The US should rescind its invitation to China to participate in the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) — unless it is prepared to offer the same invitation to Taiwan, a US academic says in a new policy study.
“Washington needs to recognize the challenge posed by the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to itself and its allies — self-deception and delusion can only hurt the US,” Heritage Foundation research fellow Dean Cheng (成斌) says.
He stresses that Beijing’s decision to build a navy is a natural outgrowth of China’s dependence on the sea for resources and trade.
However, China is also party to disputes with virtually all of its maritime neighbors, Cheng says.
Along with formal US allies Japan and the Philippines, Cheng singles out Taiwan, “which holds carefully constructed American security guarantees.”
“And China’s construction of an anti-access or area denial system directly challenges American interests in the region,” he says.
The policy study, How the US should respond to the Chinese naval challenge, was published by Heritage on Tuesday.
In it Cheng says the objective is to make China one of the world’s top eight maritime powers by 2020.
By 2030, China expects to be a mid-level maritime nation among the top five maritime powers and by 2049 — in time for the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the PRC — the goal is to be one of the top three maritime powers in the world.
In light of this buildup, Cheng makes four major policy recommendations for the US.
First, he says, the US Navy’s shipbuilding program should be fully funded and second, the country should invest in a strong research and development program.
Third, he says, the US should strengthen ties with longtime allies and friends, and build new relations throughout the region.
“Unlike Europe, Asian defense budgets are rising, so America is likely to benefit from stronger partners in the longer term,” Cheng says.
“But that requires more attention to be paid to the region — US Secretary of State John Kerry should effect a pivot to complement that of the Pentagon,” he says.
Fourth, Cheng calls for the rescinding of the RIMPAC invitation to China — unless Taiwan is also invited — and says China should also extend a reciprocal invitation to the US to attend its own military exercises.
“Inviting the PRC to participate in major joint naval exercises involving US allies implies a level of trust and confidence in the PRC that is unwarranted,” Cheng says.