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The containment of China in the US foreign policy

  • 07 Pages
  • Published On: 13-12-2023

This paper aims to explores the Chinese challenge for U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century as well as the containment of China. There areAmongst the various debates about the Western power decline and Chinese emerging potential for the global leadership role,. In thisthis essay, I contrasts two prominent points of view on the future of Sino-American relations. First, I introduceThe structural realist argument proposed by John Mearsheimer's idea (CIPS:2012, CIS:2019) about the inevitably intensifying security competition between Washington and Beijing (Mearsheimer, 2006; Mearsheimer, 2001) is contrasted with the . Then, I present a broader counterargument from Joseph Nye (FPA:2015) that the burning tension is manageable between the established regional hegemon and the rising power (Nye Jr, 2019). Ultimately, I point out whatThis essay also provides some recommendations take place to engineer a future coalition with China from the American perspective.

John Mearsheimer proposes his idea about international relations through neorealism in his ‘Tragedy of Great Power Politics’ (Mearsheimer, 2001)(2001) work. The author applies hisThe theory of Great Power Politics is applied to the current tension and possible future conflict between Washington and Beijing in our time (Mearsheimer, 2001). There is a fundamental condition of his assumption that China continues growing in the same grade. The structural realist understands thatargues that there is no higher authority over governments in the international anarchy system and that . sStates are as principal actors and are insecure and. They exist in self-help and survival body. Applying this to the U.S. foreign police, Therefore, the U.S faces extreme security risk and uncertainty when Beijing becomes very powerful economically (Mearsheimer, 2001). One of the risks is that China can convert its economic strength into military power, and there is no trust about Chinese intention in future scenario (CIPS:2012, CIS:2019).


The Great Power Politics sources one additional concept and another theory from realism. The security dilemma concept explains the inevitable perception of military threat; in response,. For instance, the U.S. develops its missile network for defensive strategy. Meanwhile, China identifies the action as an offensive step against its interest and takes actions accordingly. The same rule of nNeorealism appears reflects on the that uncertainty of states are uncertain regarding their counterpart behaviour of their rivals (CIPS:2012, CIS:2019). Kenneth Waltz refers to this state experience with insecurity like a black boxas a constant feature that comes in the way of states achieving cooperation because states are constantly in dark of the intentions or the future actions of the other (Waltz, 2010: 105)in his ‘Theory of International Politics’ book (2010). Mearsheimer maintains that China likely imitates American overseas performance, and the. The counter measurement can lead to an arms race and hostility eventually (CIS:2019).

Another relevant theory is the balance of power for Sino-American tensions. Balance of power It theory posits that informs that states can survive until there isseek to ensure that no one other who state can practice sufficient military power to dominate over the rest. Therefore, states are willing to cooperate against the most forceful player in a continent (Mastanduno, 1997:52). The U.S. is a regional hegemon in the Western hemisphere but also the only one in worldwide measurement. That has generated the global pre-eminence role for Washington,. The country is free to roam, whereforeand ensure there is no security threat in its regions (CIPS:2012).

Moreover, Washington aims to make sure that there is no other hegemon out of its hemisphere. In recent times, China pursues to be a has emerged as a powerful giant in Asia (Glaser, 2011:85), and it can be seen as a peer competitor to the U.S. in this region (CIPS:2012). For Examples of Chinese pre-eminence in international relations are now becoming more common; for instance, Beijing announceds its high-tech manufacture plan the ‘Made in China 2025’ to rival Silicon Valley for technological leadership worldwide (Dobbins, Shatz and Wyne, 2018:12),. Or another example is that theand Chinese president Xi Jinping offereds his competence to lead the Liberal International Order in Davos 2017 (The Diplomat:2017).

Mearsheimer draws two arguments from his analysis:. fFirstly, China is not a status quo power and it . Chinese seeks domination over Asia the way Americans accomplished it in the Western Hemisphere (CIPS:2012, CIS:2019). For instance, China expandeds its control over Hong Kong to breach the joint declaration with the United Kingdom (Chan, 2020:16). There is a border claim against India. There are some island disputes in the East-China sea ‘ECS’ (FPA:2015), as well as the South-China sea (‘SCS’) (Mastanduno, 1997:65). The SCS dispute takes place betweeninvolves China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam (Kalimuddin and Anderson, 2018:118).

