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People's Daily Online>>Foreign Affairs

US' empire state of mind

By Doug Bandow (China Daily)

14:20, December 27, 2011

Washington uses the "China threat" as an excuse to maintain excessive military spending so it can continue its hegemony

The confused policy of "congagement" - mixing containment and engagement - has increasingly characterized the US approach to China. Americans want the benefit of trade and support for international initiatives, but fear a wealthier and more assertive Beijing pursuing its own interests. The result is more than the usual incoherence from Washington.

Disagreements among otherwise friendly states are not uncommon - just look at the United States and European countries. However, the trans-Atlantic relationship is rooted in cooperation. There is no military competition, no troop deployments linked to European foreign policy, no Pentagon reports on Europe's threatening military.

Washington's view of China's security policy and military developments is very different. The Department of Defense publishes an annual report on the Chinese military, the very existence of which implies that China is a potential threat. And the report is casually waved as evidence of the need for the US to maintain its extraordinary military outlays - roughly as much as the rest of the world combined.

But not just continued spending on personnel and weapons. Also the deployment of those forces far from the US and close to China, like in Australia. Over the years the US has perceived other potential enemies in Asia - Japan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Russia - and developed alliances accordingly. Now the first is a close ally, the second is an impoverished nation, and the third poses no threat and is focused westward. Maintaining, indeed strengthening, existing alliances today has only one purpose, to contain China.

Of course, US policymakers spend much effort denying the obvious, that the US is preparing for potential war with China. But such assurances cannot be taken seriously, as Sun Zhe of Tsinghua University says, "If you say [US aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines] are only targeting the DPRK, nobody will believe it." Of course, conflict is not Washington's objective. The hope is that the US military power will continue to overawe Beijing. However, that means US administrations are devoting much effort and resources to preserving American military superiority and limiting potential Chinese activity.

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