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本文首发于Survival: Global Politics and


A Reporter at Large

Chinese officials and analysts regard the US pivot towards the
Asia-Pacific as a strategy to contain China, despite Washington’s claim
that it does not focus on a particular country. Instead of accepting
either Chinese skepticism or US official statements at face value, this
article attempts to trace the origins and examine the evolution of the
pivot through the lens of the Pentagon’s internal think tank, the Office
of Net Assessment .Drawing on documents produced and sponsored by the
office, this article explores trends in its analysis of Asian security
and Sino-American relations, the rationale for the pivot and China’s
role in the United States’ Asia-Pacific strategy.Established in 1973,
the ONA is directed by Andrew W. Marshall and employs around 15 staff.1
Most of its projects are outsourced to external academics, think tanks
and companies. The US Department of Defense defines net assessment as
‘the comparative analysis of military, technological, political,
economic, and other factors governing the relative military capability
of nations. Its purpose is to identify problems and opportunities that
deserve the attention of senior defense officials.’2 The ONA studies
issues relevant to national security such as weapons technology and
climate change, explores worst-case scenarios and promotes no-regret
strategies. 3 Using methods such as war games, simulations, policy
analysis and scenario-based planning, the office aims to anticipate
strategic developments 20 years in advance.Marshall was described by
former US Vice President Dick Cheney as one of the world’s best
strategists, and last year was ranked at number 44 in Foreign Policy’s
Top 100 Global Thinkers.4 Like many first-generation RAND scholars,
Marshall is often praised for his originality, though he has also been
criticised for making exaggerated claims.This article is based on the
study of ONA-related defence department documents and memoranda, the
writings of officials and experts associated with the office and work by
individuals and organisations it commissioned to carry out research. For
brevity, I will not specify every aspect of the ONA’s relationship with
the individuals and organisations quoted in this article. Generally,
these sources influenced, or were influenced by, Marshall and the ONA.
Those associated with the ONA will usually be referred to as net
assessors. Although Defense Planning Guidance for the Fiscal Years
1994–1999 seemingly has no connection to the office, Marshall and Albert
Wohlstetter were consulted on the drafting of the document.5 Zalmay
Khalilzad and Abram N. Shulsky, major authors of the guidance, both have
a background at RAND and are closely associated with Marshall and
Wohlstetter. Shulsky also worked for the ONA, and was one of the
participants in its 1999 Summer Study. This article examines ONA-related
work since the 1980s.I recognise the limitations of this approach.
Firstly, there is no discussion of the degree to which US
national-security policy has in fact been influenced by the office and
the studies it sponsored. Secondly, some may categorise the ONA and its
associated net assessors as neoconservatives, and argue that my sources
reveal only certain neoconservative perspectives. However, instead of
discussing ideology, this study treats the office as a channel through
which experts from academic, non-governmental institutions influence
national-security decision-making at the highest level. The underlying
assumption is that examining ONA-related work will help us understand
the world views of senior US officials and defence elites or, at least,
tell us what interests the Pentagon’s internal think tank and, to some
extent, the Defense Department. There is also an assumption that it will
tell us what questions they asked at certain points in time and reveal,
to a degree, the rationale for the pivot. In any case, if US officials
and elites’ views of the security environment and the pivot are to be
assessed, ONArelated work appears a good place to begin.Cold War
As shown by various high-level strategy and national-security
documents, the ONA’s work during the Cold War led to net assessment
becoming the United States’ main analytical framework for understanding
the global security environment and the competition with the USSR. The
White House’s 1987 National Security Strategy of the United States
argued thatthe United States must pursue strategies for competition
with the Soviets which emphasize our comparative advantages …
Competitive strategies are aimed at exploiting our technological
advantages in thoughtful and systematic ways to cause the Soviets to
compete less efficiently or less effectively in areas of military
application. Such strategies seek to make portions of the tremendous
Soviet military machine obsolete and force the Soviets to divert
resources in ways they may not prefer, and in a manner that may not
necessarily threaten our own forces.6
Some scholars and former officials
argued that the ONA, alongside the Competitive Strategies Initiative
created by Marshall, helped to perfect the containment strategy that
contributed to the collapse of the USSR.7 As argued by Daniel I. Gouré,
vice-president of the Lexington Institute, ‘the competitive strategies
approach, particularly as applied by the Reagan administration, did much
to set the stage for subsequent events and for the eventual collapse of
the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact’.8The ONA continues to play an
influential role in strategic assessment and defence planning. It is
responsible for preparing the US defence secretary’s annual report to
Congress, which contains a comprehensive net assessment ‘to determine
the capabilities of the armed forces of the United States and its allies
as compared with those of their potential adversaries’.9 The ONA’s work
on the well-known concept of a Revolution in Military Affairs has
influenced strategists in many countries. The office is often involved
in drafting and assessing national-security and defence-policy
documents.Many former ONA staff have held high-ranking positions at the
Pentagon, think tanks, consulting companies, universities or military
education centres. Taiwan and India have established their own offices
of net assessment and the approach has heavily influenced Australian
defence policy. According to Chen Zhou, the main author of four recent
Chinese defence white papers, the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of
