The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the Pentagon is preparing to announce a controversial AirSea Battle concept. This is a roadmap that could serve as a counter to China's "anti-access" capabilities, which include a nascent anti-ship ballistic missile that could hold the US Navy at bay during a regional conflict.
This new system will intensify the strategic atmosphere in the Pacific. A US official told the Washington Post that it is a milestone in treating China with new "Cold War" thinking.
It has been long argued that there is a new "Cold War" between China and the US. But a US official's acknowledgement grants it special meaning. Should this be taken as a warning to China?
If the US takes the AirSea Battle system seriously, China has to upgrade its anti-access capabilities. China should have the ability to deter any external interference but unfortunately, such a reasonable stance is seen as a threat by the US.
It is meaningless to argue the value of US and Chinese security interests. However, it is worth noting that on one hand China has no intention to drive the US out of Asia, but on the other hand, China is resolute to stand firm against any interference from the US in the event of a crisis.
China's anti-access strategy does not challenge the US hegemony. So the US should not seek to achieve its global strategy by pursuing absolute military superiority in Chinese coastal waters and threatening the country's security.
Due to changes in world politics, China is ramping up its anti-access capabilities. This is the reasoning which led the US to set up its AirSea Battle system. But this should not set the tone for the 21st century. AirSea Battle may be an advanced combat system, however, time will prove its deficiency and uselessness as long as China sticks to its peaceful development.
China and the US now are not positioned in the situation of "Mutually Assured Destruction" seen during the Cold War. However, the US is pursuing stability in the Asia-Pacific region at the cost of China's interests. From Washington's perspective, no matter whether the maritime disputes involve China or could help build the Sino-US strategic mutual trust, China should make more sacrifices.
That the US prepares for a rising China is reasonable. However, a healthy bilateral relationship depends on whether the two could stand together and whether the US can realize the nature of China's rise is differently from that of other big powers. The rise of China is unstoppable except the extreme case that its system automatically collapses. The US' absolute military advantages over China in the Pacific will see gradual change. This is no cause for an arms race.
China should follow a natural trend, sticking to its reasonable aims and giving the US more chances to be understanding. It should not blindly yield to the US. As long as China is confident, cohesive and strategically open-minded, it will properly handle all facets of Sino-US relations.