Fourth, we need to respond to the Chinese use of trade and economic relations to change the balance of interests in key regions, especially Asia. Such a shift in the balance of interest will make gaining security cooperation against threats from China more challenging and difficult. With the withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new blueprint for addressing Chinese economic expansionism and its implementation will be central for the effectiveness of a containment strategy.
Fifth, we need to be alert to Chinese weaknesses—and decide how best to enlarge or increase them, especially given their active measures to undermine the United States from within. Chinese energy vulnerability is important, and necessitates that we take it into account in our dealings with Russia, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
To pursue these goals, we need a public and private sector partnership. Much of America’s strength lies in its private industry, which needs to be better and more deliberately incentivized. The private sector needs to recognize—as many within it have certainly begun to do—that the risks of geopolitical tensions spilling into the private sector and hindering the companies’ long-term strategies are real and significant.
Pursuing this kind of strategy does not mean disengaging from China nor does it mean avoiding working with China on issues important to regional and international security or avoiding collaboration on climate change. But engagement must be done from a position of strength with a clear-minded appreciation of the daunting realities we face.
Zalmay Khalilzad was the U.S. Ambassador to the UN.