China's Rise, Asia's Dilemma

China's Rise, Asia's Dilemma

Mini Teaser: America's Asian allies don't always share our assessments of China. We shouldn't make them choose between Washington and Beijing.

by Author(s): Chung Min Lee

Lessons for the Future

Although it is difficult to characterize intrinsically "Asian"perspectives of China, the most significant common denominator isthe growing acceptance of Chinese influences in the region,followed by an absence of any explicit enunciation of aChina-centric containment doctrine. Even those powers that harbormore suspicions about China's longer-term strategic ambitions, suchas India, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia, have chosen not toarticulate expressly the "China threat" factor insofar as theirdefense strategies are concerned.

This is not to suggest that regional states have turned a blindeye to China's military modernization programs, its growingpresence in the South China Sea, its potential breakout into theIndian Ocean and its policies to further marginalize Taiwan.Moreover, in the event of aggressive moves by China--such asmilitary operations against Taiwan, de facto occupations of theParacel and Spratly islands, stationing of naval combatants andsubmarines in Pakistan, Burma or other ports in Asia, and aconcerted effort to expand its ballistic missile and nucleararsenals--some Asian states could refocus more forcefully theirmilitary capabilities vis-Ã -vis China.

Of course, given the magnitude of China's domestic challengesand the critical role of the United States as the outside balancer,linear projections may turn out to be highly inaccurate. But ifChina's neighbors continue to brush aside, sidestep or even denythe existence of enlarging Chinese footprints through "tacticalaccommodations", the longer-term cost will appear in the form ofnarrowing security options and the real possibility of asignificantly retrenched U.S. presence in the region. The messageto the world is clear: While Europe's core security dilemmas areover, Asia's are just beginning.

Essay Types: Essay