BEIJING -- On February 6th 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama released an updated national security strategy. The National Security Strategy Report acts as a comprehensive statement articulating the worldwide interests, goals and objectives of the United States that are important to its security. Among the reporting requirements are those actions needed to deter aggression and to implement the national security strategy. Since the report reflects the basic and major positions of the U.S. security policies, it drew worldwide attention.
The report released is the second National Security Strategy Report in Obama's time in office. The previous version was published in the year 2010. In the two reports, the United States remains alert to China's military modernization and tries to shape China's development. Along with consistency, it seems that the new report attaches more importance to China's influence on U.S. security.
The U.S. pays greater attention to the risks of confrontation between the two countries. In the 2010 report, America proposed to monitor China's military modernization program and "prepare accordingly" to ensure that U.S. interests and allies, regionally and globally, are not negatively affected. However, the new report does not mention U.S. preparation for dealing with China but clearly states that the U.S. rejects "the inevitability of confrontation" while there will be competition. The old one talked about the issue of Taiwan, which was viewed by China as intervention in its domestic affairs. The 2015 report is more cautious in addressing sensitive topics that may irritate China.
At the same time, the U.S. strengthened the confidence that cooperation with China is favorable to its national security. The U.S. said in the previous version that "disagreements should not prevent cooperation on issues of mutual interest." In the 2015 report, the country speaks highly of the cooperation between the two sides. The U.S. believes that the scope of cooperation with China is unprecedented. The two countries seek cooperation on shared regional and global challenges such as climate change, public health, economic growth, and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Particularly, America highlights the landmark agreement to take significant action to reduce carbon pollution as one of the major achievements for cooperation.
However, the U.S. has become more vigilant about China's development. In the latest report, the U.S. set the goal to closely watch China's "expanding presence in Asia" and insists that China uphold international rules and norms on issues ranging from maritime security to trade and human rights. The U.S. also explicitly expressed its concern on the issues of the South China Sea and East China Sea, and blamed China for causing the tension. The U.S. rejects "any role for intimidation in resolving [issues]" and pressures China to reach early conclusion of a code of conduct for the South China Sea with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
In addition, the U.S. expanded competition with China into new areas. Cyber security is involved in the second national security strategy of the Obama administration. The U.S. accuses China for "cyber-theft" of trade secrets for commercial gain whether by private actors or the Chinese government, and threatens to take "necessary actions."
The upgraded U.S. strategic understanding of China reflects the changes of dynamics between the two countries. On one hand, America has admitted China's rise. It realizes that it is difficult to overturn China's development with external influences. With increasing voices in international affairs, China will have more impact on the U.S. strategy. Confrontation or conflict with China is not in line with America's security.
On the other hand, the U.S. still views China as a rival. Even though the U.S. will maintain its status as the only super power in the world for some time, a unipolar world led by the U.S. is being replaced by a multilateral framework. The country will try to delay this process. The U.S. claims that the rebalance strategy does not target China, however, in reality, the U.S. continues to mobilize resources to deal with China's growth, especially in the area of security.
Fundamentally, the president's National Security Strategy is the blueprint for America's leadership in the world. The strategy report in 2010 was for securing the U.S. leadership. In the past few years, the country has succeeded in emerging from the Great Recession and ending two large ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 2015 report concludes, "America must lead."
Leadership is not a negative word. China does not aim at challenging the leadership of the United States. However, the problem is that the strategy is based on zero-sum mentality. The country is building its security at the cost of others' security. This is against the trend of the world in which the interests of all countries converge and additionally is not beneficial to U.S. security.
It is expected that the United States have reasonable understanding of China's role in the world's peace and stability. It will be better if the two countries can strengthen mutual trust and work together on the idea of common security.