Fingar outlines context of US-China alliance


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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the sixth annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue in July 2014.
Photo credit: 
Flickr/U.S. Department of State

China’s maritime pursuits in the East and South China Seas and President Xi Jinping’s announcement of a new Asian security concept have gathered considerable attention in recent months, leading American analysts to critically examine the strategic value of the U.S.-China alliance. Is the United States in a position where the costs outweigh the gains?

In an article by the Global Times, Thomas Fingar, the Oksenberg-Rohlen Distinguished Fellow at Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, responds to questions about U.S. alliance management, discussing the origin and United States’ interests behind its relationship with China.

Over the past few decades, when developing its alliance network, did the United States have a clear and comprehensive mission? Does the United States have any concerns over responsibilities or risks that alliances may generate?

The principal purposes of U.S. alliances are deterrence and collective self-defense, as they were when most were established after World War II and the Korean War. They also contribute to stability and security by requiring transparency and confidence-building among members of the alliances, and to limiting the spread of nuclear weapons by reducing vulnerability to conventional attack and enhancing security through extended deterrence. The United States bears a disproportionate share of the costs associated with its collective security and stability in the global order to justify the costs and risks involved.

Compared to America’s transformation (from upholding isolationism to building a formidable alliance system), how should we evaluate China’s non-aligned strategic partnership policies?

The alliances in which the United States participates are one part of the global system that has contributed to the unprecedented peace and prosperity that we­–the world–have today. Other elements include the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and other control regimes, and all other institutions in the liberal, open and rule-based system developed by the “Free World” during the Cold War and transformed into a global system in the years since 1991. I would describe the difference between the U.S. vision of relationships among states and China’s non-aligned strategic partnerships as the difference between obligations and expectations within a family and those among colleagues and friends.

The above text is reposted with permission from the Global Times. A version of this text ran as an excerpt written in the Chinese language, which can be accessed here.