First, NATO released a short piece called "NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement", which is supposed to be a major redefinition of NATO strategy for the coming decade. China is unequivocally viewed as having strong interests in a stable regional and global order. Some key quotes:
"Emerging global powers such as China, India and Brazil are asserting their rising influence in a peaceful manner."
"In the Asia-Pacific, the major powers, which include Japan, the Republic of Korea, China, India, and Australia, all view regional stability as in their interests and are generally supportive of international norms."Moreover, the report goes on to say that working with China does not require a formal alliance or organization in which to have dialogue and cooperation -- the anti-piracy action is cited as an example.
A week later, the White House released its National Security Strategy (PDF). China is first mentioned as an increasingly influential actor in international politics with whom the US should be "building deeper and more effective partnerships". Indeed, in every context in which China is mentioned, the tone and verbiage stress cooperation and engagement, particularly in areas of mutual interest.
The report only goes on at length about China for a single paragraph, which is instructive:
"We will monitor China’s military modernization program and prepare accordingly to ensure that U.S. interests and allies, regionally and globally, are not negatively affected. More broadly, we will encourage China to make choices that contribute to peace, security, and prosperity as its influence rises. We are using our newly established Strategic and Economic Dialogue to address a broader range of issues, and improve communication between our militaries in order to reduce mistrust. We will encourage continued reduction in tension between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. We will not agree on every issue, and we will be candid on our human rights concerns and areas where we differ. But disagreements should not prevent cooperation on issues of mutual interest, because a pragmatic and effective relationship between the United States and China is essential to address the major challenges of the 21st century."This doesn't sound like an American government that is particularly worried about China. It actually sounds very much like the Obama campaign's original position on China. The last line, in particular, makes clear that any disagreements should take a back seat to a positive relationship. So, despite the various issues of contention that have popped up in the past 16 months, the White House seems to have kept the "China threat" at a minimal level of anxiety. This suggests that actors within the US government who might paint the picture otherwise -- like some Pentagon officials or Congresspeople -- have not gained the upper hand in Administration deliberations.
Taken together, do these two reports mean that the next five to ten year will undoubtedly be free of conflict (armed or otherwise) between the US and China? Not necessarily. A flash point could arise over Taiwan or Korea or some other unforeseen issue. But what these two documents clearly suggest is that, at least in the West, there is very little desire to ramp up security dilemmas, real or otherwise, with China.
Instead, China's continuous rise is viewed as an opportunity for economic growth, like Obama's goal to double exports for 2014. And unless you're really aching for a quick way to waste money and political capital on a hegemonic conflict, this perception should be (at least somewhat) comforting.
A form of this was originally published on RealClearWorld.