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United States- China Dyad: Likely Global Strategic Responses

Introductory Observations

United States ñ China Dyad (G-2) seems to be emerging as the latest American foreign policy option for management of the global economic order and by extension the global strategic management.

This impression has gained currency arising from the statements of President Obamaís visits to China and else where. This intention has to be taken in all seriousness as a United States-China Dyad cannot be confined and viewed purely in a bilateral politico-strategic context only.

While the United States-China Dyad has yet to concretize in firmer contours, the public airing of such a proposal has set alarm bells ringing in major world capitals,. It seems that the United States has not taken its NATO and other allies into confidence of its intent.

Awaiting the concretization of the United States-China Dyad, strategic analysis would call for a discussion on the likely strategic responses to such an alignment in the global strategic calculus.

It does require noting that the United States has this propensity to induce China to move from its Russia- proximity and draw it into the American orbit. It happened in the past when China was not a strategic heavy weight. The appeal this time would be that much more as China has emerged as a strategic heavyweight with aspirations to emerge as the second pole in the global strategic calculus.

The United States-China Dyad is strategically attractive for both nations. The United States would be gratified that China would get drawn out from the Russian orbit to the consequent strategic advantage of the United States. China gets provided a heady excitement and instant gratification that United States as the global super- cop deems fit to incorporate China as the second pole in a new global bipolar strategic configuration.

Strategically ironic is the fact that China which so far has been crusading for a multi-polar world to checkmate United States strategic predominance should now seek promiscuous strategic gratification from the United States.

Contextually therefore, this Paper would like to analyze the following aspects:

United States-China Dyad: The American Imperatives Strategic Costs to The United States of Dyad Proposal Global Strategic Responses Likely Future Prospects of US ñChina Dyad: Lessons From the Past. United States-China Dyad: the American Imperatives

Espousal of a United States-China Dyad seems to emerge originally and more actively from the United States. China has smugly played the ëChina Cardí to strategically entrap the United States. The use of the ìeconomic figleafí by the United States to justify this new combination of global management does not fool anyone.

There are no ideological convergences between the United States and China. China militarily intervened against the United States in Korea and their adversarial relationship was carried out through proxies thereafter.

The United States perceives nuclear weapons proliferation as the greatest threat to United States security. Pakistan and North Korea as rogue nuclear states are Chinaís creation and Chinaís proxies. So what is it that draws United States to China?

American imperatives to promote a United States- China Dyad seem to be prompted by a mix of strategic and economic reasons.

Strategically, the Dyad proposition is attractive to the United States from the ëbalance of powerí precepts that underpin American global strategy. The American strategic inducement to China to be accepted as the second pole in a new bipolar world is too strong and attractive for China to resist. China in this process gets drawn away from its so-called strategic nexus with Russia which emerged in the Post-Cold War era.

The United States was feeling strategically inadequate in establishing itself effectively in the Central Asian heartland of Asia because of the Russia ñ China strategic nexus and their Shanghai Cooperation Organization linkages. So China needed to be drawn out.

Strategically, it also emerges that in the wake of a United States exit from Afghanistan, the United States may not strategically prefer regional powers bordering Afghanistan like Russia, India and Iran to get involved there. The United States may prefer to strategically outsource Afghanistan to China- Pakistan combine.

Economically, it is well known that the United States has become overly dependent on China for subsidizing the American economy. Curiously, the United States policy establishment seems to be oblivious to the fact that it is the United States which enjoys stranglehold leverage over the Chinese economy. If the United States shies away from exercising this stranglehold over China, the only reason that strikes oneís mind is that it is for strategic reasons only, namely the Russia factor.

Strategic Costs to the United States of Dyad Proposal

United States espousal of the United States-China Dyad whether economically motivated or strategically motivated, or whether tactical or strategic in intent, has inherent in itself the ìStrategic Diminutionî of the United States in global perceptions.

The United States and Russia during the Cold War were near strategic equals. Russiaís current resurgence is inching it forward to that equation once again. China may be near in emerging as the second-most economically powerful nation in the world, but certainly not in a position to displace Russia as the second most strategically and militarily powerful nation in the world.

Besides ìStrategic Diminutionî there are likely to be other sizeable strategic costs to the United States arising from the Dyad Proposal. The major ones that can be cited are as follows: (1) European Union with its closer political linkages to Russia and its economic and energy security inter-dependency is likely to view the Dyad Proposal with disfavor (2) Dyad Proposal would unravel the entire Asia Pacific security architecture crafted by the United States since 1945. Its deepest adverse impact would be on Japan. Japan may be provoked into a drastic reversal of its national security blueprint (3) The United States India Strategic Partnership which has hardily fully evolved would unravel as a consequence of the Dyad Proposal

Strategically, it is puzzling that the United States should be willing to jeopardize its Asian strategic, democratic and stable mainstays like Japan and India in favor of a non-democratic and domestically vulnerable China.

