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China and National Military Strategy of the US

It is the first time in seven years that the U.S. has revised its military strategy; the new strategy was made public on 8 February 2011. The last was released in 2004 during the presidency of George W Bush. The 24 page document builds on the 2010 National Security Strategy and the objectives in the latest Quadrennial Defense Review, according to the document. The National Military Objectives pronounced in the document are designed to maintain the supremacy of the US military. It states that “In this multi-nodal world, the military’s contribution to American leadership must be about more than power – it must be about our approach to exercising power.” Some of the other major objectives of the new strategy will be to counter terrorism, deter and defeat aggression, and strengthen international and regional security.

The document also predicts that the US will face bigger challenges in the Asia-Pacific region due to the rise of China and its feverish military modernization. “Asia will increase its regional share of global wealth. Though it faces a number of domestic challenges, continuation of China’s decades-long economic growth is expected to facilitate its continued military modernization and expansion of its interests within and beyond the region.” Though the document seeks a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China in terms of military ties, it however, also cautions China that the US will “continue to monitor carefully China’s military developments and the implications those developments have on the military balance in the Taiwan Strait. “We remain concerned about the extent and strategic intent of China’s military modernization, and its assertiveness in space, cyberspace, in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea.  To safeguard US and partner nation interests, we will be prepared to demonstrate the will and commit the resources needed to oppose any nation’s actions that jeopardize access to and use of the global commons and cyberspace, or that threaten the security of our allies” warns the document.

China’s reaction on the US new military strategy has not been frank and forthcoming. Quoting Russian sources there is a veiled attempt to what its reaction is. Citing  Kommersant, a Russian Daily, its states in the Chinese edition of the Global Times that ‘China has become the target of America’s new military strategy,” for the US is “nervous about China’s rise.” The report further says that it is not surprising that the focus is not on its one time cold war rival, Russia, but on China, for the US army knows that it will be China that will throw a challenge to it’s supremacy in the near future. For economic reasons neither China nor the United States would like to broaden the conflict, however, the increasing nervousness of the US about China’s rise have created conditions for such a conflict, asserts the report. It also quotes another report carried by the Newspaper web, another Russian source and points out that the new national military strategy of the US has been formulated in the face of China threat.

Experts in China are of the view that Obama administration is changing its strategy toward China. The US has adopted a strategy to “contain Beijing’s rise by employing financial, military and diplomatic means” one the one hand and “encircling the country geographically” by not giving it space for maneuverability on the other. They posit that the US “cannot accept China’s rapid rise as a regional and global power” as well as the “comprehensive and profound strategic competition” it is facing from China. The experts calls for an “effective and timely” mechanism between the two so that the bilateral ties do not “deviate from the right path.” If the relations are not managed well, there could be an “all-out confrontation”, which is certainly not desired by both the countries. Zhang Guoqing, an expert of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences had commented on last year’s National Security Strategy of the US that since “there is a narrow gap between the military strength of the US and other powers” the US has realized that it “cannot go alone on various issues,” therefore, it has adopted a strategy of “international cooperation” the “purpose obviously is to maintain its hegemony. The 2011 Military Strategy like the 2010 Security Strategy of the US mentions China 10 times and talks about cooperation as well as a veiled conflict with China.

Zhang Guoqing maintains that the US has always maintained doubled standards while dealing with China. When it comes to the economic interests of the US, it would like to strengthen cooperation with China; at the same time it is nervous of China’s momentous rise and China catching up with it. It has nursed a perennial anti-China mindset. The Chinese scholars maintain that there is a “fragile mutual trust” and “deepened strategic suspicions” between the two countries that may jeopardize the thinking of trade “rebalance” and security “reassurance.”

(The writer, Dr. B R Deepak, is Associate Professor in the Centre of Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The views expressed are his own. He could be reached at

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