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Huanqiu, China

Will Obama Have
New Asian Policies?

By Yixin Chen

Translated By Stefanie Zhou

13 November 2012

Edited by Kyrstie Lane


China - Huanqiu - Original Article (Chinese)

Obama was reelected in a landslide success. How the United States will modify its policy toward China has become the focus of global attention.

Obama’s victory can be good news for China, but it can also bad news. First, because Obama has already completed the “run-in” phase with China during his first term, China believes that once Obama is re-elected, Sino-U.S. relations will continue to operate along tracks that have already been established. Second, regarding the rebalancing of U.S. strategy in Asia, China increasingly thinks that the return of the U.S. to Asia is not merely a bluff and believes it is necessary to act cautiously. Finally, China is deeply troubled by the unclear strategic intentions of the United States in terms of the “neutrality” it claimed on the Senkaku Islands issue and, at the same time, its declaration of the applicability of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty on the Senkaku Islands. Whether Tokyo will be under future political pressure from the U.S. to renounce the proposed "nationalization" of the Senkaku Islands can be regarded as an important indicator of the adjustment of U.S. policy toward China.

The modification of U.S. policy toward China after the presidential election will depend on the following factors. First, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is likely to remain in his current position for some time, as he was just promoted in 2011. National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon has a good and trusting relationship with Obama, so it is likely that he will either retain his current position or transfer to another position. This being the case, the Obama administration will likely continue to promote the rebalancing of strategy toward Asia.

Second, the job rotation system that the United States government has strictly enforced in recent years, combined with the frequency and scale of joint drills with its military allies and partners, means that the rebalancing of U.S. strategy in Asia will be centered on utilizing the resources of its allies while providing coordination and support in air and sea battles at the most.

The third factor is the candidates for the positions of Secretary of State and Assistant Secretary of State for Eastern Asian and Pacific Affairs. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared that she will leave after the election, and Assistant Secretary of State for Eastern Asian and Pacific Affairs Campbell Brown has implied his resignation as well. This will undoubtedly lead to a major earthquake in State Department personnel. During her term, Clinton has actively promoted reengagement with Asia, frequently advocating democracy and human rights challenges to Beijing. On whether the new U.S. Secretary of State is likely to continue the old chapter or to change course, insight can be gained on U.S. policy toward China and the trend of cross-strait policy in the next four years.

As the change to the U.S. national security team approaches, China should focus most of its attention on the announcement made by Obama at the end of 2011, when he declared that the United States will “double” its exports to Asian countries in five years. After Obama’s successful re-election, the United States will be negotiating with Asia-Pacific countries, including China, to open these countries’ tariff and non-tariff barriers and require further economic promotion and trade liberalization. Also, Obama may use the “currency manipulator” topic as a bargaining chip to demand revaluation of Chinese currency.

After the re-election of President Obama, a routine dispatch of senior officials should be sent to Beijing, seeking to improve relations with China and ease the tight situations seen on both sides in the past few years. China should also communicate prudently, emphasizing the strategic opportunities. After all, international relations are a mutual exchange of interests. Although the Pacific is large enough for both China and the United States to roam simultaneously, if the two sides do not cherish their cooperative relationship and collide with each other, mutual distrust will continue to rise due to structural contradictions and political and value differences from the Asia-Pacific region.



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