Investigating the Chinese Threat, Part One: Military and Economic Aggression
Testimony Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
My job is to look out into the future, twenty years or so, and calculate what we’re likely to see in Asia. The lazy way to do this is to follow straight-line trends over the past twenty years, project them into the next twenty and see what you get.
For populations, this is fairly reasonable, for other trends it is unsafe beyond five years or so. Still, if one can project economic growth trends, together with populations and migration trends for five years, you can lay a baseline for longer-term trajectories.
When you try to integrate multiple trend lines and aggregate the results, the margins for error grow and conclusions are necessarily speculative. But if, twenty years ago, one had done a straight-line projection of China’s previous decade of economic and population growth, or for military spending growth, or even foreign exchange reserves growth, your figures for 2012 would be a bit low, but not really off the mark.
Many of the international threats that the United States faces are discrete and as such, analyzing them is more or less straightforward. Not so with China. China poses a multidimensional matrix of threats and approaches it with a strategy which I believe the Beijing leadership has thought through in great detail over the past two decades.
The threats are economic, industrial, commercial, financial. They are technological, scientific, territorial, political, diplomatic. They involve transnational crime and environmental challenges. There are colossal demographic challenges that, too, can turn into threats in very short order.
The military threats posed by China are intensely more complicated by the non-military dimensions. And all these threats can blow up in America’s face at a moment’s notice.
Read the full testimony here.