- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2011

If power is the No. 1 currency in international politics, China is busy stocking its coffers. China’s communist leaders have made major strides in military development in recent years, as evidenced by China’s annual increases in defense spending, which doubled from 1997 to 2003.

This year has seen a 13 percent increase over 2010 spending. That makes China second in the world in terms of military expenditure, which is officially estimated at $90 billion. Unofficial accounts from inside the Department of Defense put the numbers higher, somewhere around $150 billion. China sees an opening in the international system and has judged it in its favor to pursue power at the expense of its neighbors. That China has thus far not achieved regional hegemony should not allow us to mistake its intentions.

History teaches us China’s ambitions are hardly unique among nations, and that the country will continue its course toward regional hegemony. Consider that Prussian leader Otto von Bismarck set out on a regional conquest in the 1860s and the unified Germany that emerged was far stronger than the original Prussian state.

Achieving global superpower status is not a short-term undertaking, however. The United States has been working tirelessly in securing and expanding its position in the world since 1898. Should China attempt to duplicate the America pattern in Asia - perhaps even going so far as to pass its own version of the Monroe Doctrine - the United States will have no alternative but to challenge it. If the 20th century can be used as a model, the United States has shown little patience with emerging powers attempting to rearrange the international system.

The United States is likely to show China the enormous bill that must be footed for such a coming-out party. The Cold War was a battle of attrition, with the United States forcing Russia into the deep end of the pool. China need only look to the fate of Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan for a view of its potential future. The balance of power in Asia is essential to U.S. security and the United States will encourage security competition among China’s neighbors. The costly side-effect is a likely nuclear arms race in China’s backyard. The threat of a militarized Japan, South Korea, India and Russia with backing from the United States will ultimately prove too dangerous for China.

JASON B. CORLEY

Manassas