Good comments below, triggering this follow-up
I don't argue for not having a strong military and I don't argue for pulling out of regions in terms of bases, even as I want them to shrink in size (more ATMs, less branches). But I think the passive-aggressive hedge (I'm keeping an eye on you, buster, don't think of making a wrong move in your neighborhood, because here I am, ready to lay down my law! Oh, and by the way, if you're willing to be my junior partner on all things, I might have a spot for you in my posse.) is counterproductive and oddly detached from the larger economic reality.
So I'd use my force to embrace China security-wise as quickly and as broadly as possible. I lose nothing in doing this--capabilities wise, and gain a ton of transparency on their side. I don't pretend that cooperating with them gets me everything I want on every security situation on the planet where our interests collide/overlap. I expect to bargain on all of it if I want the Chinese to truly be my ally.
So I get off my f--king high horse and extend a hand, choosing to accept satisfycing answers more often than I-get-my-way outcomes. To me, that's realism, while this I'm-going-to-manage-the-entire-security/democracy-world-agenda-on-my-terms-while-expecting-to-bully-people-on-economics-and-pretend-I-get-to-yea-or-nay-on-great-powers-like-China-rising is just nuts.
Our definition of a "responsible stakeholder" is "do everything the way I want it and THEN you can be my friend!" That's not how you treat an ally; that's how you treat a dog. If we have FDR today, he'd deal and he'd deal with confidence. That guy believed in his system, and had no fears dealing with authoritarian regimes. But we don't have any FDRs today. Reagan and Clinton were the last, it seems: guys who knew how to cut deals, compromise, move the ball--with confidence in their country and its future. Now we have such little people with little minds (yeah, Bloomberg said it and I repeat it!). We bluster and we strut and we're being ignored more and more--a trend I trace back to the beginning of W's 2nd term (Katrina proves we can't nation-build abroad or at home).
Obama made everybody like us for a bit, but the realization abroad takes hold again relatively quickly, thanks to the global recession: we are not serious about dealing with our own problems and hence we're not willing to make deals, so we are not to be taken seriously. Obama on Afghanistan is proof positive (Get the Russians in there! Get China in there! Get India in there! Get Turkey in there! Even get Iran in there! Cut the deals and stop running to NATO for permission!), so is the goofy nuclear-free-world nonsense. He keeps trying to recast the problem so it seems like we're being flexible while, foreign policy-wise, he's just as rigid and unimaginative as Bush and the neocons were. This is not community consensus building here, this is deal-making--real politics.
So yeah, I cut the deals to lock in China at today's prices (higher than in 2005, when I first proposed, but there you have it). And then I'd make other breakthroughs possible on diplomacy and economics, like attracting a good-sized chunk of that money they've accumulated to revitalize myself.
Oooh! You'd say. Taking money from our betters? We took money, and lots of it from the Brits after two wars with them. We went a long way to making China what it is today by encouraging its return to the world and encouraging and enabling and accepting its export-driven rise (allowing them to do to us what Japan and South Korea did before), so I have zero problems tapping their reserves to rebalance the global economy directly by revitalizing my economy.
Plus, long term I love my country's chances and find China's kinda scary by comparison, so no, I'm not threatened by an even closer economic embrace. I know exactly what America is capable of, and I trust in our resilience completely. I'm just being uber-realistic here on what "rebalancing" really means, where I think a lot of people are not being realistic whatsoever (just cut taxes and we're home free!).
So when we do this passive-aggressive hedge, we not only threaten our banker, we threaten the key investor source going forward, and that's just not thinking in a grand strategic way (which most dumbass types think means thinking ahead about possible wars and possible opponents and little else), even as it may make sense from national security's narrow perspective.
But again, if you want to think truly strategically, it's thinking about war but only within the context of everything else--which is looming large right now.