Only Offensive Realism Can Contain China

Only Offensive Realism Can Contain China

The Biden administration’s prescriptions for containing China are largely inadequate because they are stuck in a liberal internationalist mindset that no longer fits the realities of our realist world order.


The time to fully embrace an offensive realist grand strategy aimed at countering Beijing is past due. A war over Taiwan is more likely in the next five or so years than it is later in the decade, and the U.S. military is ill-prepared for it. As former high-level Pentagon officials Michele Flournoy and Michael Brown recently warned, “thanks to the PLA’s substantial investments, the U.S. military has reportedly failed to stop a Chinese invasion of Taiwan in many war games carried out by the Pentagon.” The military balance is equally problematic in the other potential hotspot, the South China Sea, where scholars and military analysts similarly warn that the PLA currently has an advantage over the military forces of the United States and its regional allies. And the news for Washington is not better in areas of competition outside the military realm; according to prominent tech experts, the technological contest against China is also in danger of being lost.

The new era of great power competition makes for a more challenging environment for American policymakers than the post-Cold War era. However, the United States can still contain China’s rise to hegemony and thus remain a peerless global power for decades to come. But the United States can only do so if its leaders follow the right realist grand strategy.


Dr. Ionut Popescu is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas State University, and an Intel Officer in the US Navy Reserve. He is the author of the forthcoming book No Peer Rivals: American Grand Strategy for the Era of Great Power Competition (Michigan University Press). His articles and commentaries appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, Political Science Quarterly, Journal of Strategic Studies, Contemporary Security Policy, Orbis, and Parameters.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US Navy or the Department of Defense.

Image: U.S. Navy/Flickr.