Posted by: bklunk | September 19, 2006

Let’s Be Social Scientists About This

Is a rising China a military threat?

Here is a post from msaecho:

In Friday’s class, Professor Klunk asked us if whether we view a rising China as a military threat.

 From a Realist view, a rising China is absolutely seen as a military threat. Since Realist view that states as their own sovereigns, that they do not answer to a higher authority. Such that the best way to increase national security is by building up a strong military. Now this ties in the whole situation of China pleading the European Union to lift the arms embargo. Realists would say that is just natural that a rising China would definitely seek national security and thus form a military power, which can be seen as a threat to other states.

 On the other hand, from a Liberalist view, a rising China would not be seen as a military threat but in fact an opportunity for commerce and to expand their foreign markets. In that commercial intercourse among nations helps to promote conflict resolutions. That nations are less likely to get into a dispute with nations that they have business with. So rising China is instead viewed as a place for future business dealings.

msaecho has done a pretty good job of giving us the theoretical perspective on this.  Realists will see China as a likely great power competitor to the United States and would expect China to strive at least for regional dominance in East and Southeast Asia and maybe other areas and at most for global military dominance.  Liberals (I hate the word “liberalist”–someone who subscribes to liberalism can be called a liberal, which is a less ugly word than liberalist) don’t necessarily discount the importance of rising Chinese military power, but they expect that Chinese participation in the global economy and further Chinese involvement in international institutions will direct Chinese foreign policy away from aggressive military goals.

The next question is what evidence do we have about Chinese behavior?  Can we systematically apply the evidence to this question?

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  1. I’m not sure of China’s military history, as far as I know they’ve mostly spent the last six thousand years defending themselves from Monguls and Japanese. However, I think China’s history, as well as a realist or liberal view, is near irrelevant in the context of a military threat to the US. No state, and I mean absolutely NO STATE, is a serious threat to US military dominance. No state could impose their will upon our country through military action, no state has power relative to America.

    A serious military threat would be defined by a state that could force America to change her way of life or exact a regime change. Isolated terrorist attacks like bombing the USS Cole and 9/11 do little more than annoy us (and justify a one year $440 billion dollar defense budget). So for China to be viewed as a military threat they would need to demonstrate the ability to invade, overthrow, and occupy our country. This is why I say China’s history and different analytical viewpoints are irrelevant – China does not have a navy capable of supporting an invasion. Nothing else matters, no invasion can be accomplished without a navy (history does show this) to transport troops, weapons and supplies across the world.

    Of course the argument here is not what China can do now, but what they may be capable of in the future. The answer of course is that they will only be capable of what the world allows. The US is so far advanced in terms of military technology and production that China will be unable to catch up to us. For China to develop a military capable of competing with ours, they would likely have to devote such an enormous amount of their economic and natural resources that the country would not be able to sustain itself (just as the US is beginning to feel the tolls of a four year war in every economic and social sector). Even if China does decide to go full scale military production and they do find a way to finance it, they would draw more international attention (in the forms of protests, sanctions and embargos) than any state in a globalized world could hope to endure long enough (decades) to build a military comprable to the US’.

    No navy, not enough resources, too far behind the technological and production curve and no help, mean that China is not a military threat to the US.


    On another level, I do not even think my above argument is relevant. Money is all that is really relevant. And there is no money in a war between the two largest economies in the world. It would be like one hand cutting off the other , the entire body will suffer.

  2. Although China has a been slowly building up their former “bare-bones” military, I do not feel as though they are a military threat, however I do feel that it can definitely challenge the U.S. China could advance more quickly if the EU decides to begin selling military arms to China.

    Ultimately, I do not think that any other country is a real threat to China, therefore China has no need to feel threatened unless for competitive reasons or to overpower Taiwan and possibly lessen the threat of instability from neighbouring North Korea. Basically, China will only feel threatened if another country intervenes and attempts to support Taiwan’s independence from China.

    China’s real focus right now is economic development. China is only a real military threat to Taiwan. I think that as long as U.S.-China relations remain peaceful and compromising, China will continue to gain its interdependence.

