FeaturedNationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 34

The evolving strategies of the US and China

Since the end of World War II, the United States has pursued a carefully crafted strategy aimed at asserting its global dominance. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, it emerged as the sole superpower, backed by formidable military strength and economic power. The United States has been a key pillar of the existing world order, but in recent years, it has faced increasing challenges to its position from China.

China’s remarkable economic growth and its central role in the emerging international economic and financial system have captured global attention. This has led the United States to acknowledge that its ability to exert influence on the global stage is no longer as strong as before. The strategies employed by the United States and China to project power differ fundamentally. The U.S. approach has traditionally been geopolitical and geo-military, whereas China’s strategy is primarily geo-economic. While the United States has often relied on military force to advance its perceived national and global interests, China has focused on economic collaboration and assistance to expand its influence worldwide.

Historically, the United States has pursued global domination by establishing a network of military alliances around the world. It maintains a web of partnerships and agreements, such as NATO, Quad, and AUKUS, and invests heavily in defense spending. The United States also seeks to safeguard freedom of navigation and protects its security interests through military interventions when it perceives threats to its national security.

With the world’s most powerful military, including a vast network of forward-deployed bases, a strong navy, and a significant nuclear arsenal, the United States operates globally, projecting its power through what has been described as “gunboat diplomacy.” Its military presence is felt across various regions, such as Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia, where it aims to protect its interests.

In contrast, China’s military strategy has traditionally focused on regional defense. It has continuously modernized its armed forces and expanded its capabilities. China asserts its rights as a regional power, particularly in the South China Sea, where it faces territorial disputes. Its strategy centers on safeguarding its maritime interests and establishing a more substantial presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

China has also prioritized economic expansion and regional influence, particularly in Asia, through initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The BRI is a prime example of China’s economic diplomacy, aiming to enhance connectivity and spur infrastructure development across Asia, Europe, Africa, and beyond. By investing in ports, roads, railways, and other infrastructure projects, China seeks to increase its influence and access to markets and resources in various regions. Undoubtedly, the BRI has the potential to reshape regional economic dynamics and challenge traditional U.S. economic influence.

Moreover, China actively forges economic partnerships and investment projects with like-minded countries worldwide. Through initiatives such as the AIIB, the New Development Bank (NDB), and bilateral investment agreements, China provides loans and investments to developing countries for infrastructure development and other projects. These economic relations create dependencies and leverage for China, posing a potential threat to U.S. economic influence in those regions.

Simultaneously, China promotes regional economic integration through initiatives like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with various countries. By fostering strong economic ties and reducing trade barriers, China aims to increase its economic influence in the Asia-Pacific region, West Asia, and Africa. The creation of alternative economic blocs poses another challenge to U.S.-led initiatives in the affected regions.

The United States has traditionally been the world’s largest economy, but China’s rapid economic growth has propelled it to become the world’s second-largest economy and a major global trade player. The United States has relied on multilateral institutions and alliances to advance its interests and address global challenges. As a global financial hub, it has fostered a system of international trade and finance, with the U.S. dollar as the dominant reserve currency. The United States has played a significant role in establishing and leading international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which it uses to influence the economic policies of other countries in pursuit of its political and strategic interests. In contrast, China has approached international institutions more cautiously, preferring to expand its influence through bilateral relationships and economic partnerships.

Furthermore, the United States has historically played a leading role in shaping global governance structures and establishing international institutions. However, in recent years, China has increasingly sought to have a greater say in global governance and has advocated for reforms in existing international institutions to better reflect the changing global power dynamics.

Situated in East Asia, China’s primary focus has naturally been on the Asia-Pacific region, where it faces territorial disputes, such as in the South China Sea, and aims to establish itself as the dominant power. China’s territorial claims and construction of artificial islands with military capabilities in disputed waters have raised concerns among regional countries and the United States.

In recent years, the United States has been actively engaged in various activities in the Asia-Pacific region, including deepening its relationship with India and Australia. The strategic partnership between the United States and India has strengthened, with joint military exercises and defense agreements. The United States justifies its involvement in the South China Sea issue by citing an interest in maintaining freedom of navigation and a rules-based international order. However, many analysts perceive the U.S.-India relationship and defense arrangements with South Korea and Japan as moves to contain and counterbalance China’s influence in the region, especially considering India’s own tense relations and border disputes with China.

The diplomatic approaches of China and the United States differ in terms of emphasis, objectives, and means. China’s approach is primarily positive, focusing on economic cooperation, investment, and development assistance. On the other hand, the United States relies heavily on projecting military power to ensure national security and preserve the existing international economic framework, which has often favored wealthy nations and discriminated against poorer ones. China’s alternative model of inter-state relations, centered on economic collaboration, may gradually contribute to the emergence of a more equitable world order.