Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.
By James M. Lindsay, CFR.org
China’s rise presents perhaps the most significant challenge to American foreign policy over the next decade. Here’s one concern: China’s growing force of long-range precision missiles could eventually push the U.S. Navy out of the Western Pacific, thereby endangering an alliance system that Washington has led for more than six decades. You wouldn’t know that, however, from following the GOP presidential race. The candidates don’t talk much about how to respond to China’s increased military might.
Yes, Mitt Romney has called China an “economic threat” and proposes sanctioning it for “unfair trade practices.” All the foreign policy section of his website says about China, however, is that "China is emerging". Jon Huntsman often starts his campaign events by speaking Mandarin, presumably to remind his audience that as a former U.S. ambassador to China he has foreign policy experience. But he has gone no further than Romney in setting forth a strategy for dealing with Beijing. (Huntsman has said that he would sign legislation to punish China for currency manipulation while in the next breath saying that China would “rebut” the penalties with “commensurate tariffs” that could trigger a trade war we don’t want.) The rest of the field has been similarly quiet. This
collective silence prompts a suggestion to the Washington Post and Bloomberg, the co-sponsors of the next GOP debate on October 11 at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Please don’t use the fifteen minutes you allot to foreign policy in the debate to flit from topic to topic. Instead, devote the entire segment to asking the candidates how they propose to respond to China’s military rise. We might learn something, and you might break some news.