A rising China is natural competitor for the United States in the Pacific. Although the prospects for war are limited, they are real and may prove difficult to minimize.
In a recent study (PDF), the RAND Corporation, a public policy think tank, examines not so much the likelihood of a direct confrontation with China rather how and where a crisis can develop that could escalate into war.
If it chose, RAND observes, China could become a more formidable threat to the United States than Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were at the height of their power. China doesn’t appear to seek territorial expansion nor ideological aggrandizement at the expense of other countries and the United States are likely to remain militarily superior but in its immediate neighborhood, China could achieve hegemony. “In consequence, the direct defense of contested assets in that region will become progressively more difficult, eventually approaching impossible,” according to the RAND Corporation.Sponsored Ads
The focus of the Rand study is how and where a crisis can develop that could escalate into war. But there is another way to think about war that does not involve a small conflict escalating into a major war. If China believes that war is likely in the future, then it may want to launch a preemptive nuclear strike. This is especially true if China is concerned about the encirclement of the American missile defense system, and the countering moves by allies in the region.