ESSAY/DISCUSSION QUESTION #2
CHINA AS A THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES
There are many conflicting arguments both for and against the statement that China is a threat to the United States. As some would argue, China’s rapid economic expansion and its growing influence on the world stage in contrast to the United States’ relative decline is a threat to U.S. security as a hegemonic role. However, this is not the case and although China may have more influence over the United States than ever before, China’s internal structure and ambition to replace the U.S. as the world hegemon is lacking. However, where a threat does exist, is the possible economic warfare that could take place between China and the United States if the U.S. were to successfully establish an Asian trade bloc that excluded China. It would be in both parties’ best interest to be mutually inclusive in the event of such a partnership.
As Michael Beckley (2011, pg. 43) argues, China’s rapid growth in gross domestic product (GDP) as a result from its economic liberalization policies is largely responsible for its advancement. More specifically, China exports more high-technology products and employs more scientists than any other country in the world, which contributes to this GDP growth. However, as Beckley explains, the quantity of these exports and scientists does not translate to quality innovation as companies managing these exports and employing these scientists are mostly foreign-owned. Thus, although statistical data may demonstrate that China will soon overtake the United States in terms of high-tech manufacturing and research, in reality these outcomes are the result of foreign investment. It is reasonable to conclude based on this that if China were to suddenly adopt strict protectionist measures and expel foreign investment; it is likely that China’s economy would suffer considerably.
Furthermore, as Beckley (2011, pg. 44) argues, the United States’ decline does not necessarily mean that it will mimic former empires that eventually crumbled. In this modern globalized era, the United States’ role as a hegemon is costly. There is insufficient evidence to show that any state would have the desire to overtake the United States for this role. As Beckley continues to discuss, as a hegemon the United States can wield considerable power, however, in order to maintain a free economically liberal platform – weaker states are able to take advantage of the benefits that the United States can provide while blocking its own ability to economically expand as quickly. Therefore, the decline of the United States is an unlikely argument as a truer reality would simply be the advancement of other states largely because of the United States. A more leveled playing field would not necessarily mean a threat to the United States but less of a burden for the United States to support weaker states’ development. Furthermore, the U.S.’s strong military greatly outnumbers that of China’s and so the threat of blunt force of hard power by China remains insignificant.
Economic interdependence between China and the United States also shows that a military threat is unlikely. As explained by Aaron Friedberg (2005, pg.12), liberal optimists, who dominate U.S. policymaking, regard the economic interconnectedness, common international institutions, and the democratizing nature of China with the United States to be key factors that effectively pacify any future conflict between the two states. The strengthening economic interdependence between the two states, as described by Friedberg (2005, pg. 13), helps create a mutual interest in peace as conflict would be damaging to their economies if a military campaign were waged. This would undoubtedly be a lose-lose scenario for both states and therefore every attempt to avoid conflict would likely be made. Furthermore, China’s increasing membership in various international organizations and its signs of democratization are also contributing factors to an interconnectedness that would likely have devastating consequences for all if these cooperative measures were suddenly cut.