serious deterrent military posture (beginning, alas, with a nuclear deterrent), primarily in East Asia but elsewhere as well. It requires more than a token “pivot,” that’s for sure.

The fault in a trust-building strategy is that it presumes the outcome: that the Chinese (whether they know it or not) will conclude that they are better off playing by the international rules that the United States and its allies have set.  That may be true; these rules, first and foremost the “security rules,” have been the framework that has allowed for China’s rise. But if the Wang Jisi “revelations” mean anything, they mean that the conclusions about China’s willingness to play by our rules – the premise of American policy for several decades – are premature if not flatly wrong.

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