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Title: East-West "Giants' On Collison Course Underlying Causes For Future Us-China Conflict

Subject: Future Us-China relations in context of underlying sources of conflict and four assumptions

Author(s): Michael J Wallace


Abstract: The concept of a non-liberal China continuing to grow anywhere near its current rates economically and militarily is viewed with a mixture of reactions: from fear to acceptance, to skepticism and cynicism, and an outright desire to stop it from happening. With about 21% of the world's population, China has the potential to exert a tremendous influence in the international scene as the state of flux recedes and the next world order emerges. The Pacific Rim continues to grow in importance to the United States, as delineated in the most recent National Security Strategy. Understanding the political, cultural, and warfare philosophy of China will aid immeasurably to charting the future course to take in the relations assuming China continues to rise in power. A suitable framework, furnished by relevant theories fashioned in light of the dynamic and complex world, is necessary to facilitate the navigation through the underlying sources of conflict.

Two modern-day theorists, Doyle and Huntington, have significantly contributed to differing aspects that are worth considering in regard to potential conflict between the US and China over miscommunications and misperceptions. Doyle looks at the inherent tensions between powerful liberal and non-liberal states. Many missed opportunities to pursue mutual advancement of strategic interests and a general reduction in tensions through accommodation is evident. This leads to increased probability of conflict at the expense of peace rather than resolve underlying causes of conflict proactively. Huntington clearly delineates the inherent dangers of the interactions between two civilizations that can lead to conflict. He also outlines the dangerous path the West is pursuing in advancing its culture throughout the world. Conflict could come through a blast of cultural backlash when the "right spark" ignites the equivalent of oil on water mixture.

This research paper analyzes selected historic and projected trends of China relevant to its troubled relationship with the US, applies the theories of Doyle and Huntington to focus and support the argument, and conducts an analysis of US/China relationship against the backdrop of the Tiananmen Square tragedy. This project concludes with three potential future alternatives where certain underlying causes of war lead to hostilities between the US and China along with some closing conclusions and recommendations to minimize their happenstance. These potential scenarios underscore the importance of exploring "the causes of war" in the context of an evolving world order in order to achieve national security objectives short of war. Against the possibility of military hostilities, these ideals can be used to focus contingency planning, enhance the realism of military training, and improve the development and implementation of a conflict termination strategy to establish a more stable environment and lasting state of peace.

Chapter 1 provides an overview of US/China relations along with four assumptions. Chapter 2 establishes a framework, using the theories of Doyle and Huntington, regarding potential misunderstandings and conflict in the US/China relationship. Chapter 3 uses a case study to highlight certain embedded "sparking points" through miscommunications and misperceptions as well as potential ones elevated by current US policy as China continues its assumed growth towards being a "Great Power." Finally, Chapter 4 concludes with three alternative futures of US/China conflict with some conclusions and recommendations to decrease their probability of occurrence.

Last updated 1998 Mar 12

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