Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 11/2013

The Rebalance to Asia: U.S.-China Relations and Regional Security

Phillip C. Saunders

August 2013

Institute for National Strategic Studies


The rebalance responds to the Asia- Pacific region’s increased economic and strategic weight and seeks to bring U.S. global diplomatic, economic, and military resource commitments into balance with expanding U.S. regional interests. A key challenge is making the rebalance robust enough to reassure U.S. allies and partners while not alarming Chinese leaders to the point where they forgo cooperation with Washington. The rebalance is a comprehensive approach that involves all the tools of national power and devotes more attention to Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and regional multilateral institutions. Chinese officials and scholars are skeptical about the U.S. rationale for the rebalance and criticize its supposed negative effect on regional security. However, China has also redoubled efforts to stabilize Sino-U.S. relations and build a “new type of great power relations.” To prevent unwanted strategic rivalry, U.S. and Chinese leaders should increase cooperation on common interests and seek to manage competitive aspects of U.S.-China relations.