Emboldened by economic strength and growing military power, China is emerging as a challenger to US dominance in the Pacific. But its promised peaceful rise has done little to convince regional powers that it will not use force to press longstanding territorial claims or attempt sea-denial operations in Asia's lucrative trade routes. Uncertainty about Beijing's intentions could thus beget a new, unpredictable arms race as states scramble to protect their interests. For the short term, however, governments are weighing up the question of how far their interests may be served by cooperating with China and trying to usher it into the role of a responsible global power, while hedging their bets with traditional alliances and military modernisation.
This issue analyses China's inexorable rise from peasant society to economic powerhouse. In charting the line that Beijing has walked in building up its forces alongside its network of trading links to Asia and the US, it reveals the challenge that lies ahead for policymakers: namely, to follow China's development ever more closely, to determine whether it could come to see the costs of military conflict as outweighing the benefits of peaceful trade and economic growth.