Global Strategic Responses Likely

United States ñ China Dyad will not only inflict substantive strategic losses on the United States but also spawn in its wake strategic configurations to neutralize the US-China Dyad.

Some of the likely strategic configurations that could emerge as responses to the US-China Dyad could be enumerated as follows:

Russia-Iran-India Triangle Russia-Iran-Central Asia Triangle Russia-European Union ñIndia Triangle. India-Japan Strategic Dyad. Since the United States ñChina Dyad is basically Russia-centric in its focus, it is natural that all strategic responses to neutralize the US- China Dyad are likely to revolve around Russia as the core and countries with good relations with Russia historically as constituents.

The Russia ñ Iran ñ India Triangle stands amplified in detail in the Authorís Paper of 2009. Needless to emphasize that such a strategic configuration combines the massive geo-strategic and geo-political significance of these three nations. This configuration combines the strategic overlaps of Russia as a global power, Iran as the most significant regional power of West Asia, besides its strong linkages to Central Asia and Afghanistan, along with the power potential of India as a regional power of South Asia and a global power in the making.

In geostrategic terms the Russia-Iran-India Triangle encompasses the Northern, Western and Southern tiers of Asia. The United States ñChina Dyad in geo-strategic terms lies only on the eastern fringes of Asia with the United States not as a ëresident powerí of Asia.

Russia-Iran-Central Asia Triangle cannot be ruled out despite the pipeline spider -network being forged by China in this region. Geo-strategically and in terms of energy security such a strategic configuration could strangle China.

Russia- European Union- India Triangle may appear farfetched in view of European Unionís linkage with NATO and USA. However, the expanding economic inter-dependency emerging between these three entities could translate into strategic unity to neutralize the China component of the US-China Dyad.

As noted earlier in this Paper, the two major strategic losses to the United States Dyad espousal would be the United States 60 year military alliance with Japan and its evolving US- India Strategic Partnership with India.

With China weighing heavily in the threat perceptions of both Japan and India, strategic convergence dictates a strong case of the emergence of a substantial India-Japan Strategic Dyad. It is already in the making and its swift emergence is being held back more by Japanís reticence than India’s

Japan must get over its strategic reticence to forge a swift India-Japan Dyad simply on the reality that India has more alternative options in terms of strategic configurations whereas Japan has none other than India to counter China.

An India-Japan Strategic Dyad on the both flanks of China would be a potent strategic configuration. Russia can be expected to blink at its emergence as neither India nor Japan in any way impinges on Russian national security interests.

Future Prospects of US ñChina Dyad: Lessons From The Past

The US-China Dyadís emergence can be viewed more as a Las Vegas marriage of convenience with a Reno divorce most likely on the cards thereafter.

There is an inherent contradiction in the United States espousal of a US-China Dyad. Inherent in the Dyad configuration is a bi-polar management of the global system. But when was historically a bi-polar global power structure about joint global power-sharing?

Also, the last US-China quasi-strategic alliance of late 1970ís and early 1980s burnt itself out on its ascendant trajectory. American strategic analysts with CIA backgrounds were openly propagating in the early years of 1980s that China had outlived its strategic utility to the United States. Historically therefore, the past US-China strategic nexus was not a lasting one; it petered out within a decade.

Chinaís power ascendancy in the 1990s misled it into a perceptive strategic superiority attitude over Russia in the Russia-China strategic nexus. It thought it was a China ñ Russia nexus with Russia as not the predominant partner.

The strategic trends in the run-up to the 2050s portend that China will emerge as a competing power with the United States and particularly aim for a US exit from East Asia. Chinaís calibrated penetration into the energy -rich Islamic lands of the Gulf Region, traditionally a US stronghold, could emerge as a serious contentious strategic US-China flashpoint besides East Asia.

Concluding Observations

The United States-China Dyad espoused by the United States and gleefully acknowledged by China as an American endowment made from compulsions of expediency does not carry in itself the promise of a lasting strategic configuration for global management.

Such an American enterprise ignores strategic realities that Russia as a resurgent power and India and Japan as rising Asian powers with global aspirations, are not likely to submit to a joint US-China conundrum.

Emergence of alternative strategic configurations in varying line-ups of powerful nations to neutralize the China component of the US-China Dyad is a strategic certainty that will hover over the global strategic calculus.

(Courtesy:, the writer Dr Subhash Kapila, is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. Email:

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