Napoleon’s prediction is coming to pass: China’s awakening is moving the world around it. China is building its military capacity at a pace that has Washington’s attention. The added muscle allows Beijing to more aggressively pursue regional territorial interests to an extent that worries the White House. The recent heightening of tensions on both sides of the Taiwan Strait has U.S. diplomats working overtime to protect the status quo there. And Washington is becoming increasingly irritated with China’s inability or unwillingness to pressure North Korea to abandon its destabilizing nuclear ambitions.
But it is China’s urgent need for secure, long-term access to energy supplies and raw materials that is driving Beijing to define China’s national interests much more broadly–and well beyond China’s traditional sphere of influence. That dynamic is bringing U.S. and Chinese interests into conflict in unprecedented ways. It is also creating the biggest change in the strategic structure of world politics since the end of the Cold War.