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Can the US Overtake China in the Next 10 Years?

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The President of the United States (US), Joe Biden, has expressed in the National Security Strategy Document published on 12 October 2022, that the next ten years will be determining process in the rivalry with China.[1] According to Biden, if the US does not act swiftly and pragmatically, it will lose the chance to shape the future of the international order.[2] Therefore, the Washington administration will be struggling for outstripping China, which it sees as a “sole strategic rival” in the next ten years, in the global competition. Then what kind of strategy that the US would follow to realize this? Whether it could be successful? What are the areas that China is advantageous and disadvantageous in the rivalry? What are the most dangerous sides of the rivalry?

The US claims that, to be ahead of in the rivalry with China, various investments abroad and in domestic. In addition, it is aimed that Washington to increase military cooperation in Indo-Pacific, and to prevent the threats of Beijing towards the technological and cyber infrastructure of the regional states. Because for Washington to dominate Beijing militarily and economically in the Indo-Pacific, it must first limit China’s presence there. The first way to do this is to ensure information security and build cyber deterrence. China is increasing its capabilities in the use of global technology to become a leader in this competition.

The US, on the other hand, sees China as a serious threat to the cyber security of the Indo-Pacific. The main challenge is the export of American military equipment to the region and the danger of these military technologies falling into the hands of China, which it sees as a strategic competitor. This is because Beijing is investing in the cyber-infrastructure of the countries in the region. The US, for its part, has been explaining to the Indo-Pacific states the risks involved in relying on the technological infrastructure provided by China and, in this context, has accelerated its cooperation with the states of the region to develop a “free and open cyber ecosystem.”[3] However, China’s technological investments in the Indo-Pacific will continue to increase over the next decade, limiting the US military and economic influence there.

As stated in the National Security Strategy, another strategic challenge that the United States has to face to overtake China is that China is trying to export its undemocratic style of governance to the region. In this way, China challenges international peace and stability. Moreover, Beijing’s adoption of an illiberal economic model and its export to the region is seen by Washington as a threat to its “democratic and open Indo-Pacific strategy.”

Pressuring Beijing to adapt to the global liberal economic order, the US believes that China’s policies are an obstacle to its opening to the region. The reason for Washington’s reluctance to sign free trade agreements with the Indo-Pacific states is the long-rumoured possibility of Beijing dragging them into a debt trap.

The fact that the states of the region are attracting Chinese investments, as well as technology firms, is seen as a threat by Washington. While the Anglo-Saxon states, claiming that this poses a national security risk, impose sanctions on Chinese technology firms, the fact that Indo-Pacific states are still open to “this threat” is seen as one of the most important factors limiting the US economic presence in the region.

Another major challenge for the US in its competition with China in the next decade is the possibility of a global crisis erupting over Taiwan. In this case, either China or the United States would face a rapid decline or rise. Managing this crisis properly will be one of Washington’s key strategic challenges. In its National Security Strategy Document, the US made it clear that it does not support Taiwan’s independence and reiterated that it will continue to adhere to the “One China” policy. In addition, the US has also stated that it will continue to support Taiwan militarily, and its main strategy is to create a “frozen crisis” next to China so that it can overtake it within the next decade. In other words, there are several military, and economic and political challenges for the US to overtake China in the next decade. The easiest and most pragmatic way to overcome these obstacles is to leave Beijing with an “intractable crisis” on its doorstep.

The main strategy of the US is to push China back by building “integrated deterrence” in the military, economic and political spheres of global competition. At the heart of this is the US crisis strategy.  Distracting China through Taiwan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and other regional crises could limit Beijing’s economic and military rise. In this context, the US expects China to make a strategic mistake by intervening in these crises. This means Washington’s success depends very much on China’s mistakes in this competition.

In the ongoing competition to reshape the international order, China’s advantage is that it is the only competitor capable of challenging the US economically, diplomatically, militarily, and technologically. Its disadvantage is that it is increasingly involved in socio-political, economic, and military crises provoked by the US in its immediate neighborhood. As long as China continues to be embroiled in these crises, the US will advance faster in the global competition and may eventually overtake it. The most dangerous aspect of the rivalry is the possibility that crises in the region, especially in Taiwan, could affect the entire world.


[1] “National Security Strategy”, The White House, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Biden-Harris-Administrations-National-Security-Strategy-10.2022.pdf, (Date of Accession: 19.10.2022).

[2] Ibid.

[3] “US Focused On Expanding Security Tie-Ups İn Indo-Pacific: Alejandro Mayorkas”, Livemint, https://www.livemint.com/news/world/us-focused-on-expanding-security-tie-ups-in-indo-pacific-alejandro-mayorkas-11666081402442.html, (Date of Accession: 19.10.2022).

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer graduated from Sakarya University, Department of International Relations in 2014. In the same year, he started his master's degree at Gazi University, Department of Middle Eastern and African Studies. In 2016, Tamer completed his master's degree with his thesis titled "Iran's Iraq Policy after 1990", started working as a Research Assistant at ANKASAM in 2017 and was accepted to Gazi University International Relations PhD Program in the same year. Tamer, whose areas of specialization are Iran, Sects, Sufism, Mahdism, Identity Politics and Asia-Pacific and who speaks English fluently, completed his PhD education at Gazi University in 2022 with his thesis titled "Identity Construction Process and Mahdism in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Framework of Social Constructionism Theory and Securitization Approach". He is currently working as an Asia-Pacific Specialist at ANKASAM.