The Geopolitical Test of the 21st Century: The US and China's Unrestricted Strategic Rivalry


The long-awaited 'National Security Strategy has finally been issued by the Biden administration. An interim national security paper was produced last year that emphasized China's escalating aggression, claiming that the United States is under siege....

Dr. Hüseyin KORKMAZ

The long-awaited 'National Security Strategy has finally been issued by the Biden administration. An interim national security paper was produced last year that emphasized China's escalating aggression, claiming that the United States is under siege.

It was highlighted in this interim paper that it was critical to "revitalize America's network of alliances and partnerships that make the globe safer for all peoples."

The Trump administration's antagonistic attitude to allies was reversed with the Biden administration. To be successful in global competitiveness and to sustain the current rules-based system, the Biden administration urged the establishment of a joint/organized approach model.

The "Summary of 2022 National Defense Strategy Publication" issued by the Pentagon in March 2022, was another primary document during Biden's tenure. China was described as a strategic rival in this document, and the significance of "building a resilient Joint Force and defence ecosystem" was underlined to stay up with Chinese threats was emphasized.

Another noteworthy aspect in the summary of the national defence paper is that it was mentioned that the battle against China in the Indo-Pacific will be prioritized over the war against Russia in Europe. Because of the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, the emphasis now appears to be the struggle against Russia.

Indeed, "Russia is characterized as the most acute threat to European security" in the Biden administration's most recent security policy paper.

Before getting into the most recent strategy document, it is worth noting the critical address delivered by US Secretary of State Blinken at George Washington University in May 2022.

The strategy for China was articulated in this speech.

Blinken's speech focused on China's strategy, with the themes "invest, adapt, and compete."

While seeing China as the most significant long-term danger, Blinken also stated that they do not desire a "new cold war." On the other hand, he underlined the significance of revitalizing the allied network, adding, "We cannot protect this system alone."

According to Blinken, "China is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it." He also highlighted the hybrid nature of the global rivalry.

I've termed Blinken's speech the "Biden doctrine." Like the Truman doctrine, the theory is predicated on the notion that the United States is under attack from China.

In actuality, none of this is surprising. Since 2017, China has been identified as a revisionist power and an opponent of the current international order in all critical security and strategic publications.

Biden went even further, declaring that the United States' conflict with China was the most critical geopolitical challenge of the twenty-first century. Biden had previously stated, "We would protect Taiwan militarily if necessary" (four times), while the White House felt the need to correct him each time.

The Biden administration's latest report, (National Security Strategy) issued last week, addressed "how the United States will stop a dangerous Russia in the coming years and compete successfully with China in the long term."

The report in issue was supposed to be released towards the end of 2021, but it was pushed back.
The document's first section refers to "a pivotal decade in which the rules of geopolitical struggle among the major powers were set." According to the Biden administration, the coming decade will be a watershed moment in global rivalry.

The Biden administration claims that "The globe has reached a tipping point. This decade will be crucial in setting the parameters of rivalry with China, as well as in handling Russia's severe danger."

According to the text, "the post-Cold War era is over, and there is a continuing race to determine the following era."

The Biden administration emphasizes that this permanent position will continue, stating that "the United States is the world's dominant power, even if the international environment gets contentious."

References to crucial democratic allies worldwide who share much of our vision for regional and international order, even if they do not always agree with us, are also noteworthy.

The US concedes that it has persuaded some of its allies, but there have been issues with crucial partners. According to the text, the most significant strategic challenge to the United States in this new vision is posed by forces that combine authoritarian leadership with revisionist foreign policy:
"Russia and China are facing distinct problems. As seen by its violent campaign of aggression against Ukraine, Russia now poses an imminent threat to the free and open international system, blatantly disregarding the fundamental norms of the international order. China, on the other hand, is the sole challenger with growing economic, political, military, and technical capacity to both modify and advance the international order."

This rhetoric demonstrate that the United States is focused on preventing Russia in the near term but on severe competition with China in the long run. The line "We do not seek confrontation or a new Cold War," as in every paper and speech to date, is notably highlighted in this text. But this is now revealed to be just rhetoric.

The Biden administration emphasizes three significant concerns to accomplish its agenda in this critical decade:

1) Investing in American power expansion.

2) Form the most powerful coalition of states to shape the global strategic environment and address current concerns.

3) To modernize and enhance the United States Army in the aftermath of the age of strategic rivalry with the great powers while preserving its ability to disrupt the country's terrorist threat.

This recent document is critical because the Biden administration acknowledges that the globe has entered a new period of strategic rivalry following the end of the Cold War. Russia poses a serious and immediate danger but lacks China's full capabilities. However, attention is also attracted to Sino-Russian ties, which are heating up on both sides.

The document's primary focus is always on China, the lone long-term rival. According to the Biden administration, Beijing frequently uses economic strength to pressure countries.

It seeks to increase the world's reliance on China while restricting access to its home market, capitalizing on the international economy's openness, and lowering its dependence on the globe. Competition with China most visible in the Indo-Pacific, but also becoming more worldwide.

The sentence "The United States is assisting in making Russia's war on Ukraine a strategic disaster" stands out in the text.

We can derive the following conclusions based on our data. First, the official state discourse in the United States has clearly stated that the post-Cold War era has ended and that we are now in a great power rivalry.

The changes and transformations that occur over the next ten years will have a significant and decisive impact on the direction of this rivalry. Another essential issue is that China has emerged as our time's most important geopolitical threat.

Based on norms, the United States sees China and Russia as threats to the world order. At this point, he charges China for having the ambition and power to change the system.

As a result, the United States has focused its resources on long-term strategic struggles with China. In this scenario, investing will achieve economic balance and institutional harmony with allies.

Furthermore, throughout this time, a crucial effort will be undertaken to modernize the United States Army, particularly on a technical scale.

The national security policy paper issued by the Biden administration concludes, "This is what we must achieve in this decisive decade. As we have done throughout our history, America will seize this moment and rise to the challenge. There is no time to waste."

The ongoing strategic competition between the United States and China is becoming more pronounced.

We are entering an era of strategic and unrestricted rivalry.

This will be a grey age characterized by blockades, more hybrid competition, more conflicts, and uncertainty.

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