China’s rise has generated enormous prosperity for the rest of Asia. But its development has also led to difficult questions about the region’s future stability and strategic order. While China seeks a greater leadership role in the neighborhood, the United States has made clear its intention to keep a strong presence in the Asia-Pacific.
To examine the implications of China’s rise on Asian peace and security, the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy hosted a discussion with Benjamin Herscovitch, a research fellow at the Center for Independent Studies. Herscovitch discussed the findings from his recently released report, “Preserving Peace as China Rises,” which spells out the steps that other regional powers should take in response to China’s rise to ensure a peaceful and collaborative East Asia. Carnegie-Tsinghua’s Zhang Chuanjie moderated this event.
- Maintain U.S. Presence in the Asia-Pacific: One participant argued that, in the short term, the United States should maintain a military presence in the Asia-Pacific in order to preserve peace and a relative balance of power. A power vacuum in the region would lead to destabilization and potential militarization among China’s neighbors. Another participant contended that U.S. support for Japan has been perceived in China as a major destabilizing force in the region.
- Other Powers Stepping In: Some participants argued that in the long run, the relative decline of the United States means that other powers must increase security cooperation in order to counterbalance a rising China. The relationship between India and Japan was cited as an example of a burgeoning regional alliance that will be necessary to maintain peace and stability in the region.
- China’s Rising Assertiveness: Although many view China as growing increasingly assertive, one participant argued that in fact, China has taken a gradual approach to addressing its many territorial disputes. He added that China has respected the status quo in these disputes, and any increase in assertiveness by China was in reaction to attempts by other powers to alter the status quo. Another participant agreed, saying that other powers in the region must also adhere to the status quo in order to reduce the likelihood of conflict.
- Misperception of China: Contrary to popular beliefs in the United States and other Western countries, a participant explained that China has no desire to challenge the established world order or challenge the dominance of the United States. Another participant added that China’s current strategy is not to actively attempt to replace the United States as a leading power, but rather to continue benefiting from the current trend of declining U.S. power and China’s rising status.
- Strategic Ambiguity: Regional powers should adopt a noncommittal strategic approach in order to maintain flexibility in foreign policy decisionmaking, argued some participants. One said that the U.S. policy on Taiwan offers an example of such a strategy. He added that a lack of flexibility may push countries towards conflict that they want to avoid. Another participant countered that ambiguity leads to distrust among regional powers and only serves to escalate tensions.
Discussants Included: Ding Dou, Li Fujian