America needs a clear, comprehensive China policy

China has become America's chief rival for global influence, and creating an effective approach for dealing with China is the No. 1 foreign policy challenge facing the United States.

Thus our leaders need to define, articulate and defend a comprehensive policy toward China.

Two decades of explosive growth have transformed China and its role in the world. It seeks to be the primary actor in the Asia Pacific region and is emerging as a global power. Its leaders have high confidence in China's economic and political strength; they want it to be recognized as a major player in the region and the world.

China is becoming more assertive about its economic and political development. With its Belt and Road initiative, it is extending its influence into Central Asia. It has built military installations in the South China Sea, heightening tensions with Vietnam, Taiwan and other countries.

The Chinese do not seek confrontation with the United States, but they want a seat at the table and an appropriate role in world affairs. They don't want to be pushed around, by us or by anyone else.

In determining our policy toward China, we should begin by asking what our interests are in the Asia Pacific region, and we should be as clear about this as we can. If we are not clear about our interests, our policy will be muddled.

Our declaratory policy toward China should make clear our interests in the region and the red lines that China should not be allowed to cross. We must impress on the Chinese that our armed forces are strong enough that they cannot win a military conflict with us, and we will not tolerate efforts to control and dominate the region.

Certainly we want an open economic order. We want our allies to be safe and secure. We don't want a potentially hostile power to dominate the region.

Our goal should be a stable, friendly relationship with China. We don't need to obstruct its rise. We should want it to be a successful nation and a responsible stakeholder in the international community.

President Donald Trump insists China is always trying to gain advantage over us and push us out of Asia, and he insists we need to fight back. I think there is a better perspective. Instead, we should cooperate with China where we can and compete where we have to. We should always try to manage the relationship and co-exist peacefully.

We are not going to stop China's economic and political rise, but we do not want them to use military force to expand their power in the region, which could lead to more widespread conflict.

Neither our nor the Chinese leaders want war. The cost and suffering from such a conflict would be horrendous. As it is, China faces enormous domestic and international challenges; its plate is full. And we have no shortage of adversaries across the world, including Iran, Russia, North Korea and others. We do not need more.

We are obviously competing with China in areas of technological development, trade, investment and influence. At the same time, we have to continually explore and develop areas of potential cooperation, such as climate change, the Arctic, cybersecurity, intellectual property and others.

We really don't have any precedent for dealing with a rival like China. We have to acknowledge that it is a powerful country and we can't dictate its behavior. We could not obstruct China's rise even if we wanted to.

We should not cede world leadership to China. Working with allies, including Japan, South Korea and others, we should counter China's influence and its attempts to dominate the region. But that doesn't mean we should anticipate war with China or try to stop China from becoming a strong, rich nation.

The issue that should concern us is not the extent of China’s power but how China will use it. Pursuing a policy framework that combines competition with cooperation, we should engage with the Chinese to create a durable, constructive relationship in which they take greater responsibility for addressing global challenges.

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