John Mearsheimer: The rise of China will not be peaceful at allJohn Mearsheimer: The rise of China will not be peaceful at all
THE question at hand is simple and profound: will China rise peacefully? My answer is no. If China continues its impressive economic growth over the next few decades, the US and China are likely to engage in an intense security competition with considerable potential for war. Most of China's neighbours, to include India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Russia and Vietnam, will join with the US to contain China's power. China - whether it remains authoritarian or becomes democratic - is likely to try to dominate Asia the way the US dominates the Western hemisphere. Specifically, China will seek to maximise the power gap between itself and its neighbours, especially Japan and Russia. An increasingly powerful China is also likely to try to push the US out of Asia, much the way the US pushed the European great powers out of the Western hemisphere. We should expect China to come up with its own version of the Monroe Doctrine, as Japan did in the 1930s.
It is clear from the historical record how American policy-makers will react if China attempts to dominate Asia. The US does not tolerate peer competitors. Therefore, the US can be expected to go to great lengths to contain China and ultimately weaken it to the point where it is no longer capable of ruling the roost in Asia. In essence, the US is likely to behave towards China much the way it behaved towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War. China's neighbours are certain to fear its rise as well. Indeed, there is already substantial evidence that countries such as India, Japan, and Russia, as well as smaller powers such as Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam, are worried about China's ascendancy and are looking for ways to contain it. In the end, they will join an American-led balancing coalition to check China's rise, much the way Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and even China, joined forces with the US to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Finally, given Taiwan's strategic importance for controlling the sea lanes in East Asia, it is hard to imagine the US, as well as Japan, allowing China to control that large island. In fact, Taiwan is likely to be an important player in the anti-China balancing coalition, which is sure to infuriate China and fuel the security competition between Beijing and Washington.