Military Science also studies Marshall’s work.10From its inception to
around 2000, the ONA went through roughly three phases in assessing the
global security environment and identifying potential challenges.
Firstly, during the Cold War, it focused on long-term competition with
the USSR. Secondly, in the aftermath of the Cold War, it worked to find
the right direction for strategic orientation. Finally, from the
mid-1990s to around 2000, the office began to fully realise the
strategic importance of Asia and assess potential great-power
competitors in the region. At the end of this phase, the office
concluded that China would be the United States’ main strategic
competitor in the next few decades.During the ONA’s first phase of
assessment, Asia was treated as a key balance area but regarded as being
much less important than Europe. China appeared in its studies only on
occasion and, when it did, was viewed in terms of its importance to
competition with the USSR.11 In the mid-1980s, the ONA recognised that
Asia was becoming more important. Drawing on a 1983 strategic-balance
review, Marshall concluded that the United States was in a strong
position and the Soviets’ capacity to wage global war was diminishing.12
This allowed the ONA to divert some of its resources to studying future
security scenarios, such as the rise of Asia and the development of a
multipolar world order. Consequently, in 1985 the office requested that
the Science Applications International Corporation begin to study
potential strategies and policies for use in such scenarios.13 The main
findings of these studies were reflected in The Future Security
Environment, a 1988 report by the Commission on Integrated Long-Term
Strategy, led by Marshall and Charles Wolf, Jr, professor at the Pardee
RAND Graduate School. This report accurately identified several
long-term trends, two of which are still highly relevant to the United
States’ current strategic thinking and pivot towards Asia.Firstly, the
paper argued that the Soviets were correct in thinking technological
development would lead to new forms of military organization and
operational concepts that would fundamentally change the nature of
warfare. Secondly, Marshall and Wolf predicted that the rapid economic
growth of East Asian countries would increase their military spending,
shifting the balance of power in a way that could affect US security.14
Although the USSR was still at the centre of ONA studies and US
strategic planning at the time, the report noted that a multipolar world
order was emerging and Asia was becoming increasingly important. The
ONA’s recognition of such changes is also evident in subsequent studies,
such as Multipolarity in the Pacific by 2010: A Geopolitical Simulation
and An Examination of the Implications of Multi-Polarity in Strategy and
Force Structure.15Redefining strategic objectivesAlthough the ONA
recognised the emergence of a multipolar world order in the 1980s, it
was the great changes caused by the end of the Cold War that led it to
drastically reassess prevailing ideas about national interests and
strategies. Soon after the collapse of the USSR, net assessors
acknowledged that the United States was not directly threatened and no
longer had a peer competitor. As a 1994 ONA-sponsored study pointed out,
‘current U.S. statements of objectives and strategy are either overly
specific or vague because they are in transition from the well-defined
problems of the Cold War to a new, relatively undefined set of
problems’.16 According to the 1993–99 US National Security Surveys, ‘a
primary characteristic of the Cold War was that it really was very
stable … It provided a beacon for orientation. There is no beacon right
now.’17The ONA’s search for such a beacon led to the redefined strategic
objectives and conception of global security proposed in Defense
Planning Guidance for the Fiscal Years 1994–1999. Written by, among
others, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, later Cheney’s chief of staff, under the
supervision of future US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, the
document discussed the United States’ new position as the world’s only
superpower. It also reviewed other nations’ capacity to develop
strategic aims and defence postures to challenge this status. The plan
clearly defined new strategic objectives as preventing ‘the re-emergence
of a new rival for world power’ and addressing ‘sources of regional
conflict and instability’ that could unsettle international relations by
threatening the interests of the United States or its allies.18Despite
its aims, the study neither identified the United States’ regional focus
nor its potential rivals. It suggested that the main US objective in
Asia was ‘to continue to contribute to regional security and stability
by acting as a balancing force and prevent emergence of a vacuum or a
regional hegemon’.19 While it supported European integration, a Europe
that excluded the United States was judged to be unacceptable. The study
also presented India as a potential regional hegemon, recommending that
the United States ‘discourage Indian hegemonic aspirations over the
other states in South Asia and on the Indian Ocean’.20The ONA worked to
identify potential threats and adversaries throughout the early 1990s
but there is no evidence that it focused on a specific region or
adversary until the middle of the decade. In 1992 Marshall instructed
his military assistant Andrew F. Krepinevich to assess other nations’
potential to initiate an RMA. Krepinevich compared the global security
environment of the time with that of the early 1920s in the belief that
no major enemy had emerged. His report intended to identify the most
important actors in the following two decades but concluded that the
most capable potential rivals were US allies, who had no strong
incentive to compete. (Russia had an incentive to compete but was in no
position to do so.)ONA-sponsored studies conducted in the mid-1990s such
as Research Design for Asia Force Assessment and Asian Security
Challenges: Planning in the Face of Strategic Uncertainties revealed
Asia’s enormous strategic and economic significance. Unlike The Future
Security Environment, which suggested the region’s relative importance
would moderately increase, these studies argued that it would become
more important than Europe in subsequent decades. From 1993–98, the ONA
conducted various RMA-oriented war games, workshops, roundtables and
seminars. East Asia dominated its regional studies. Among the 13 papers
