The U.S.-China relation is no doubt the focus point of foreign affairs and national security of the U.S., China and even the entire world. The rapid deterioration of the relationship between the world’s two largest economy caused by confrontation has raised acute tension across the board from trade, technology, military, space and diplomacy to the point of rupturing into war - a nuclear war. The U.S. has relied on nuclear deterrence (ND) restraining nuclear armed countries and controlling non-nuclear-armed nations. Denial deterrence (DD) was a strategy based on overwhelming offensive military power to deter any aggression. Other economic and diplomatic sanctions were used in conjunction with denial deterrence to punish or prevent trouble makers. This national security strategy worked fairly successfully since the end of WW II recognizing the U.S. as a super-power of the world. Wooing China and isolating the Soviet Union since the 70’s, the U.S. succeeded in seeing the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990-91. That was the ‘unipolar moment’ for the U.S. A columnist, Charles Krauthammer, published an essay in Foreign Affairs in 1990 (brought out today by Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, Editor of Foreign Affairs in his newsletter) arguing that the world was de facto unipolar with the U.S. being the only superpower having the military, diplomatic, political, and economic resources to be a decisive player in any conflict. This essay was very influential, and the U.S. had acted as the world police for nearly three decades. Today, the U.S. felt strained in fulfilling that role as China had risen as the second largest economy of the world, a close second next to the U.S.
The Quincy Institute (QI) report - Active Denial (AD)(June2022) is the result of years long research of ten authors schooled in different aspects of expertise in national security strategy. QI, different from many other U.S. think tanks, is not directly funded by the U.S. government or by the U.S. Industrial Military Complex (IMC), which essentially adhered to the Nuclear and Denial Deterrence (ND-DD) strategy assuming U.S. supremacy in military and economic power. The facts that supported the past U.S. national security strategy (ND-DD) were: 1. WW II victory, 2. Super-power, 3. Strong economy (20-40% of world economy),4. Biggest industrial military complex (IMC), 5. Collapse of the Soviet Union, 6. Defeated terrorist attack. Today, the world has changed with the following facts: 1. Declining U.S. economy (<20% world economy) 2. Rise of China (across industry, military and economy >17% world economy), 3. U.S. national debt (31 Trillion), 4. China’s growth rate (3-4 times of U.S.). Recognizing the above, the QI report redefined the active denial national security strategy in Asia based on three criteria: 1. Effective deterrence of potential aggression, 2. Enhance stability and limit risk of rapid and nuclear escalation, 3. Affordable under tighter fiscal budget. The QI report recommended: 1. Reduce army and marine footprint in Asia, 2. Eliminate vulnerable platforms (large ships) to save cost, 3. Mitigate security dilemma, reduce arms race and foster mutually acceptable compromises, as well as specific U.S. force restructuring: 1. Greater focus on navy and air force and cuts in army, 2. Reorganize Air Force for ground support (defensive rather than offensive), 3. Cut army and marine and transfer roles to Allies/partners, basically a philosophical change from offensive to defeat to defensive to deter.
The QI report has six chapters, two appendices, many charts and figures, and 314 pages with lots of discussions on rationales justifying its recommendations, ten authors’ different views and opinions on the geopolitical issues, and detailed reasoning for force restructuring on why, what and how. This author highly commend the ten authors’ effort as a large group working over more than a year’s time on an extremely complex subject against a ton of ‘mainstream’ think tank studies and research reports. The candidness of admitting and explaining differences in opinion in this group of authors (though not all opinions are traceable to individual names) is refreshing. However, this author is somewhat disappointed that this report did not ask a fundamental question, that is, what is the basic justification that China must be the target of denial? We have ample studies to place the Soviet Union as the target enemy threatening the national security of the U.S. The historical track record of Russia and more in the history of the Soviet have demonstrated the aggressiveness of the Soviet Communist. Hence, an anti-communist Soviet Union strategy was justifiable. However, China although started as a communist country had parted from the Soviet Union since the 60’s. The partnership of U.S.-China is a significant contributing factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Shouldn’t we ask why would China (even today’s Russia) be targeted as a threat to the U.S. national security in the same logic as the Soviet Union was?
To accept any of the AD or DD as a legitimate strategy in Asia against China, it is not only fair but necessary to ask the fundamental question: Why is China justified as a national threat to the U.S.? It is hardly reasonable to pin China as a threat simply because China has grown faster than the U.S. in the last fifty years, China had not initiated any war against anyone on Earth, whereas the U.S. did numerous times. Go back 100 to 150 years, China was mostly a victim of aggression by the Western aggressors and her neighbor Japan. Even China’s association with communism had shown that Chinese people were victims of communism. The PRC government has less than 100 years of history, why can't it learn from experimenting with communism, strive by embracing capitalism and reform from absorbing the best suitable system for Chinese people? Shouldn’t the fact that China lifted a billion people above poverty be considered a valuable success story? Talking about human rights, there is no ‘saint’ government on Earth. The U.S. murdered the native Indians, imported the African slaves and looted the Mexican territories whereas China kept Tibetan culture alive and people more prosperous and so was with Uighurs. The QI report could only be considered as a small voice trying to reduce a serious risk that might be entirely removable by a sensible national security strategy in Asia.
What If the U.S. and China resolved the phony China threat theory? What if U.S. and China became partners rather than adversaries? A host of benefits (far more than any AD or DD could produce) could be realized:
- A free trade agreement making goods cheaper to Americans and Chinese. (Especially food vs household goods)
- North and South Korea and the U.S. peace treaty signed with China as the matchmaker and witness.
- The U.S. and China jointly making Iran and Israel giving up nuclear weapon or its development.
- The U.S. and China serving as the guarantors for border peace between Russia and Ukraine and other countries.
- The U.S. subletting oversea bases to China ships and planes for supply use.
- China signing a long-term supply, trade and recovery agreement with the U.S. in rare earth minerals.
- The U.S. and China collaboration in space station and other space exploration.
- Taiwan Strait becomes a natural settlement process resulting in U.S.-China mutual reduction of military expense and arms race.