China is poised to become a major strategic rival to the United States. Whether or not Beijing intends to challenge Washington’s primacy, its economic boom and growing national ambitions make competition inevitable. And as China rises, American power will diminish in relative terms, threatening the foundations of the U.S.-backed global order that has engendered unprecedented prosperity worldwide. To avoid this costly outcome, Washington needs a novel strategy to balance China without containing it.
Bolster Regional Actors. By increasing the national power of China’s neighbors, the United States can constrain Beijing’s behavior and limit its capacity for aggressiveness. This investment is in Washington’s best interest irrespective of whether it is repaid in kind because it will diminish China’s ability to misuse its growing strength and increase American geopolitical maneuverability in the Indo-Pacific. But the United States must be wary of Chinese tactics to subvert these efforts.
Selectively Deepen Globalization. The United States should make trade liberalization a top priority. Since comprehensive global liberalization remains a distant goal, Washington should work to quickly conclude key regional trade pacts, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which promise increased relative gains to the United States and its allies vis-à-vis China.
Bolster U.S. Military Capabilities. To preserve its military superiority in the face of growing Chinese power, Washington should invest in improving U.S. power projection capabilities that will allow it to defeat challenges posed by China’s new strategic denial systems and regain U.S. freedom of action in the Indo-Pacific.
Reinvigorate the U.S. Economy. Revitalizing the domestic economy is imperative to sustaining American hegemony. To maintain its global economic dominance, the United States must emphasize labor force renewal, promote disruptive technological innovations, increase efficiency in production, and resolve the political squabbles that prevent Washington from fixing the country’s public finances.
The Carnegie South Asia Program informs policy debates relating to the region’s security, economy, and political development. From the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan’s internal dynamics to U.S. engagement with India, the Program’s renowned team of experts offer in-depth analysis derived from their unique access to the people and places defining South Asia’s most critical challenges.
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