the office produced in this period, three focused on China, six on
Korean unification and one on wider Asia.21 Asia 2025, which was
published in 1999, succinctly explained the reason for this change:
‘most US military assets are in Europe, where there are no foreseeable
conflicts threatening vital US interests. The threats are in
Asia.’22Peer competitorsThe ONA’s advocacy of a shift of attention
from Europe to Asia was based on the assumption that a peer competitor
to the United States would eventually emerge from the East.23 Asian
Security Challenges envisioned four distinct versions of the future
security environment in the region, including a scenario in which ‘the
major challenge to U.S. security interests came from the regional
hegemonic ambitions of one or more large Asian states: China, Russia,
Japan or India.’24During the latter half of the decade, the ONA
conducted many in-depth assessments of these countries to identify which
was most likely to become a peer competitor. It analysed their strategic
objectives, wider aims, willingness to challenge US supremacy and
long-term trends in economics, demography and military capability. It
also undertook various projects to assess the future balance of power in
Asia by comparing Asian countries’ efforts and abilities to create and
adapt to new military technologies.25 Marshall was one of the few
defence analysts to recognise China’s economic potential in the 1980s:
he predicted the country would develop the world’s largest economy in
25–30 years. In 1994 Marshall argued that ‘there may be six or eight
major powers, but the two that have the biggest chance of becoming major
competitors are a revived Russia that partially reconstructs its empire,
and China.’26 Marshall’s net assessors did continue to study other
scenarios. This was in line with his oft-repeated lesson to ONA staff:
‘don’t try to make your best guess. Don’t try to say, this is what’s
going to happen, I’m pretty sure, and then suppress dissent, suppress
other scenarios that might unfold, or imply that you sort of have a
know-it-all attitude.’27In the early 1990s, for example, many net
assessors judged that Japan’s economic power and technological
development made it a promising candidate to initiate a future RMA and
challenge the United States. Asian Security Challenges argued
thatJapan’s technology, manufacturing capabilities, manpower skills,
communications, and transportation nets would enable it to make a major
increase in its military capabilities, if it decided to do so and was
able to overcome the domestic political barriers to becoming a military
power … Japan has the resources to become the dominant military power
in Asia and even to become a global military power.28The 1991 study
Reconstituting National Defense: The New U.S. National Security Strategy
points out that ‘Asian leaders – notably in Japan – resented the notion
that American leaders would arrogate to themselves the right to make
decisions and take actions in the name of the greater good of a broadly
defined Western world (including the advanced economies of Asia)’.29
However, Japan’s Potential Role in a Military-Technical Revolution,
published later that year, concluded that the country showed no interest
in re-militarisation: ‘Two strong impressions came out of interviews.
First, the pacifist sentiment in Japan was even stronger than we had
imagined from our previous readings and experience. Second,
tactical-technical innovation is weak and, as far as we could discover,
almost non-existent.’30 Moreover, the stagnation of the Japanese economy
made it unlikely that Japan would become a peer competitor.During this
period, net assessors maintained that Russia’s military capability,
notwithstanding formidable weapons systems and advanced technological
expertise, was being severely eroded by economic difficulties and a
demographic crisis. Moscow’s defence budget was rapidly diminishing; the
Russian state had ‘consistently had problems meeting budget commitments
due to tax shortfalls’. The country’s negative population growth had
reduced its military-age population.31 This demographic crisis was
serious enough that, from the mid-1990s, net assessors grew concerned
that China might exploit it by populating Russia’s eastern territories
or invading Siberia.32 They also argued that Russia’s sophisticated
research and development infrastructure would be undercut by long-term
economic decline.The ONA identified China rather than India as the
United States’ principle adversary for several reasons. Firstly, it
seems net assessors could not agree whether India should be considered
as a potential niche competitor or peer competitor.33 The key difference
between these categories is that niche competitors do not threaten the
United States’ vital interests, while peer competitors have the
potential to challenge its global dominance. Secondly, even if both
countries were considered to be potential peer competitors, China would
rise more quickly in the short term. Published in 1996, the ONAsponsored
study China and India, 2025: A Comparative Assessment concluded that
China had more potential for growth before 2025, but India was likely to
become more powerful thereafter.34 One scenario explored in Asia 2025
suggested that the United States needed to establish ‘a working
strategic dialogue and common geopolitical objectives with one of them,
and India appears to be the more logical choice’.35 In April 2000,
Marshall suggested this strategy to Donald Rumsfeld, who would be
appointed US defence secretary in January 2001, arguing that the United
States needed to ‘get interested in India and Australia, and develop
better relationships’.36 Marshall confirmed his support for this
approach in a discussion about the creation of an Asian equivalent to
NATO with high-level Indian civilian advisers in 2003.37China as the
principle competitor
The ONA judged China to be the United States’ main
competitor by assessing its capabilities and intentions, which it
continues to carefully monitor. A large population with a relatively
high literacy rate provides China with the skilled labour necessary for
military modernisation and an RMA. The percentage of China’s population
at working age will be higher than that of India until 2030, when the
trend reverses.38 Marshall started thinking about China as a potential
threat to American primacy when its economy, which has been growing
rapidly since 1978, was smaller than that of Italy. He suggested that
its rapid economic expansion would allow it to increase its military