Secondly, the U.S. does not tolerate peer competitors. Herein, there is a hHistorical records demonstrate. this point. Washington goes through four conflicts between great powers in history. The U.S. defeated Imperial Germany, Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union in past conflicts between hegemonic powers. Therefore, the author Mearsheimer (2006) identifies the security competition between Washington and Beijing as the fifth American fifth Great War. All hostile conflict takes place for a strategic reason rather than an ideological one. Notably, Mearsheimer (2006) the author disqualifies interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, as great wars. Nation-building and promoting democracy wars are helpless in the history of foreign policy (CIPS:2012, CIS:2019).

The security competition appears in the field of military, technology and economy (CIPS:2012). Mastanduno explains that the rivalry may be remote in the era of a nuclear weapon (1997:74). Cyberwar is a more recent probability (Helle, 2017:38). The structural realist Mearsheimer says that American success depends on the mobility of partner states in the Asia-Pacific. It is the a balancing coalition that brings together. There are several threatened country and China’s neighbours by a very resourceful China, such aslike Japan, India, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia. Even Washington can seek a Russian coalition to minimise the Chinese influence, thus concerning the balancinge of the power theory. In the evidence of possible cooperation between the U.S. and Russia, Moscow has a border dispute with Beijing in since 1969, and it is possible that a. fFuture Chinese enlargement can force Moscow to partner with Washington in opposition to Beijing (CIPS:2012). Mearsheimer and Glaser point out that the geographical condition makes it arduous to constitute a collective security organisation in Asia-Pacific (CIPS:2012, 2011:91). For instance, the seawater distance challenges India or Vietnam to may face challenges in participatinge in plausible warfare between Japan and China due to their distance by sea. One optionAn alternative may be to is to continue working on bilateral agreements with all American partners in the region in order to contain China (CIPS:2012).

Mearsheimer ascertains the third but declined major power: Russia (CIS:2019). Investigation of the Soviet and new Russia can elucidate China’s strengths in the foreign policy perspective. The A comparison between Russia’s communist experience with comparison shows that China shows that the latter develops communism smartly withwas able to put in place smoother shifts to suit generational society requirements since the 1960 Sino-Soviet split (The Diplomat, :2019). Whereas Russia is a declining military power by seeking interruption in the international order, while China pursues to undermining ofe the American leadership to dominate the existing economic system (ANU TV, :2019). The temporary collation is a convenient option against Washington (Fraser, 2006:186), but there is an implicit mistrust between Beijing and Moscow (Nye, 2020:129). Beijing presents a more reputable outlook by trade, investment, and developmental engagement than Russia, which does with varioushas been involved in chaotic interventions abroad. The Chinese nation enjoys educational and living standards improvement compared to the impoverished Russian people. As a result, China is a regional military issue and a long-term challenge to the U.S. with global economy capabilities (Dobbins, Shatz and Wyne, :2019).

There is criticism of Mearsheimer’s theoretical conflict prediction in American-Sino relations (CIPS, :2012). For instance, Helle claims that the interdependence theory can explain how there can be perpetuating ofe peace between economically ambitious states when the relationship between such states can focus on the rationality of shared interest rather than the absence of shared values (2017:36-8). The relationship can focus on the rationality of shared interest rather than the absence of shared values. Washington and Beijing enjoy financial gains from trade and investment in their prosperous relationship (Owen, 2019:60). The mutual welfare interest eliminates any military tension between the two great powers (Nye, 2020:7). An example of this shared mutual interest at work in recent times can be seen in how Washington and Beijing were able come to an agreement in early 2020 on trade relations after a trade war that lasted 18 months (Wong, et al., 2020).

However, Mearsheimer debates the basic principles of liberal thought. Economic balance strategy cannot prevent hostility. The financial industry focuses on business deals at any price. Indeed, the state economic component funds the hard power, and security competition regresses deal-making possibility. There is no argument that economic relations matter. But politics are more important when the analysis considers great power states (CIPS:2012). For example, China is Taiwan’s largest export and import partner (ITA:2020). Beijing proposes that Taiwan is a key priority. Chinese says that they are eager to go to war if Taipei declares state independence (CIPS:2012).

One more difference of opinion appears in the field of balancing coalition. Dobbins, Shatz and Wyne (2018) argue that there is a significant difference between the NATO presence in Europe against Russia and its possible alternative alliance against China (The Diplomat:2019). There is not an equivalent Western alliance structure to NATO in Asia. The lack of regional collective defence makes it very complicated for the U.S. to contain China in Asia (Dobbins, Shatz and & Wyne, 2018:2). Therefore, the competition turns to geoeconomic as opposed to geopolitical. Washington is forced to play on thefocus on foreign and free markets to modernise the international economic order in the 21st-century leadership (The Diplomat:2019).

