Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose Discusses the Threat of China and the Importance of The United Nations

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Answers by Gideon Rose, Editor, Foreign Affairs, on Quora.

A: What is the risk to the U.S. of China becoming a military enemy?
So, China policy is a bit complicated, with elements of both cooperation and competition. In Asia, the United States has long provided for regional security and stability, creating an environment in which countries from Japan and South Korea to Taiwan and the Philippines could develop over time, reap the economic, social, and political benefits of hard work and self-discipline. China's spectacular rise in recent decades has created both opportunities for and threats to this system: the successful and peaceful incorporation of the People's Republic further into existing international order would bring vast benefits, but military conflict with China could bring equally vast costs. So U.S. policy is designed to present both a welcome and a warning, telling China to play by the rules or else.
Asia's main sea-lanes are crucial parts of the global commons that the United States has to protect to maintain the liberal international order as a whole, and the region is home to many important U.S. allies. So following in the footsteps of the Bush administration (which were unusually nuanced and constructive in this part of the world), the Obama administration has tried to reassure U.S. allies that Washington will remain engaged and protect them over the long term. It signed ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and has spent a great deal of effort and political capital to negotiate and secure passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade deal that will not only deepen the liberal order in general but also bolster and lock in strong relationships with the countries involved--and which will remain open to Chinese participation whenever China is prepared to meet the criteria for entry. So it wants to play nice with China, but not be a patsy if the Chinese aren't willing to play nice themselves.
Whether this delicately constructed matrix of incentives and disincentives can keep Chinese behavior on a constructive course over a long period of time is unclear, but no other approach seems more likely to do so.
A good guide to current U.S. China policy is this piece by Tom Christensen, one of my favorite China experts:


NO! First, it doesn't actually cost much in time or resources. And second, it's a useful forum for sounding out and coordinating the views and policies of the world's governments. Instead of seeing it as a sort of "world government in waiting," as both extreme critics and supporters do, you should see it as essentially a permanent conference, a place where all the world's powers can talk to each other, exchange views, cut deals, and reduce conflict. It's less a separate distinct power, in other words, than a venue for existing powers to use as they wish. If it didn't already exist, we'd have to invent it.
If you're really interested in what's going on with global governance--an important but wonky topic--you should check out these pieces by Stewart Patrick:


A: Hard to say, because the publishing environment is changing so quickly. At FA, we're deeply committed to a very old-school approach, and very much NOT the Quora one. We use the collective wisdom of top experts to try and figure out what the most important issues are and who is best positioned to shed light on them, and then use our editing talents to present those views in ways accessible to a broad general public. I like to say that we're both elitist and democratic: we start from the assumptions that there are only a handful of people capable of adding value to discussion on any particular issue, but that there are many people interested in hearing what those authoritative experts have to say. So we are elitist in picking authors but democratic in editing their contributions with an eye to a broad readership. That undergirds everything we do, it's basically been the mission of FA for almost a century, and there's nothing new about it.
The means of distribution, on the other hand, have naturally changed with the times, and we're trying to use whatever tools we can to accomplish that old-fashioned earnest mission in effective contemporary ways. So now we're doing much more on the digital side, experimenting with podcasts, video, and other fun stuff. And we're increasingly global in our coverage, audience, and perspective, rather than simply being a representative of the US foreign policy establishment. I expect those trends to continue, even as we keep the broader intellectual and public service mission the same. So what that will mean for us in ten years, who knows? Stay tuned to find out...

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