capability and diplomatic influence in Asia and other regions, such as
Africa and Latin America.China’s military is larger, and being
modernised more quickly, than that of any other Asian country. The
Americans feared that its growing anti-access and area-denial
capabilities would enable it to coerce its neighbours and gradually
displace US influence in the region. In the mid-1990s, China’s economic
development allowed it to significantly increase defence spending and
modernisation programmes, and to initiate an RMA. Since then, Marshall
has commissioned studies on the country’s military development,
power-projection capabilities, changes to its operational doctrine,
perception of the future security environment, approach to warfare and
RMA.39 In the 1994 China in the Near Term, net assessors contended that
the 1991 US invasion of Iraq in Operation Desert Storm fundamentally
altered Chinese perceptions of future warfare and fuelled the PLA’s
modernisation efforts.40 In 2005 the late Mary C. FitzGerald, research
fellow at the Hudson Institute, warned that China had moved towards an
RMA by developing weaponry and improving its military theory,
organisation, education and training.41She argued thatinformation, naval
and, above all, aerospace [capabilities] still constitute the nucleus
of the new revolution in military affairs. If we neglect the timely
development of weaponry in these arenas, then China could catch America
like a deer in the proverbial headlights, precisely where we caught them
after the 1991 victory in Desert Storm.42During the 1990s, the balance
of military power in the Asia-Pacific gradually shifted to benefit
China. The collapse of the USSR and the establishment of the Shanghai
Cooperation Organisation considerably eased Sino-Russian territorial
disputes and allowed China to focus on other contended areas, such as
the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea and the East China Sea. In
response to the PLA’s demonstration of force in the 1995–96 Taiwan
Strait crisis, the United States assisted Taiwan by providing it with
analytical training through the ONA and helping it to develop its
defence capabilities.43In 2000 Marshall argued that ‘the PRC is
ambitious. Its goal is to be a great power.’44 Such a view was also
evident in China in the Near Term, which concluded that China’s
long-term strategic goal was to develop a military that rivalled the
United States globally.45 The report argued that China was dissatisfied
with the US-dominated world order and its foreign policies were
‘independent of and sometimes opposed to U.S. policies’, which created
‘the potential for China directly to challenge U.S. security
interests’.46 The Pentagon-sponsored The United States and a Rising
China: Strategic and Military Implications, published in 1999, used
realist theory and an analysis of Chinese history to argue that China
would seek to dominate the Asia-Pacific as its power grew.47 As
FitzGerald put it in 2005, ‘China’s ultimate objective is to achieve
global military-economic dominance by 2050’.48Marshall laid out the
blueprint for the pivot in a memo to Rumsfeld in May 2002:Australia:
start negotiations to base selected US forces in Australian Northern
Territories and expand US and regional states’ use of Australian
training ranges … India: increase port visits, and initiate program of
mil-to-mil interactions; initiate joint planning for contingency of loss
of control of nuclear weapons in Pakistan … Initiate planning for a
major expansion of basing infrastructure in Guam, and possible
improvement in Pearl Harbor infrastructure … Direct the Services to plan
for the types of military challenges a malevolent China may pose over
the long-term, and incorporate these into Service and Joint war games,
training and exercise programs, including routine wide-area
USN–USAF–special forces exercises … For next UCP change , redraw
CENTCOM/PACOM boundaries to reflect China as principle long-term
strategic competitor.49The memo makes clear that despite China’s
comparative lack of development in many areas, the ONA had identified it
as the biggest threat to US primacy over the next few decades. As Aaron
L. Friedberg, professor at Princeton University, has argued, ‘China
today appears to have both the “will” and the “wallet” to compete
actively with the United States for power and influence, not only in
Asia, but around the world’.50Preserving US primacy through
competition with China
Net assessors usually suggest that the United
States has three ways to meet the challenges of a rising China.51 It
could either forego its current primacy by reducing its global presence
and reverting to isolationism, create a multipolar world order in which
other great powers take the lead in dealing with problems in their
regions or preserve its current position by limiting China’s growing
power and influence.52Several ONA studies in the early 2000s addressed
the difficulties of preserving or extending US primacy.53 Although net
assessors acknowledge that the United States’ relative power will
decline in coming decades, they often argue that it can preserve its
current role. In the face of challenges from emerging powers, history
suggests that a dominant state can preserve or strengthen its primacy.
Friedberg has argued that the United States may be able to maintain its
position for at least a few decades.54 The 2002 ONA paper Military
Advantage in History uses case studies of dominant ancient powers to
argue that superior armed forces are vital to the preservation of great
power status:The Roman model suggests that it is possible for the United
States to maintain its military advantage for centuries if it remains
capable of transforming its forces before an opponent can develop
countercapabilities. Transformation coupled with strong strategic
institutions is a powerful combination for an adversary to
overcome.55The paper therefore suggests that the United States needed to
initiate an RMA to adapt to the changing security environment,
especially the asymmetric challenges posed by China.Having confirmed
that maintaining US primacy was possible, Marshall devised a strategy
for competing with China that focused on dissuasion, deterrence and
defeat. This approach was officially introduced in the 2001 Quadrennial
Defense Review Report and reiterated in later documents. The strategy
accords with Marshall’s view that ‘any adequate balance assessment
requires evaluation from at least three perspectives: deterrence, likely
war outcomes, and long-term competition in peacetime’.56Dissuasion,
deterrence and defeat
