Michael Pillsbury, a Pentagon consultant on China, said recently that the U.S. strategy of “hedging” against an emerging military threat from Beijing by building up U.S. forces in the Pacific likely will continue whoever is elected president in November.
Mr. Pillsbury made the comments during a panel discussion at a Jane’s U.S. Defense Conference and noted that a key part of the strategy is the U.S. buildup of forces on Guam. The recent deployment of additional U.S. forces there prompted some “hysteria” from the state-run Chinese news media, he said.
The hedge strategy, Mr. Pillsbury said, remains below the public radar, however, with Bush administration officials saying it is not directed at China. However, so far none of the current presidential candidates has sought to repudiate the strategy, he said.
Mr. Pillsbury quoted a senior Navy civilian as saying the new Pacific game plan is needed because “hope is not a strategy,” meaning the hope that China’s rise will be peaceful.
The hedge strategy is the Pentagon’s grand design to beef up military forces in the Pacific and upgrade alliances in the region to be ready to counter a hostile China, that is rapidly deploying advanced nuclear and conventional missiles, submarines and other naval forces and more mobile ground forces, but will not disclose the extent or target of the decades-long buildup.
Some pro-China academics and officials have suggested the hedge strategy, first developed under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, never existed or if it did, it ended with Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation in 2006.
That notion was dispelled by recent testimony from David Sedney, deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia, who told a congressional China commission hearing last month that the hedge strategy is a response to excessive Chinese military secrecy.
“Hedging is going on everywhere, including here in the United States,” Mr. Sedney said. “And hedging, the need to hedge against the bad possible outcomes [of China’s development] is, in many ways created by that opacity, that lack of transparency, lack of understanding of China’s strategic intentions.”
Mr. Sedney also said hedging is “going on with every country around China as well.”
“And the degree to which people hedge is, I think, determined by the degree of threat to which they feel they might be subject to in the worst-possible outcome,” he said.