Multiple news outlets recently carried stories about a Chinese antiship ballistic missile (ASBM) that could target U.S. aircraft carriers at sea.1 It was just the latest in a long-running stream of news coverage and concerned dialogue over China’s expanding military capabilities and influence. As China’s growing strength gains greater global attention, more and more time, energy, and money will be spent asking how the United States will counter an increasingly capable Chinese military. For some within defense circles, this is a routine question and a question the U.S. Navy (particularly Pacific Command) is expected to answer.
But fear of China’s perceived martial intentions is both overblown and unproductive for the United States and its military. Focusing solely on Chinese military capabilities clouds the critical challenge of preventing a catastrophic Sino-American conflict. Furthermore, this distraction obscures the real work of guiding China’s rise as an open, self-confident, fully integrated member of the world community.