The cynical view of warnings about a mounting Chinese threat is that they are largely Pentagon budget-building ploys: if the U.S. military is “only” going to fight insurgents and terrorists in the future, it doesn’t really need the next generation of expensive fighter planes or attack submarines. Powerful evidence for this view—apart from familiarity with Pentagon budget debates over the years—is that many of the neoconservative thinkers who since 9/11 have concentrated on threats from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran were before that time writing worriedly about China. The most powerful counterargument is that China’s rise is so consequential and unprecedented in scale that it would be naive not to expect military ramifications. My instincts lie with the skeptical camp: as I’ve often written through the past three years, China has many more problems than most Americans can imagine, and its power is much less impressive up close. But on my return to America, I asked a variety of military, governmental, business, and academic officials about how the situation looks from their perspective. In most ways, their judgment was reassuringly soothing; unfortunately, it left me with a new problem to worry about.