Yes, China is certainly America's number one adversary.
China refuses to play by the rules of the global economy while simultaneously growing its military capabilities, gobbling up strategic resources, stifling dissent at home, green-lighting cyber intrusions abroad and showing increased signs of nationalism.
China is not a sworn enemy of the United States, nor do I hope it ever becomes one. But no nation-state has done more damage to American interests in recent times.
It's not unusual for a nation to act in its own economic interest. But what sets China apart is its blatant disregard for the established rules of global trade. China manipulates its currency, heavily subsidizes its industries, blocks market access, permits the theft of intellectual property, promotes forced technology transfers and degrades its own environment, all to gain a competitive advantage.
The consequences have been severe in China and abroad. While many observers hoped that China's accession to the global trading system more than a decade ago would lead to more openness, reciprocity with the West and a respect for the rule of law, that hasn't happened.
Instead, millions of Chinese citizens die prematurely due to heavy pollution. Millions of American manufacturing workers have lost their jobs over the past 12 years. China passed the United States over the past few years to lead the world in manufacturing and exports. And, the U.S. trade deficit with China reached $315 billion last year, a record unsurpassed in the history of such statistics.
What does Beijing do with this wealth? It builds up its military, develops satellite-killing missiles and funds what is widely acknowledged as the world's most intrusive cyberhacking operation — one that threatens American businesses and homeland security interests.
Things could grow much worse if China became openly belligerent, which is why our relationship with Beijing must be carefully managed. China may not be a superpower in the technical sense, but it is far from benign. So long as Beijing poses as an adversary in the quest for democratic rights, open markets, respect for the rule of law and economic stability, we must remain vigilant.
About Scott Paul President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing
Ely Ratner Deputy Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security