ON-Lion Letter

"American (and other) policymakers have for years debated whether the United States and China are destined to cooperate, compete, or fall to conflict," begins Leland Miller in his chapter of the John Hay Initiative's (JHI's) new book, Choosing to Lead:  American Foreign Policy for a Disordered World.  "But the question is unhelpful, because it invariably has two distinct answers.  In the economic sphere, strong U.S.-China relations will be critical for both countries and the world -- and remain, in the aggregate, mutually beneficial.  In the security realm, however, a China that continues to view the status quo as a constraint to its rise poses a growing threat to U.S. interests and those of its allies. So long as this endures, geopolitics will remain much closer to a zero-sum game."

Miller is president of China Beige Book International, the world's leading data-analytics and investment-advisory firm focused on the Chinese economy.

"Experts have been too slow to recognize that the old rhetorical divide between China hawks and doves no longer applies readily to a relationship where U.S. economic interests can suffer greatly from ill-advised anti-China protectionism, but U.S. geopolitical interests can suffer even more severely from security policies that signal a lack of resolve," Miller concludes in "Rethinking U.S. Economic Policy Toward China."  "We urgently need an integrated approach that emphasizes tactical assertiveness in each of these areas but does not blur the categories to our own detriment -- namely, 'strategic ring-fencing.'  The goal should be to optimize U.S. leverage and outcomes while refusing to allow populist or simply foolish impulses to dictate national strategy.

"The next Administration's China policy must attack this challenge head on," he writes.  "America should categorically identify its core interests and act steadfastly in their defense, while avoiding wasting political and diplomatic capital chasing down resolution on second- and third-tier issues.  Once priorities are properly identified, America must have the discipline to respond to any aggressive Chinese actions using the appropriate levers -- which means treating security threats as security issues, enforced by the U.S. military, not problems that can be wished away into the economic realm, where they nearly always do Americans more harm than good."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports JHI's Choosing to Lead project.

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