The rise of China means that the regional (not global) power structure is shifting from unipolarity to bipolarity. Whether this is a positive or negative development depends on a particular government’s viewpoint. Many Asia-Pacific states might welcome an international system based on the principles the Chinese claim they will champion: peace, equality between the rich and poor and between the large and small states, mutual benefit in economic relations, and nonintervention in each other’s internal affairs. The North Pacific governments, however, have generally seen U.S. influence as positive: supportive of a peaceful international environment and expanded international trade and, therefore, conducive to mutual prosperity. If relatively unchecked U.S. influence was beneficial, the prospect that U.S. influence will be diminished, diluted, or divided by rival Chinese influence is not necessarily welcome.
This paper will attempt to evaluate this important question of the likely effects of the rise of China on North Pacific security. Because the issue pits contending sets of effects or trends against each other, the exercise will be a net assessment.