There are further arguments to prove that the Great Power Politics theory is an inaccurate assessment and an oversimplification of reality. The first point is the existence of nuclear weapons (Glaser, 2011:91). Mearsheimer’s theory considers interstate relations in the era of non-nuclear operations (CIPS:2019). The As nuclear launch destroys the adversary,. That makes it concisely impossible to set any war between two nuclear powers like the U.S. and China becomes a difficult proposition (Owen, 2019:59). The second dissonance is the intensity of nationalism in vulnerable states. China understands that national self-determination in countries such as Japan or Taiwan makes it very difficult to invade these states and in a national term. tThreatened states have deliberate programs regarding cultural conservation for the society (CIPS:2012).

Another prominent interpretation of modern American-Sino relations is Joseph Nye’s ‘Is the American Century Over?’‘ work (2015). The author debates the general public view about Chinese domination worldwide and the American leadership decline (Nye, 2010:12). Nye categorically disagrees that Beijing performs better than Washington in overall power (FPA:2015). He supports the analysis (CIPS:2012) that the U.S. reserves its preponderance in the geopolitical order for a few decades, and the Chinese domination may appear exclusively in East Asia in the current century. The concern regarding the transnational power shift plays a central role in the investigation between the 20th American century and the so-called 21st Chinese century (FPA:2015).

Nye (2015) elucidates that the decline of the U.S. power is relative as opposed to an absolute or internal decline. The discussion of power decline involves more American psychological myth than factual reality. In the historical record, the Roman Empire was in absolute decline at its end without an external contender. Internal problems such as low economic productivity caused regression of welfare and the death of the Empire. In other words, the rest of the world rises to America in recent times. This does not reflect on the way in which the U.S. has seen relative decline. The Marshall Plan implementation can be seen, aswas a deliberate policy to rebuild a part of the world after WW II, but. The challenge is that Washington will likelymay share a smaller world portion in the 21st century than before, as part of thedue to power shift between West and East (FPA:2015).

Nonetheless, America has various assets compared to China. Firstly, there is a geographical privilege (Nye, 2020:125-30). The criterion of good geography is indisposable in Morgenthau’s understanding of great power as well (Mastanduno, 1997:53). The U.S. is surrounded by two oceans and non-aggressive neighbours. The Chinese border accumulates fourteen states (Nye, 2020:125), including and has territorial tension with India, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam (Glaser, 2011:88). Secondly, Washington could reverse the negative tendency in the energy sector from importer to exporter. International Energy Agency 'IEA' suggests that North America can become a self-sufficient energy consumer after 2020. Beijing cannot improve its reliance on oil import. Thirdly, the U.S. dollar dominance remains in global financial markets against the Chinese Yuan (Nye, 2020:125-30, FPA:2015). These are aspects that continue to hedge U.S. against actual decline.

America keeps showing positive results in demographic competition. 2050 UN report projects that the U.S. retains its third place behind India and China. At the same time, other developed states such as Europe, Japan and Russia face population loss. Th and alsoe U.S. predominantly assimilates migration and enables it to maintain economic productivity in the long term. Americans are forefront inleaders in biotechnology and international Universities rankings (Nye, 2010:5-7).

Nye’s introduces his innovative narrative about power politics for the 21st century. The concept of the three dimensions of power compares capacity in the area of coercion, economy and soft or persuasion between the U.S. and China (TED:2010). Nye argues that Washington excels in all three aspects against Beijing despite the tremendous Chinese economic conversion on power indicators (CSIS:2016). For example, the U.S. is the only superpower. Its budget directs considerably more funding to the army than China does with the oversized economy (Nye, 2010:8, Fraser, 2006:56). In few decades, China may seize control over East Asian coasts (CSIS:2016), but it fails to demonstrate global military presence in the foreseeable future (Glaser, 2011:90)

The most notable contradiction is the measurement of another hard type of power: economic (TED:2010). Hang refers to the World Bank’s purchasing power figure to mark China, as the largest and fastest-growing economy in history (2017:48). But Nye says that there is great exaggeration about Chinese resources in this field. Beijing’s effort to sustain geopolitical leadership with the economy size is misleading, even though it places a significant improvement in overall state performance. Nye claims that the per capita income figure matters more than the total size of the economy. For instance, per capita income shows the sophistication of an economy, which provides better options for the state to benefit from that economic composition. China has a long way to grow in capita income compared to the U.S. (CSIS:2016).

