Just as a senior American official arrived in Beijing in an attempt to cool down tensions marring US-China relations, a new report to the Pentagon could heat them up again. It comes from the Rand Corporation, a leading think-tank with close ties to the military, and outlines ways for Washington to reorganise its armed forces in the Pacific. One central idea is that the US should negotiate new basing arrangements with Japan, the Philippines and perhaps even Vietnam, while expanding facilities on Guam. The purpose would be to have more forces ready to move faster to help Taiwan if fighting broke out with China. The study needs to be taken seriously. Its author, Zalmay Khalilzad, was an adviser to President George W. Bush during the election campaign and just this week assumed a senior White House job. The President already has turned a bit of his earlier advice into national policy, that of making American pledges to defend Taiwan more explicit. Despite an author's influence, of course, any think-tank study falls far short of being an official policy statement. Yet this one is important for several reasons, including for what seem to be its underlying assumptions. One is that China is a rising military power whose national security interests are likely to clash in the future with those of America. Thus the US must strengthen its military presence in Asia and improve its ability to project force in the region. Although there is concern that civil strife in Indonesia could also pose security threats, the main worry plainly is China. The specific recommendations include placing long-range bombers on Guam (shades of the Vietnam war), regaining access to Philippines air fields and basing troops in the southern Ryukyu Islands, closer to Taiwan. All this is intended to give Asia a higher priority in Washington's military plans and security alliances. At the same time, however, the study cautions against turning the mainland into an enemy, and that's where trouble could lie. These moves would almost certainly be interpreted in Beijing as efforts to 'contain' China and deny Beijing its rightful place in the world, whatever that may be. Some Chinese military leaders might even find this a welcome opportunity for advancing their own world views, such as turning the South China Sea into a private lake for 'defensive' reasons. Issues in the Rand study do touch on important American security concerns. But the solutions they offer could become self-fulfilling prophecies, aggravating the tensions they are intended to resolve.