The central role of trade in China’s prosperity also argues for its rise to remain peaceful. China’s trade was 55 per cent of its GDP in 2010 – the same as for Britain in the 1870s, and five times larger than the role of trade in the US economy of the 1950s and 1960s, when US economic dominance was greatest. China has more to lose than most from any conflict that disrupts global economic flows.
The best and most realistic strategic outcome for East Asia must be one in which the powers are in balance with each side effectively able to deny the domination of the other.
With its energy and resource security depending on long global sea lanes, it is hardly surprising that China would seek to enhance its naval capacity. Suggestions that China’s recent launch of one aircraft carrier and plans to build another are signs of a new belligerence are wide of the mark.