Moreover, while the United States retains a large absolute conventional military advantage over China, the relative advantage is narrowing . 57 Of particular worry to U.S. allies is China’s investment in anti - access/area - denial (A2/AD ) capabilities that will limit the U.S. ability to project power in Asia. According to a former Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, “the conventional superiority advantage is critical, because it obviates the whole debate about whether or not Washington would ‘sacrifice Los Angeles to save Tokyo’ in a nuclear exchange.” 58 At the same time, the economic and political costs of a war between the United States and China continue to grow . Unlike the Soviet Union, China is a competitor and potential adversary of the United States, but also a critical partner . The U.S. and Chinese economies are more integrated than ever before, and China works with the United States to solve global challenges such as climate change, infectious disease, and piracy. Together, China’s growing military power and political influence unnerve U.S. allies . They worry that because of the narrowing conventional military balance between the United States and China, the United States may prove unwilling to endure the costs of even a limited war with China , instead opting to concede on their core interests to prevent escalation . Tokyo in particular is concerned that the United States might begin to think that the U.S.–China relationship is more important than the U.S.–Japan alliance . As Ambassador Linton Brooks puts it, “a closer U.S. relationship with China will lead to a gap between U.S. and Japan’s security perspectives , weakening the U.S. commitment .” 59 For the United States, there is no easy solution to these assurance challenges, but there are important steps that can help mitigate allied anxiety. A large part of the allied perception that the United States is in decline relative to China comes
from weakness at home. The U.S. economy continues to recover from the 2008 financial crisis, but has still not reclaimed its international reputation as the robust, resilient engine of global growth. Even worse, U.S. defense austerity combined with renewed calls for U.S. military engagement in Europe and the Middle East have caused Japanese officials and experts to doubt whether the United States has the will and capacity to maintain a long - term commitment in East Asia. 60 The 2013 defense sequester continues to short - change military investment and cripple effective long - term planning, and allies question whether the dysfunctional U.S. political system can right the ship. Ideally, the U.S. economy will continue to grow stronger, easing constrains on defense spending. But even if austerity persists in some form, the United States can do more to signal its continued commitment to maintaining a favorable military balance in Asia. First and foremost, it should make the investments necessary to preserve its military - technological edge. Then - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took an important step in this regard
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