bildt105_MARK RALSTONAFP via Getty Images_chinatrade Mark Ralson/AFP via Getty Images

How China Will Achieve Hegemony

Notwithstanding the risks posed by Russian aggression, China appropriately looms largest in the Biden administration's new National Security Strategy. Yet by eschewing an assertive free-trade agenda, the United States continues to give China an advantage in precisely the area where it is ascendant.

COPENHAGEN – It took US President Joe Biden’s administration quite a while to produce its National Security Strategy, which it finally released in October. Though the White House did issue an interim document in March 2021, the final product seems to have required more work than anticipated.

The reason isn’t difficult to understand. While the interim document focused primarily on China and treated Russia more as a regional nuisance, reality intervened with a vengeance in February 2022, when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a war to “denazify,” “demilitarize,” and essentially eliminate Ukraine. Where the interim strategy had described Russia as “disruptive,” the final one acknowledges that it “now poses an immediate and persistent threat to international peace and stability,” owing to its embrace of “an imperialist foreign policy.”

Nonetheless, China still looms largest in the Biden administration’s strategic outlook, as well it should. The final document makes clear that China is America’s “only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do so.” As Graham Allison of Harvard University has observed with his “Thucydides Trap” thesis, both China’s rising power and the fear that it instills in the dominant power are driving the strategic and foreign-policy narrative.