“Current trends in China’s military capabilities are a major factor in changing East Asian military balances.”—Annual Report to Congress, Military and Security Developments Involving the People‘s Republic of China (2010)
Over the past year, actions by the People‘s Republic of China (PRC) have called into question its previous assertions that its rise to great-power status would be peaceful. Whether it was scolding countries around the world about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiabo, declaring that its ?core interests? now included some 1.3 million square miles of the South China Sea, dismissing complaints of neighbors as failing to recognize that "China is a big country," ignoring North Korean acts of terror, challenging U.S. naval ships on the high seas, creating new confrontations with Japan over disputed islands, slashing its export of ?rare earth? elements, continuing cyber attacks on American defense and commercial entities, or testing a new stealth fighter during the visit of the American secretary of defense, the picture that emerges is of a China that believes it can now throw its considerable economic and military weight around. It‘s a challenge that the U.S. has been slow to meet and, as a result, led to considerable uncertainty among friends and allies about whether the U.S. is up to that challenge—uncertainty fed in no small measure by prospects of a declining American defense budget.
Thomas Donnelly is director of the Center for Defense Studies at AEI. Gary J. Schmitt is director of Advanced Strategic Studies at AEI.
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