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Event Summary

Although the US has enormous opportunities for cooperation with China, the two countries are already in a long-term competition, emphasized Representative J. Randy Forbes and a panel of experts at an AEI event on Tuesday. After describing US and Chinese strengths and vulnerabilities, Forbes laid out some policy prescriptions for peacetime competition, including strengthening relationships with old allies and new partners, helping India become a strong land power, and taking steps to reduce the effectiveness of threatening Chinese military capabilities. The congressman likewise pushed back against budget cutting in Washington, calling for a revitalization of the US Navy.

Following Forbes’s remarks, the Naval War College’s Thomas G. Mahnken explained how the nature of China’s rise, growing economic constraints on the exercise of American power, and responses from within Asia to Chinese assertiveness necessitate the adoption of a new US strategy for China. Jim Thomas of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, however, highlighted that the Pentagon bureaucracy is not optimized for designing long-term peacetime strategies.

Toshi Yoshihara, also of the Naval War College, discussed the role that Japan — as a key US ally — could play in the competition, noting that the island nation has geographic and military advantages that should allow it to exploit Chinese vulnerabilities. According to AEI’s Dan Blumenthal, those vulnerabilities include a fragile geographic position, dependence on imports, and a weakening internal political system.

–Michael Mazza

Event Description

Are the United States and China destined to be adversaries? Or will their relationship evolve into a 21st century partnership? The debate about the future of the US and China has largely centered on these questions. But what if such an approach is too binary? Rather than either of these outcomes, the two nations may instead engage in a great-power competition in the economic, political, and military spheres.

In a keynote address at AEI, Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee and chairman of the Congressional China Caucus, will lay out the necessary elements of an American strategy for long-term competition with China, followed by a discussion among a panel of experts composed of contributing authors to a recently published volume on this subject, “Competitive Strategies in the 21st Century: Theory, History, and Practice.”

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


11:45 AM
Registration and Lunch

12:00 PM
Dan Blumenthal, AEI
Keynote Address:
J. Randy Forbes, US House of Representatives (R-VA)

12:45 PM
Question-and-Answer Session

1:00 PM
Dan Blumenthal, AEI
Jim Thomas, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
Toshi Yoshihara, US Naval War College
Thomas Mahnken, US Naval War College and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

2:00 PM
Question-and-Answer Session

2:15 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Lara Crouch at [email protected], 202.862.7160.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Dan Blumenthal is the director of Asian Studies at AEI, where he focuses on East Asian security issues and Sino-American relations. He is also a founding board member of the Alexander Hamilton Society, and serves on the boards of the Project 2049 Institute and the US-Taiwan Business Council. He recently became a research associate at the National Asia Research Program, a joint undertaking of the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He served on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission from 2005–12 and has been a member of the academic advisory board for the congressional US-China Working Group. During George W. Bush’s first administration, Blumenthal was the senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia in the secretary of defense’s Office of International Security Affairs. Blumenthal is the coauthor of “An Awkward Embrace: The United States and China in the 21st Century” (AEI Press, November 2012). He has authored articles and op-eds for The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review, as well as for numerous edited volumes, including Strategic Asia 2012-2013 by the National Bureau of Asian Research.

J. Randy Forbes has served on the House Armed Services Committee for the past 11 years and is currently chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.   As chairman, he is responsible for the research, development, acquisition, and sustainment of US Navy and Marine Corps programs, as well as the US Air Force’s bomber and tanker fleets.   Before the 113th Congress, he served as chairman and ranking member of the Readiness Subcommittee from 2009–12. Forbes is one of America’s most forceful advocates for a strong national defense. Forbes has been a key voice in Congress calling for a stop to the transformational defense sequestration cuts. He is also a nationally recognized champion for active-duty warfighters and veterans, and is one of the few individuals to have received the highest civilian honors from both the Army and the Navy. Forbes has also been a leading voice in calling attention to the complex challenges associated with the rise of China. In 2005, he founded the Congressional China Caucus to help educate members and staff about the military and economic elements of the US-China relationship.   He is a frequent commentator on Asia-Pacific security issues and the author of numerous op-eds. Forbes has also introduced legislation calling for a comprehensive strategic framework to protect American interests in light of China’s military modernization and more aggressive foreign policy.

Thomas Mahnken is currently Jerome E. Levy Chair of Economic Geography and National Security at the US Naval War College and a visiting scholar at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Mahnken was the deputy assistant secretary of defense for policy planning from 2006 to 2009. He was the primary author of the 2008 “National Defense Strategy” and contributing author of the 2006 “Quadrennial Defense Review Report.” He spearheaded the secretary of defense’s Minerva Research Initiative and led an interagency effort to establish a National Security Council-run interagency policy-planning body for the first time in five decades. Mahnken is the author of “Competitive Strategies for the 21st Century: Theory, History and Practice” (Stanford University Press, 2012), “Technology and the American Way of War since 1945” (Columbia University Press, 2008), “Uncovering Ways of War: U.S. Intelligence and Foreign Military Innovation, 1918–1941” (Cornell University Press, 2002), and “The Limits of Transformation: Officer Attitudes toward the Revolution in Military Affairs” (Naval War College Press, 2003), coauthored with James R. FitzSimonds. Mahnken is also the editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies. An intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserve, he served as the intelligence plans officer for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Central in Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also served in Kosovo with British forces during Operation Joint Guardian/Operation Agricola and in Bahrain during Operation Enduring Freedom. He is currently deputy chief staff officer of navy intelligence–reserve region Washington, DC.

Jim Thomas is vice president and director of studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA). He oversees CSBA’s research programs and directs the Strategic and Budget Studies staff. Before joining CSBA, he was vice president of Applied Minds Inc., a private research and development company specializing in rapid, interdisciplinary technology prototyping. Before that, Thomas served for 13 years in a variety of policy, planning, and resource analysis posts at the US Department of Defense, culminating in his dual appointment as deputy assistant secretary of defense for resources and plans and acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy. In these capacities, he was responsible for the development of the defense strategy, conventional-force planning, resource assessment, and the oversight of war plans. He spearheaded the 2005–06 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and was the principal author of the QDR report to Congress. Thomas is a recipient of the Department of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service (1997) and the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service (2006). He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. A former naval reserve officer, Thomas attained the rank of lieutenant commander.

Toshi Yoshihara holds the John A. van Beuren Chair of Asia-Pacific Studies and is an affiliate member of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College. Previously, he was a visiting professor in the strategy department at the Air War College. Yoshihara is the coauthor of “Red Star over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to US Maritime Strategy” (Naval Institute Press, 2010), “Indian Naval Strategy in the Twenty-first Century” (Rouledge, 2009), and “Chinese Naval Strategy in the Twenty-first Century: The Turn to Mahan” (Routledge, 2008). He is the coeditor of “Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age: Power, Ambition, and the Ultimate Weapons” (Georgetown University Press, 2012) and “Asia Looks Seaward: Power and Maritime Strategy” (Praeger Security International, 2008).

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