The US Needs A Better Strategy For Competing With China — Or Else Military Conflict Is Inevitable
A defining question of the 21st century is whether a third world war between China and the United States is inevitable, or whether these would-be adversaries can find a way to coexist. At this time, the two countries seem to be on a path that leads to kinetic conflict, even as new technologies are changing the character of war and the global security landscape is shifting.
The United States is approaching this new era with a credo of “great power competition,” giving pride of place to military lethality. In truth, the Pentagon has been yearning for a real enemy for some time, the kind that brings order to both grand strategy and a messy world. Even so, the cultural transition from GWOT to Great Power has been swift. It turns out an aircraft carrier actually can turn on a dime, if only metaphorically.
One lagging shift, however, is the concept of “competitive space.” Even as Secretary Mattis points to the importance of the competitive space in global affairs and the primacy of non-military power and international partnerships in shaping that space, the United States is concentrating its investments in legacy weapons and confrontational diplomacy.
In spite of the heady words, in reality this is a time of strategic distraction for America, mired in political divisions at home and regional battles abroad.
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China, meanwhile, has been seeking to define the “competitive space” for some time. From information age minerals in Africa to Hollywood’s cultural reach, the Chinese are making strategic investments all over the world.
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