Council Special Report

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Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China

Authors: , Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, and Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China - robert-d-blackwill-and-ashley-j-tellis-revising-us-grand-strategy-toward-china
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Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release Date April 2015

54 pages
ISBN 978-0-87609-621-5
Council Special Report No. 72


"China represents and will remain the most significant competitor to the United States for decades to come. As such, the need for a more coherent U.S. response to increasing Chinese power is long overdue," write CFR Senior Fellow Robert D. Blackwill and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Senior Associate Ashley J. Tellis in a new Council Special Report, Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China.

"Because the American effort to 'integrate' China into the liberal international order has now generated new threats to U.S. primacy in Asia—and could result in a consequential challenge to American power globally—Washington needs a new grand strategy toward China that centers on balancing the rise of Chinese power rather than continuing to assist its ascendancy."

The authors argue that such a strategy is designed to limit the dangers that China's geoeconomic and military power pose to U.S. national interests in Asia and globally, even as the United States and its allies maintain diplomatic and economic interactions with China.

Blackwill and Tellis recommend that Washington do the following:

  • Revitalize the U.S. economy

"Nothing would better promote the United States' strategic future and grand strategy toward China than robust economic growth…This must be the first priority of the president and Congress."

  • Strengthen the U.S. military

"Congress should remove sequestration caps and substantially increase the U.S. defense budget...Washington should intensify a consistent U.S. naval and air presence in the South and East China Seas," and "accelerate the U.S. ballistic-missile defense posture" in the Pacific.

  • Expand Asian trade networks

"U.S. grand strategy toward China will be seriously weakened without delivering on the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement]. A major push by the White House for ratification should therefore begin immediately in the new Congress, including seeking trade promotion authority."

  • Create a technology-control regime

"Washington should pay increased attention to limiting China's access to advanced weaponry and military critical technologies." The United States should encourage its allies "to develop a coordinated approach to constrict China's access to all technologies, including dual use."

  • Implement effective cyber policies

Washington should "impose costs on China that are in excess of the benefits it receives from its violations in cyberspace…increase U.S. offensive cyber capabilities . . . continue improving U.S. cyber defenses," and "pass relevant legislation in Congress, such as the Cyber Information Security Protection Act."

  • Reinforce Indo-Pacific partnerships

"The United States cannot defend its interests in Asia without support from its allies," and "should build up the power-political capabilities of its friends and allies on China's periphery."

  • Energize high-level diplomacy with Beijing

The United States should work to mitigate tensions with China, and "reassure U.S. allies and friends in Asia and beyond that Washington is doing everything it can to avoid a confrontation with China . . . U.S.-China discourse should be more candid, high-level, and private than is current practice."

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More About This Publication

Robert D. Blackwill is Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Previously, he was senior fellow at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, from 2008 to 2010, after serving from 2004 to 2008 as president of BGR International. As deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor for strategic planning under President George W. Bush, Blackwill was responsible for government-wide policy planning to help develop and coordinate the mid- and long-term direction of American foreign policy. He also served as presidential envoy to Iraq and was the administration's coordinator for U.S. policies regarding Afghanistan and Iran. Blackwill went to the National Security Council (NSC) after serving as the U.S. ambassador to India from 2001 to 2003, and he is the recipient of the 2007 Bridge-Builder Award for his role in transforming U.S.-India relations.

Prior to reentering government in 2001, Blackwill was the Belfer lecturer in international security at the Harvard Kennedy School. From 1989 to 1990, Blackwill was special assistant to President George H.W. Bush for European and Soviet affairs, during which time he was awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit by the Federal Republic of Germany for his contribution to German unification. Earlier in his career, he was the U.S. ambassador to conventional arms negotiations with the Warsaw Pact, director for European affairs at the NSC, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs. Blackwill is author and editor of many articles and books on transatlantic relations, Russia and the West, the Greater Middle East, and Asian security. He edited the CFR book Iran: The Nuclear Challenge (June 2012). His book, a best seller coauthored with Graham Allison of the Harvard Kennedy School, is titled Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World (MIT Press, February 2013). He is coauthor of a forthcoming book with Jennifer M. Harris, Geoeconomics and Statecraft. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Trilateral Commission, and the Aspen Strategy Group, and is on the board of Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Ashley J. Tellis is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, specializing in international security, defense, and Asian strategic issues. While on assignment to the U.S. Department of State as senior advisor to the undersecretary of state for political affairs, he was intimately involved in negotiating the civil nuclear agreement with India. Previously, he was commissioned into the U.S. Foreign Service and served as senior advisor to the ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. He also served on the National Security Council staff as special assistant to the president and senior director for strategic planning and Southwest Asia. Prior to his government service, Tellis was senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation and professor of policy analysis at the Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School. He is the author of India's Emerging Nuclear Posture (2001) and coauthor of Interpreting China's Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future (2000). He is the research director of the strategic Asia program at the National Bureau of Asian Research and coeditor of the program's eleven most recent annual volumes, including this year's Strategic Asia 2014–15: U.S. Alliances and Partnerships at the Center of Global Power. His academic publications, which include numerous Carnegie and RAND reports, have appeared in many edited volumes and journals, and he is frequently called to testify before Congress. Tellis is a member of several professional organizations related to defense and international studies, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the United States Naval Institute, and the Navy League of the United States.

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