China I: The Coming Conflict with America

Chinese soldiers on parade outside the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China, 2006. Jason Lee / Reuters


For a quarter-century—indeed, almost since Richard Nixon signed the Shanghai Communique in 1972—a comforting, even heart-warming notion has prevailed among many policymakers and experts on American policy toward the People's Republic of China. They believe that China will inevitably become more like the West—non-ideological, pragmatic, materialistic, and progressively freer in its culture and politics. According to them, China is militarily weak and unthreatening; while Beijing tends toward rhetorical excess, its actual behavior has been far more cautious, aimed at the overriding goals of economic growth and regional stability.

While this vision of China, and especially its diplomatic and economic behavior, was largely true until the middle to late 1980s, it is now obsolete, as it ignores many Chinese statements and actions that suggest the country is emerging as a great power rival of the United States in the Pacific. True, China is more open and internationally engaged than

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