  3. I think that China has a strong military and could be a potential threat, but really not something to spend a lot of time worrying about right now. If China were to be provoked, then at that point it may be necessary to evaluate how much we are at risk, or how much damage could be done. Also, if China decides to team up with other military powers, particularly ones that are not friends with the U.S. (like N. Korea) then that might be another reason to start looking at China as a threat. The U.S. is strong and powerful right now and I think China knows it would be unwise to pick a fight, especially while our claws are out after 9-11.

  4. When it comes down to China an increase in national security can be looked at, in a realist view, as a push for power. This can cause a major problem in the area because of the potential of an arms race. Besides China two other major military powers lay right on it’s border- North Korea and Russia. An arms race between these three countries can easily affect countless other countries, for example Janpan is right in the middle of all of this (especially when you look at the history of Japan’s relationships with North Korea and China). An increase in China’s national security can have an untold number of repercussions on other states, mostly in the economic and military categories dealing with foreign policies.

  5. As far as I can tell I don’t think that this is a significant threat of any sort to the U.S. Some may instead see it as a challenge, but as many people already pointed out China would not be able to serve as an extreme threat since the U.S. Military dominance is unparalleled. However as Madi pointed out that this may simply be a push for power and I also agree that it may breed a potential arms race with the nations nearby. I am perhaps more concerned about the possibility of competing arms race among China, Russia and North Korea than I am about China being a possible threat to the U.S.

  6. I think we always have to think of China first as a rational actor before we consider the threat they may or may not pose to the United States. What compelling motivation might China have to become a threat miliarily to the U.S.? What would be the result for China, militarily and economically if their relations with the U.S. reached the point of war? I do not see compelling interests for China to become a threat and I can image that if they did become such a threat it would damage their economy to an extent from which it may never recover. In sum, China would not be acting in its own best interests if it were to harm the U.S. in any way. However I believe it is important for the U.S. to be aware of and ready for any situations that might motivate China to change its mind. If China is a rational actor, which I believe as a country they are, at this point in time they do not pose a threat to the United States.

  7. It might be fair to say that whether or not China could or could not become a military threat to the U.S. is really not of much dispute. The cold hard fact is that our advanced and well budgeted military sided with our trade relationship with China makes any direct military aggression highly unlikely. A question of more relevance might be whether or not China could become a military threat to our allies or other nations that require our aid, mainly Taiwan. With China’s increasing military might it would become nearly impossible to prevent a Chinese invasion of Taiwan which has already been threatened on multiple occasions. Perhaps this is the threat we should truly be worried about.

  8. I don’t think a rising China would be a threat. It’s not as if they would rise to a higher military capabilities than the US. they are starting from an army that is (as to quote nduncan) “bare-bones”. but just where will China stop- this is an issue- there have the largest population there, there almost ahead of the US on pollution, who says that they can’t be a stronger superpower then the US. China take over is also an issue I agree with steve that it would be hard to stop China from invading Taiwan.

  9. I believe that we should focus more on the economic capability of the rising superpower of China (and India for that matter), but still keep an eye on their growing military capabilities, as we do with most other nations. As China continues to grow and worry about maintaining its own security, its military will inevitably grow which will mean that other countries will be watchful naturally, but this does not mean that China should be stifled because of its growing military capabilities, as it is natural for a country to expand its military as it is expanding in so many other ways as well.

  10. The growth within both China and India is defintely something worth noting and keeping a close eye on here in the U.S., however China should not be seen as a direct military threat. They have taken great strides over the last 20 years to gain stability within their own borders and internationally. They would have far too much to lose by starting a conflict with the United States, and it would cause them to sacrafice a lot of what they have acheived internationally. I suppose the idea of a future threat is always possible but it is remote and unlikely.

  11. I don’t perceive China as a major military threat. If you were to simply look at Chinese history, it is mostly a history of defense and they never show interest in dominating another country. China has never been accused of being an imperialist country. If anything China is more of an economic threat to the United States. I think economic power is potentially more dangerous than military power. It seems that these days those country with the highest economic power also have the most say in world affairs. Economic power can be used as more of a soft power, the ability to persuade a country in doing what you want or they will face economic consequences. I don’t think that the U.S. ever needs to fear military domination by the Chinese, but rather the U.S. needs to prepare itself to lose power in global affairs when China has a mature economy.

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