TH: You warn that the U.S. and China have to avoid the so-called Thucydides Trap, where miscalculation of an enemy’s intentions can lead to an otherwise avoidable war. Given China’s island-building and other aggressions, how can the U.S. and regional partners push back without pushing too far?
JS: First thing, China plays the long game. They are not concerned with 10 or even 50 years into the future. They are looking centuries ahead. We need to match that mindset. The Chinese feel that they will inevitably dominate Asia and play from a position of confidence. They don’t lunge for the ball, they pull at all levers: economic, political, historical and military.
The appropriate response for the U.S. is to maintain itself as the pre-eminent Pacific power, not just militarily but through economic and geopolitical leadership. It is a region without a NATO, and the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was a giant miss for us. That makes it more vital to strengthen individual military relations with friendly nations.