Net assessors argue that dissuasion is crucial to
long-term peacetime competition. Marshall suggests the United States’
strategic goal ‘should be to delay the emergence of hostile and
competent competitors’.57 This objective could be achieved by dissuading
China from further developing its military or expanding globally. The
2001 Quadrennial Defense Review Report proposed thatthrough its strategy
and actions, the United States influences the nature of future military
competitions, channels threats in certain directions, and complicates
military planning for potential adversaries in the future. Well targeted
strategy and policy can therefore dissuade other countries from
initiating future military competitions.58Although the concept of
dissuasion was only officially introduced in 2001, the ONA has studied
the idea for much longer. In 1992 Krepinevich stated ‘there are ways in
which the United States could shape the competition, or dissuade or
deter competitors’.59 Today, dissuasion and deterrence appear to be very
similar. Dissuasion Strategy, a 2008 study by the Center for Strategic
and Budgetary Assessments, defined dissuasion as ‘pre-deterrence’ or
‘actions taken to increase the target’s perception of the anticipated
costs and/or decrease its perception of the likely benefits from
developing, expanding, or transferring a military capability that would
be threatening or otherwise undesirable from the US perspective’.60
Stephen P. Rosen, professor at Harvard University, has explained the
logic of long-term peaceful competition:By understanding the fears and
sensitivities of an adversary, programs could be initiated or reinforced
in ways that reduced the confidence of the adversary in his ability to
win an engagement or a war. This could enhance deterrence, and also lead
the adversary to cease its efforts even to compete with the United
States in certain areas.61The United States may dissuade potential
competitors by occasionally demonstrating its military capabilities and
willingness to enter into a conflict, but dissuasion is a very delicate
matter. An excessive demonstration of force and willingness to fight
could prompt greater Chinese assertiveness。This suggests that to
determine the correct use of the strategy, the Pentagon will closely
monitor China’s perception of, and responses to, dissuasive action. The
success of such a strategy depends more on the Chinese reaction to
dissuasive demonstrations of power than the actual capabilities of US
forces. Where China’s view of US military superiority has made it less
likely to develop capabilities to challenge the United States,
dissuasion has succeeded. This recognition of the importance of
perceptions has led to many studies of human cognition, the biological
mechanisms of decision-making and Chinese culture, strategic traditions
and leadership ideology.62In the last 10–15 years, the ONA has focused
on strategic dissuasion. The office views China’s development of
capabilities as being in its early stages, but having great potential to
challenge US primacy in the long term. The ONA also concludes that,
should both dissuasion and deterrence fail, the United States must be
prepared to defeat China. The likely outcomes of such a conflict, and
whether it would serve US interests in the long term, are unclear. The
ONA’s usual method of gathering experts from relevant areas to create a
range of plausible scenarios is insufficient for predicting how a war
between the United States and China would play out, even in terms of
assessing the likelihood of achieving military objectives. Qualitative
factors, such as doctrine and operational concepts, are vital to
determining the results of such a war. The development of new weapons
technologies and operational concepts could serve the strategies of
dissuasion, deterrence and defeat because it may enable the United
States to prevail in future conflicts and discourage potential
adversaries from attacking US interests.63Assessing ChinaSince 2000,
the ONA appears to have made significant progress in creating strategies
for long-term competition with China. As the office increased its
efforts to understand the long-term consequences of China’s rise, it
undertook a series of analyses of the country’s economy; military
capabilities and modernisation; potential economic and political
influence in the region and perception of the security environment.64
The ONA often conducted war games designed to assess how US and Chinese
forces might interact, including through the office’s annual summer
studies programme at the US Naval War College.During this period, many
other US organisations, especially ONArelated think tanks, worked to
assess China. Analytical tools developed by the office were often used
to simulate Sino-American conflicts.65 In recent years, the ONA has
organised many seminars and workshops on net assessment, competitive
strategies and case studies focusing on China, including a 2010
conference that produced the book Competitive Strategies for the 21st
Century: Theory, History, and Practice. Such developments suggest the
office has accepted the United States will enter into long-term
competition with China, and has made the application of Cold War
analytical and strategic methods central to its work. It is likely that
the ONA seeks to identify China’s strengths and weaknesses, how to best
use US power against Chinese vulnerabilities and the forms of
competition that most favour the United States. For example, if the
office judges that China fears containment, it may formulate strategies
to exploit this perception.* * *A study of the ONA’s work suggests
that the United States’ pivot towards Asia has been a gradual process.
Between the mid-1980s and the late 1990s, the office’s progressive shift
of focus from the Soviet Union to competition with China was based on
long-term assessments of the security environment and the development of
potential emerging powers. It also suggests that the Pentagon began a
detailed assessment of Chinese strengths and weaknesses in the early
2000s. In recent years, ONA studies have attempted to outline a strategy
to exploit Chinese vulnerabilities and compete in areas in which the
United States is strong, with the goal of preserving US primacy. If the
office’s work anticipates US strategy in Asia, the United States may
demonstrate its power in highly selective ways that aim to dissuade
China from challenging its dominance. It is likely that Cold War
competitive strategies will be a significant part of the Pentagon’s
approach to China in coming decades.Notes