Nye innovates a term:the term ‘soft power’, which is. The capacity to influence a state’s decision, through private participators and tends to be an integral part of modern geopolitics (CSIS:2016). Beijing hardly progresses in the strategy of persuasive power worldwide (Nye, 2020:124). The American overseas profile is more attractive than the Chinese way of thinking and living for third parties. The U.S. foreign policy and Western democracy promotion are compelling even in Asia (CSIS:2016). China fails to demonstrate an exportable ideology (Dobbins, Shatz and Wyne, 2018:11). China’s soft power approach is limited greatly to the humanitarian, cultural, and educational projects in African countries (Eisenman, 2015) and to the giving of loans to third world countries (Lanteigne, 2019). Power emphasises that the authoritarian state model restrains the spread of cultural or creative influence for China (ANU TV:2019). For example, s Despite these efforts, China’s soft power remains small because state openness and civil society are crucial in soft power effectiveness (Nye, CSIS:2016), and. Beijing’s outlook is undemocratic and unappealing to many countrieswhen there are issues such as human rights violation (Mastanduno, 1997:88).

Whereas the ‘Tragedy of Great Power Politics’ (2001) Mearsheimer (2001) portends that China cannot rise peacefully and the containment rules need to be established in present time for future defeat, Nye (2015) contends that Washington has ample time to secure a manageable relationship with Beijing in the ‘Is the American Century Over?‘ (2015). Nye recommends avoiding the reproduction of previous century mistakes, including realist understandings of the Cold War. It helps to project an accurate assessment of modern American-Chinese relations (TED, :2010). For example, China is a returning power rather than an uncontrolled rising adversary from a historical perspective (Nye, 2020:121;, Mastanduno, 1997:71). Then, there is a gap between power resources and state behaviours. The incorrect analogy such as fear and overreaction sets wrong expectation, idea and resolution, which lead to critical failures in foreign policy. In this sense, the U.S. foreign policy in decline as opposed to the country overall power (TED:2010, CSIS:2016).

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Therefore, Nye argues that the U.S. foreign policy can seek a transnational coalition with China and others based on a positive-sum game. China participation is required to manage challenges such as climate change, pandemic, cyber terrorism, international drug traffic and economic instability. The public goods problem concerns American prosperity as well. For example, China highly performs has high in the production of Co2 emission. Reduction of air pollution is a benefit for the U.S. as well (Nye, 2020:128-9). In this sense, the avoidance of the game ‘ I win, you lose’ is crucial (TED:2010).

tThere are some shared beliefs between the analyses of Mearsheimer’s and Nye’s analysis. The U.S. remains retains its exclusive superpower status for upcoming decades, as China has high limits, especially inis still limited in its military and technology as compared to the U.S. Chinese development is only a part of the Asian recovery process, and there are various other states. Countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and others are unrest and seek the American security umbrella in the region and wish to see China contained. However, there are several differences in ideas about the management of American-Sino relations. Mearsheimer presents his neorealist arguments of Great Power Politics from the historical facts in the 20th century. In this context, Chinese behaviour is an expansive power, and Beijing is a potential peer competitor to Washington in the intensified security competition. The balance of power theory shows that the geographic specification makes it implausible to maintain American alliance network in the Asia Pacific region.

Whereas Mearsheimer focuses on the tension between the two contenders, Nye registers the window of cooperative relationship. Hard power will persist, but there are worldwide issues like public good, degradation and economic inequality. Washington has time to prepare for the Chinese arrival. Positive intention can rule out past mistakes of fear and overreaction in failed foreign policy. China has no global power projection in near decades. Beijing does not impose an existential threat on the U.S. either. Washington ought to apply its persuasive power to shape the Chinese participation in joint interests and concerns in the new and changing circumstances.


Eisenman, J., 2015. China’s post-cold war strategy in Africa: examining Beijing’s methods and objectives. In: China and the developing world. s.l.:Routledge , pp. 29-57.

Lanteigne, M., 2019. Chinese foreign policy: an introduction. s.l.:Routledge. Mearsheimer, J. J., 2001. The tragedy of great power politics. s.l.: WW Norton & Company.

Mearsheimer, J. J., 2006. China's Unpeaceful Rise. Current History, 105(690), pp. 160-162.

Nye Jr, J. S., 2019. The rise and fall of American hegemony from Wilson to Trump. International Affairs , 95(1), pp. 63-80.

Waltz, K. N., 2010. Theory of international politics. s.l.:Waveland Press. Wong, D., Cyrill, M. & Zhang, Z., 2020. US, China Sign Phase One Trade Deal: How to Read the Agreement. [Online] Available at:

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