China’s rise shows the potential
to be one of the most significant geopolitical events in modern history,
rivaling America’s ascent more than a century ago. The international financial
crisis that originated in the West has accelerated China’s arrival as a global
player and the marks of its influence are everywhere: on global financial
flows, the environment, energy supplies, nuclear
proliferation, North Korea and in every
region of the world. Yet China continues to be plagued by domestic challenges –
the institutional decay of the Communist Party, ethnic unrest and the rapid
depletion of its natural resources – which suggests its rise may be far from
The U.S.-China relationship holds the keys to addressing some of the most pressing challenges of the modern epoch. At the Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) between the two nations in the summer of 2009, President Obama emphasized that the U.S.-China relationship is “as important as any other bilateral relationship in the world.” The United States and China are simply too big not to work together and both sides are prepared for a future of growing interdependency and mutual engagement. The United States must also face squarely the challenges that China’s rise poses to Asia and the world and persistent disagreements that will continue to animate their relationship.
One of the main goals of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is to devise a future path for America’s engagement of China that can expand bilateral cooperation in areas of shared strategic interest, while encouraging increasing accountability from the Chinese regime and appropriately managing the challenges ahead. In past years, CNAS has engaged with leaders in the United States and China on bilateral issues, contributed testimony to Congress and commentary in the media on China and produced a working paper on China’s responses to the Iraq War.
On September 22, 2009, in anticipation of the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, CNAS released a long-term strategic assessment of China’s rise and its implications for U.S. policy in Asia, China’s Arrival: A Framework for a Global Relationship. The report, authored by Ambassador Linton Brooks, Dr. Joshua Busby, Abraham Denmark, Lindsey Ford, Dr. Michael Green, Dr. G. John Ikenberry, Robert Kaplan, Nirav Patel, Daniel Twining and Dr. Richard Weitz, takes into account the global significance of China’s rise, examines the ever expanding U.S.-China relationship and proposes a strategy for future engagement. The report raises a number of pertinent issues in the U.S.-China relationship, including energy security and climate change, China’s emerging naval strategy, nuclear proliferation and arms control, and offers practical recommendations to Washington policymakers for the future of U.S.-China relations.
In January 2012, CNAS released a six-chapter volume entitled, “Cooperation from Strength: The United States, China, and the South China Sea,” which argues that American interests are increasingly at risk in the South China Sea due to the economic and military rise of China as well as concerns about its willingness to uphold existing legal norms. CNAS concurrently launched Flashpoints, a comprehensive research tool on the South and East China Seas. The Flashpoints Project features an incidents map with historical and recent data points, an interactive timeline, bulletins by experts and scholars, and research resources.