China Need Not Learn from US Alliance Model

China’s peaceful rise has run headlong into an obstruction caused by the U.S.-led alliance system. Surrounding China, there is the U.S.-Japan alliance, the U.S.-Korean alliance, the U.S.-Singapore alliance, the U.S.-Philippine alliance, and the U.S.-Australian alliance, all of which are based on mutual security agreements. Some countries are using their security treaties with the United States to apply pressure to China, exploiting these opportunities to seek their own advantages. These acts not only make China feel like it is being bullied, but they are also causing consternation among a great many strategists in the U.S. itself. Insofar as they are concerned, “The cause of America’s greatest unease lies not in its border issues or the threat of invasion, it is its’ alliance system — particularly the U.S.-Japan alliance treaty. That treaty could draw the United States into a regional conflict.”* Alliance formation is the American foundation for its position in the world, and with each passing day it’s becoming a wearisome burden for the United States.

The wide-scale U.S. alliance system sprung from the Truman Doctrine, a strategy which came into effect after World War II. The alliance system assisted the United States in directing the world order, partitioning the world with the Soviet Union at that time. This kind of alliance system is fundamentally militaristic in nature. After the conclusion of the Cold War, the world entered a new phase of globalized trade; although a peaceful framework emerged, the alliance system remained rooted in the previous era. The U.S. proceeded to control NATO, maintaining a security system based on a form of exclusion. Over the past few decades, the U.S. has counted upon its alliance model to support it in conducting various wars; although it has met with relative success with its model, it has ruptured the fabric of the world security order, and helped escalate the spread of terrorism throughout the globe. Moreover, as recent issues with the Diaoyu Islands, the South China Sea and Ukraine have demonstrated, the U.S. alliance system has decimated the equilibriums that exist between large nations and various regional powers — it truly is pushing the world to the brink of conflict.

The fundamental problem within the U.S. exclusion and alliance model is that it is unable to accommodate the needs of China’s newfound prosperity and expansion, and thus it cannot provide the world with a secure environment. What ought China to do to respond to this outdated alliance model that no longer fits the modern world’s development? The “vertical and horizontal alliance strategies” are a term often heard in Chinese historical narratives. We Chinese aren’t strangers to allied strategies. Shouldn’t we draw a line in the sand, separate friends from enemies, and establish our own measure-for-measure alliance model? On the surface this seems like the right thing to do, but it’s almost unthinkable in the current age.

Given that the American exclusion and alliance model is neither profitable nor able to offer security to the world, we ought to abandon it. Most importantly, China definitely should not imitate it. China should abandon old ways, tie up new alliances and establish a modern, international security framework to meet the needs of the world. At the Asia-Pacific summit, China’s leaders pointed out that security should be universal. You can’t have one nation safe while others are in chaos. You also can’t have half of a country safe while the other is in anarchy.

Abandoning the old alliance model means opposing the unequal order that exists among the leading countries of the world. It means changing the rigid opposition to the African Union, and resisting making the alliance system a platform for resistance or one that prepares for and wages war. We need to toss out the old ways of thinking to make way for the new. In recent years, China has been forging a path to mutual prosperity and building a destiny with its partners. A great number of countries have also built inseparable strategic ties with China during its rise. Among such ties, we have seen agreements on copyright laws, as well as treaties over rights and obligations. Insofar as international laws are concerned, these are mutual oaths and agreements that represent outstanding levels of cooperation. They represent mutual benefits and prosperity, the development of regional security, and a new form of alliance system that is not exclusive in nature. Undoubtedly, this would represent a revolutionary approach to international security and world economic development. It would also establish a long-term plan for the world in the future to come.

This new alliance system would play an active role in international politics, and it could also resolve some issues. China’s former prime minister once pointed out that Asian countries are often allies with the United States, but they also cannot become enemies of China. This demonstrates that the old alliance model used by the U.S. is starting to weaken across the Asia-Pacific region. Throughout the Ukraine crisis, Sino-Russian relations played a constructive role in maintaining the balance of power and preventing the situation from getting out of control. From this, it can be seen that our aims are not to confront the U.S. alliance model, but to augment it and achieve a balance with it. Thereby, we can maintain world peace, and promote a truly multipolar political process from which the world can only prosper.

We can already see the effects of China’s community-building system on global society. From cooperation to constructiveness, inclusiveness and development of a mutually inclusive framework, we can further work to reduce confrontations and other isolated negative incidents. Make no mistake about it: although we have only made a small step towards the reordering of the international framework, we have reason to remain confident. On the world political stage, China can forge its own path forward. It need not imitate the ways of others.

The author is a professor of the Strategic Studies Center at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

*Translator’s Note: The author does not state where this quote comes from.

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