January 8, 2018 Issue


Key words: China NATO common interest

Making China Great Again


As Donald Trump surrenders America’s global commitments, Xi Jinping is
learning to pick up the pieces.

The relation between China and NATO is
extensively influenced by international configuration. So there exists a
dynamic development process between China and NATO. In the new era,
China and NATO have to establish good relations with each other in spite
of divergencies. This paper would be divided into five parts: the
development process between China and NATO, NATO’s attitude towards
China, China’s attitude towards NATO, the reasons for cooperation and
consultation between China and NATO, possible ways for China and NATO to
cooperate with each other.

By Evan Osnos

The development process between China
and NATO

In an unfamiliar moment, China’s pursuit of a larger role in the world
coincides with America’s pursuit of a smaller one.Illustration by Paul

The Vandenberg Resolution by the US
Senate in June 1946 opened the door for the establishment of
NATO.Established in February 1952, NATO aimed to “safeguard the freedom
and security of all its members by political and military means in
accordance with the Washington Treaty and the principles of the United
Nations Charter”.

Audio: Listen to this story. To hear more feature stories, download the
Audm app for your iPhone.

After the end of WWII, the Cold War began
with the Truman Doctrine. In the early period of the Cold War, China saw
NATO as a hostile force against the socialist camp and a tool for US

When the Chinese action movie “Wolf Warrior II” arrived in theatres, in
July, it looked like a standard shoot-’em-up, with a lonesome hero and
frequent explosions. Within two weeks, however, “Wolf Warrior II” had
become the highest-grossing Chinese movie of all time. Some crowds gave
it standing ovations; others sang the national anthem. In October, China
selected it as its official entry in the foreign-language category of
the Academy Awards.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the
divergencies between China and the Soviet Union intensified. The Soviet
Union had gradually become China’s biggest threat. China and the United
States with other NATO members began to improve relations. Under the
guidance of “the three worlds ” theory, China saw European countries as
part of the second world. In the mid-1980s, China and NATO began to
contact with each other.

The hero, Leng Feng, played by the action star Wu Jing (who also
directed the film), is a veteran of the “wolf warriors,” special forces
of the People’s Liberation Army. In retirement, he works as a guard in a
fictional African country, on the frontier of China’s ventures abroad. A
rebel army, backed by Western mercenaries, attempts to seize power, and
the country is engulfed in civil war. Leng shepherds civilians to the
gates of the Chinese Embassy, where the Ambassador wades into the battle
and declares, “Stand down! We are Chinese! China and Africa are
friends.” The rebels hold their fire, and survivors are spirited to
safety aboard a Chinese battleship.

NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in
Belgrade in the name of humanitarian intervention, which brought great
harm to China and revealed NATO’s policy tendency that is to implement
power politics and hegemonism under the control of the United States
after the end of the Cold War. China closed its door to contact with

Leng rescues an American doctor, who tells him that the Marines will
come to their aid. “But where are they now?” he asks her. She calls the
American consulate and gets a recorded message: “Unfortunately, we are
closed.” In the final battle, a villain, played by the American actor
Frank Grillo, tells Leng, “People like you will always be inferior to
people like me. Get used to it.” Leng beats the villain to death and
replies, “That was fucking history.” The film closes with the image of a
Chinese passport and the words “Don’t give up if you run into danger
abroad. Please remember, a strong motherland will always have your

Since the reform and opening up, 40 years
has witnessed China’s great economic development. China has gained more
and more discourse in the international stage. The common interests
between China and members of NATO are integrating and colliding, which
result in the increasing frequency of contact between two side. The two
side have realized that establishment of good relations is beneficial to
the relative countries and the rest of the world.

When I moved to Beijing, in 2005, little of that story would have made
sense to a Chinese audience. With doses of invention and schmalz, the
movie draws on recent events. In 2015, China’s Navy conducted its first
international evacuation, rescuing civilians from fighting in Yemen;
last year, China opened its first overseas military base, in Djibouti.
There has been a deeper development as well. For decades, Chinese
nationalism revolved around victimhood: the bitter legacy of invasion
and imperialism, and the memory of a China so weak that, at the end of
the nineteenth century, the philosopher Liang Qichao called his country
“the sick man of Asia.” “Wolf Warrior II” captures a new, muscular
iteration of China’s self-narrative, much as Rambo’s heroics expressed
the swagger of the Reagan era.

金沙国际欢迎你 1

Recently, I met Wu Jing in Los Angeles, where he was promoting the movie
in advance of the Academy Awards. Wu is forty-three, with short, spiky
hair, a strong jaw, and an air of prickly bravado. He was on crutches,
the result of “jumping off too many buildings,” he told me, in Chinese.
(He speaks little English.) “In the past, all of our movies were about,
say, the Opium Wars—how other countries waged war against China,” he
said. “But Chinese people have always wanted to see that our country
could, one day, have the power to protect its own people and contribute
to peace in the world.”

