The Security Consequences of America's China Focus
With the United States’ security strategy now dominated by the China threat, some regional powers will be tempted to engage in aggression against weaker neighbors in order to test US resolve. But the diminution of America’s global stature could also bring significant benefits for both the US and the rest of the world.
CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – During the Cold War, Europe was America’s strategic priority. East Asia was largely a sideshow, even though the United States fought bloody wars in Korea and Vietnam, and also provided security for Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
But in the unfolding new cold war between the US and China, America’s strategic priorities have flipped. Today, US security strategy is dominated by the China threat, and East Asia has replaced Europe as the principal theater of the world’s defining geopolitical contest. And the security consequences of this shift in America’s focus are becoming increasingly visible.
Most notably, America’s adversaries are taking advantage of its preoccupation with China to test US resolve. Iran, for example, has hardened its position in the stalemated negotiations on reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear deal from which US President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew in 2018. Iranian leaders appear to be betting that President Joe Biden will be extremely reluctant to resort to military force and get bogged down in a new Middle Eastern war when the US is planning for a potential conflict with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.