But neither, it must be emphasized, should these trends be welcomed in Beijing. In fact, China stands to suffer as much and perhaps more than its neighbors should these trends fully unfold. Beijing should therefore be very careful lest its military buildup—conventional and nuclear—lead to a far more menacing, less stable and more proliferated regional environment. At best, this path will lead to a more formidable military posture and a less restrained way of war on the part of the United States and its allies. At worst, it will result in these and a more proliferated Asia. Neither of these futures should seem particularly attractive to Beijing. Yet Beijing is the one player in the regional equation best positioned to prevent them from coming to be. Let us hope that this encourages Chinese decision makers to look upon greater restraint in their military investments and deployments and modesty in their regional ambitions not as favors to Washington and other Asian capitals, but as serving China’s own vital interests.
Elbridge Colby is the Robert M. Gates Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.