CRF Blog

Roiling the Waters

by Bill Hayes

In Roiling the Waters for Foreign Policy magazine, Elbridge Colby and Ely Ratner argue that the U.S. needs to start confronting China more.

[I]n the past years, Beijing has stepped up efforts to achieve its long-held territorial aims. As a former Chinese ambassador told us in December, her country’s position in the world is like that of “a new student that jumped many grades.” Maybe so, but Beijing’s behavior since 2009 is more akin to that of a brash adolescent both unaware and blithe to the potential consequences of adventurous behavior.

U.S. officials have been careful to avoid provoking a China that appears increasingly willing to flex its newfound military muscle. Perhaps that’s why Biden invoked his father’s advice in warning on the eve of his Beijing visit that “the only conflict that is worse than one that is intended is one that is unintended.” But an overemphasis on stability can be dangerous. While preventing inadvertent war in Asia is obviously a worthy goal, it is just as important to discourage China from believing that it can employ economic, military, and diplomatic coercion to settle international disagreements without triggering a serious response. Making the risk of escalation too low will at some point start running counter to U.S. interests. [more]