The post-Cold War international system is coming to an end, and with it easy assumptions about the character of U.S. strategy toward the world’s great powers. After a period in which a dominant, U.S.-led Western coalition largely set and enforced the rules of the international order — and in which other major powers, such as Russia and China, largely acquiesced to U.S. leadership of that order — the global system is returning to a state of sharper and more explicit great-power competition.
China is a disruptive power but not a revolutionary one. Its size, wealth, and assertive foreign policy lead it to demand significant changes to existing institutions, but it does not seek to overturn the current international order wholesale.
China’s growing military, diplomatic, and economic clout to advance its ambitions to establish regional preeminence and expand its international influence. Chinese leaders have characterized modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as essential to achieving great power status and what Chinese President Xi Jinping calls the “China Dream” of national rejuvenation, says the latest U.S. Department of Defense Report to Congress on China’s military and security development.
In fact, no matter how close the relationship between India and the U.S. grows, India willnot be a major player on the American team. The ‘rebalancing’ strategy consists of threeparts – politics, economy and security. However, Indian national power is not sufficientlystrong in any one of the three aspects.
China’s leaders going back to Deng Xiaoping have made the case that the country could—and should—pursue economic reform before political reform. Now, they are pursuing neither. Why? Economic reforms, initiated at the end of 1978 by Deng, have enriched state institutions, and these institutions have been able to translate economic success into political power. They have then used new-found clout to block further economic reforms that would undermine their role in society. So economic reform has stalled ever since Deng’s reign ended in the 1990s.
NOBODY doubts that China has joined the ranks of the great powers: the idea of a G2 with America is mooted, albeit prematurely. India is often spoken of in the same breath as China because of its billion-plus population, economic promise, value as a trading partner and growing military capabilities. All five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council support—however grudgingly—India’s claim to join them. But whereas China’s rise is a given, India is still widely seen as a nearly-power that cannot quite get its act together.
China’s rising economic influence has leaders around the world on the edge of their seats. But Beijing is an abnormal great power. Its international potential is constrained by significant domestic economic vulnerabilities, and the inward-looking Chinese leadership has yet to craft a nimble and constructive international posture. And as the Chinese economy normalizes, its growing pains are laid bare. All this has the effect of elevating risks and aggravating insecurities in China’s neighborhood and beyond.
China could overtake the United States as the world’s largest oil importer earlier than expected, while US net oil imports continue to drop due to its booming domestic supply — a remarkable shift between the world’s two largest energy consumers.