NATO’s attitude towards China

As a favored son of China, celebrated by the state, Wu doesn’t complain
about censorship and propaganda. He went on, “Although we’re not living
in a peaceful time, we live in a peaceful country. I don’t think we
should be spending much energy thinking about negative aspects that
would make us unhappy. Cherish this moment!”

The US and European countries are still
haunted by the influence of financial crisis and debt crisis
respectively. The reality of fiscal austerity forces NATO to adopt
flexible policies. Since 2010, China has become the 2nd largest economy
in the world, so NATO could reduce its operation costs through
cooperation with China.

“Wolf Warrior II” Captures China’s Newfound Identity An interview with
Wu Jing, the star and director of the film.

In the cooperative security part of
NATO’s 2010 new strategic concept, we could see “The Alliance will
engage actively to enhance international security, through partnership
with relevant countries and other international organizations; by
contributing actively to arms control, non-proliferation and
disarmament. From this, the door of cooperative security is opened to
any country and organization which is willing to cooperate with NATO in
the security field. China could cooperate with NATO in the security

China has never seen such a moment, when its pursuit of a larger role in
the world coincides with America’s pursuit of a smaller one. Ever since
the Second World War, the United States has advocated an international
order based on a free press and judiciary, human rights, free trade, and
protection of the environment. It planted those ideas in the rebuilding
of Germany and Japan, and spread them with alliances around the world.
In March, 1959, President Eisenhower argued that America’s authority
could not rest on military power alone. “We could be the wealthiest and
the most mighty nation and still lose the battle of the world if we do
not help our world neighbors protect their freedom and advance their
social and economic progress,” he said. “It is not the goal of the
American people that the United States should be the richest nation in
the graveyard of history.”

After 13 years of war, NATO formally
ended its combat operations in Afghanistan on Sunday, leaving the Afghan
army and police in charge of security in a country plagued by continued
fighting, a ferocious insurgency and a rising tide of both military and
civilian casualties. China, as a neighboring country of Afghanistan and
Pakistan, has established an all-weather strategic partnership with
Pakistan. After the US-led NATO withdrawal, the NATO side hopes that
China could play a greater role to ensure stability in the region.

Under the banner of “America First,” President Trump is reducing U.S.
commitments abroad. On his third day in office, he withdrew from the
Trans-Pacific Partnership, a twelve-nation trade deal designed by the
United States as a counterweight to a rising China. To allies in Asia,
the withdrawal damaged America’s credibility. “You won’t be able to see
that overnight,” Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, told
me, at an event in Washington. “It’s like when you draw a red line and
then you don’t take it seriously. Was there pain? You didn’t see it, but
I’m quite sure there’s an impact.”

Here are also some NATO’s concerns about
cooperation with China.

In a speech to Communist Party officials last January 20th, Major
General Jin Yinan, a strategist at China’s National Defense University,
celebrated America’s pullout from the trade deal. “We are quiet about
it,” he said. “We repeatedly state that Trump ‘harms China.’ We want to
keep it that way. In fact, he has given China a huge gift. That is the
American withdrawal from T.P.P.” Jin, whose remarks later circulated,
told his audience, “As the U.S. retreats globally, China shows up.”

The first one: NATO is on the track of
expanding eastwardly. In 2013, China’s president Xi put forward the idea
of “the silk road”. The road starts from China, progressing westwardly.
In the geostrategic area, Mackinder came up with the heartland theory.
Accordingly, it was the Heartland (where the continental masses of
Eurasia were concentrated) that served as the pivot of all the
geopolitical transformations of historical dimensions within the World

For years, China’s leaders predicted that a time would come—perhaps
midway through this century—when it could project its own values abroad.
In the age of “America First,” that time has come far sooner than

In the process of NATO’s eastern
expansion and the road’s westward
progress, there may be fierce competitions in the heartland area.

Barack Obama’s foreign policy was characterized as leading from behind.
Trump’s doctrine may come to be understood as retreating from the front.
Trump has severed American commitments that he considers risky, costly,
or politically unappealing. In his first week in office, he tried to ban
travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, arguing that they pose
a terrorist threat. (After court battles, a version of the ban took
effect in December.) He announced his intention to withdraw the U.S.
from the Paris Agreement on climate change and from unesco, and he
abandoned United Nations talks on migration. He has said that he might
renege on the Iran nuclear deal, a free-trade agreement with South
Korea, and nafta. His proposal for the 2018 budget would cut foreign
assistance by forty-two per cent, or $11.5 billion, and it reduces
American funding for development projects, such as those financed by the
World Bank. In December, Trump threatened to cut off aid to any country
that supports a resolution condemning his decision to recognize
Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (The next day, in defiance of
Trump’s threat, the resolution passed overwhelmingly.)

The second one: Counter-terrorism
cooperation is often limited to dialogue and coordination between NATO
and China. In the US’ National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
2000, The Secretary of Defense may not authorize any
military-to-military exchange or contact described in sub- section (b)
to be conducted by the armed forces with representatives of the People’s
Liberation Army of the People’s Republic of China if that exchange or
contact would create a national security risk due to an inappropriate
exposure specified in subsection (b).

