Deflating the China threat

The Danger Room’s Noah Shactman points to a report by the Federation of American Scientists that notes that China’s submarine fleet — a favorite bugbear of China hawks (see this report, for example) — was little more active in 2007 than it was in previous years.

Without dismissing China’s military modernization, reports like this are important reminders that the China threat argument is based mostly on speculation about what China might be able to do in the indefinite future and the idea that the US has a right to unchallenged military primacy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Even in the Taiwan Straits, US deterrence of China still works. Regardless of Beijing’s bluster and saber-rattling, China still believes that the threat of US intervention is credible enough and threatening enough and has still not acted to overturn the status quo, despite importance that the “recovery” of Taiwan has for many mainland Chinese. No matter how distracted the US is by Iraq, the US Navy is still the region’s most powerful navy, a position that the US will not relinquish anytime soon.

So what does the US have to lose in persisting in efforts to keep lines of communication open between the PLA and the US Military? As the great Asian arms race continues, the US will have to become accustomed to sharing the maritime environment with other navies. The US should therefore persist in developing its ties with the PLA as much as China will permit and regardless of setbacks.

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