To frame his vision of a smaller presence abroad, Trump often portrays
America’s urgent task as one of survival. As he put it during the
campaign, “At what point do you say, ‘Hey, we have to take care of
ourselves’? So, you know, I know the outer world exists and I’ll be very
cognizant of that, but, at the same time, our country is

NATO fears that if it strengthens
military exchanges and cooperation with China, it will inevitably lead
to the flow of intelligence and military technology into China. Because
strengthening cooperation in counter-terrorism means the sharing of
intelligence, common supervision and reconnaissance, and the necessary
transfer of military technology.

So far, Trump has proposed reducing U.S. contributions to the U.N. by
forty per cent, and pressured the General Assembly to cut six hundred
million dollars from its peacekeeping budget. In his first speech to the
U.N., in September, Trump ignored its collective spirit and celebrated
sovereignty above all, saying, “As President of the United States, I
will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your
countries, will always and should always put your countries first.”

Given China’s friendly relations with
North Korea, Iran, Burma, Hamas and other so-called “rogue regimes”,
NATO fears that China may leak military technology which will increase
the strength of these countries and further threaten US traditional
regional allies’ interests. (Japan, Korea, Philippines, Israel,

China’s approach is more ambitious. In recent years, it has taken steps
to accrue national power on a scale that no country has attempted since
the Cold War, by increasing its investments in the types of assets that
established American authority in the previous century: foreign aid,
overseas security, foreign influence, and the most advanced new
technologies, such as artificial intelligence. It has become one of the
leading contributors to the U.N.’s budget and to its peacekeeping force,
and it has joined talks to address global problems such as terrorism,
piracy, and nuclear proliferation.

The last one: NATO fears that China may
separate European countries and the US.

And China has embarked on history’s most expensive foreign
infrastructure plan. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, it is building
bridges, railways, and ports in Asia, Africa, and beyond. If the
initiative’s cost reaches a trillion dollars, as predicted, it will be
more than seven times that of the Marshall Plan, which the U.S. launched
in 1947, spending a hundred and thirty billion, in today’s dollars, on
rebuilding postwar Europe.

9/11 brought into sharp focus America’s
relationship with the alliance, magnifying existing fault lines and
cleavages and casing them in a new and more urgent light. In history and
at present, there always exist divergencies between the US and other
NATO’s members.

China is also seizing immediate opportunities presented by Trump. Days
before the T.P.P. withdrawal, President Xi Jinping spoke at the World
Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, a first for a paramount Chinese
leader. Xi reiterated his support for the Paris climate deal and
compared protectionism to “locking oneself in a dark room.” He said, “No
one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.” This was an ironic
performance—for decades, China has relied on protectionism—but Trump
provided an irresistible opening. China is negotiating with at least
sixteen countries to form the Regional Comprehensive Economic
Partnership, a free-trade zone that excludes the United States, which it
proposed in 2012 as a response to the T.P.P. If the deal is signed next
year, as projected, it will create the world’s largest trade bloc, by

Charles de Gaulle was famous for
Gaullism. In Laurent Warlouzet’s article, he wrote “In terms of Europe,
his experience of the Second World War explains his willingness to
assert Europe’s independence from the United States.” Charles de Gaulle
wanted to build a Europe that belongs to the European people.

Some of China’s growing sway is unseen by the public. In October, the
World Trade Organization convened ministers from nearly forty countries
in Marrakech, Morocco, for the kind of routine diplomatic session that
updates rules on trade in agriculture and seafood. The Trump
Administration, which has been critical of the W.T.O., sent an official
who delivered a speech and departed early. “For two days of meetings,
there were no Americans,” a former U.S. official told me. “And the
Chinese were going into every session and chortling about how they were
now guarantors of the trading system.”

In Sten Rynning article, he wrote “In
terms of global NATO, France and Germany were in alignment in so far as
neither supported an extensive new range of consultation mechanisms to
manage global affairs, though France’s opposition had a grander
rationale than Germany’s. The two countries thus helped push NATO into
the position where nothing much happened.” So from this, we could draw a
conclusion that the European countries want the NATO to serve European
countries interests. But the US see NATO as a tool to realize is
national interests and want the European countries to bear more duties.

By setting more of the world’s rules, China hopes to “break the Western
moral advantage,” which identifies “good and bad” political systems, as
Li Ziguo, at the China Institute of International Studies, has said. In
November, 2016, Meng Hongwei, a Chinese vice-minister of public
security, became the first Chinese president of Interpol, the
international police organization; the move alarmed human-rights groups,
because Interpol has been criticized for helping authoritarian
governments target and harass dissidents and pro-democracy activists

On May 11,2018, German Chancellor Angela
Merkel said Europe can no longer count on the United States for military
protection and must “take its destiny into its own hands”. So we could
see that the relation between the US and other members of NATO is
already not the same as the Cold War period.

By some measures, the U.S. will remain dominant for years to come. It
has at least twelve aircraft carriers. China has two. The U.S. has
collective defense treaties with more than fifty countries. China has
one, with North Korea. Moreover, China’s economic path is complicated by
heavy debts, bloated state-owned enterprises, rising inequality, and
slowing growth. The workers who once powered China’s boom are graying.
China’s air, water, and soil are disastrously polluted.