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The People's Daily, China

Does the US Want Another Cold War?

By Ren Weidong

The Asia-Pacific region has already become the geopolitical center of the world.

Translated By Nathan Hsu

10 January 2013

Edited by Lau­ren Gerken


China - The People's Daily - Original Article (Chinese)

The situation in Asia and the Pacific has been a point of interest for quite some time. Recently, the sensitivity and complexity of the relationships between China and Japan, the U.S. and China, the U.S. and Japan, trilateral relations between the three countries, and between North and South Korea have made the region one of nuance. How should we view the current state of affairs?

The Asia-Pacific region has already become the geopolitical center of the world.

In modern times, the geopolitical center of the world has always been in Europe, and later on, Europe and the U.S. The fundamental global structure that formed after the two world wars was chiefly determined by the strategic layout of the great powers in Europe. Through the Cold War, the U.S. not only caused the collapse of its only rival for global hegemony, the Soviet Union, but also landed a firm grasp on Europe. In the 1990s, the strategic crux of the U.S. remained in Europe. In the following decade, its strategic focus was on Central Asia, particularly the Middle East.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the focus of U.S. global strategy is turning towards Asia and the Pacific. The subtext is that the U.S. has clearly taken China as its primary rival for global hegemony, which is entirely consistent with hegemonic logic. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, China is the only country capable of constituting a challenge to the U.S. in every sphere.

Of course, gains and losses in Asia have a significant impact on not only China and the U.S., but on the developmental prospects and international standing of many countries. As the situation has gradually unfolded in Asia, the world's geopolitical nucleus has been moved even more decidedly from Europe to Asia and the Pacific.

This region is the primary geopolitical battlefield on which the U.S. will seek to contain China. The U.S. is sparing no effort to lay the groundwork for a new Cold War here. Apart from the bolstering of old military allies, U.S. actions have also shown several new characteristics. The first is linking together, to the greatest extent possible, a united front against China. It has comprehensively strengthened its economic, political, and most especially its military relationship with Vietnam, improved relations with Myanmar, and thawed its long-frozen relationship with Laos. Secondly, it has constructed a spider web-like strategic framework around itself. Thirdly, it has both strengthened its front-line deployments and expanded its strategic depth. Illustrations of this are its encouragement of the development of Japanese military strength, deployment of littoral combat ships to Singapore, and the return to its naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines. Fourthly, it has begun to polarize the region economically. The U.S. has been a strong proponent of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, which excludes China.

As the U.S. builds a new Cold War state of affairs in Asia and the Pacific, Japan's attitude has been the most supportive. It willingly serves as the pawn and strategic front line of the U.S., and has also interfered in every corner of the region, forming a strategic network. Clearly, the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Japan is a highly unified one regarding the containment of China. However, this is being done at the cost of sacrificing what was gained in the war against fascism, overturning the post-war order in Asia, and destroying the region's peaceful political foundation. This will inevitably result in severe regional turmoil.

The truth is that the majority of Asian-Pacific countries are opposed to a new Cold War. Against the overall backdrop of the U.S. seeking to start a new Cold War, countries like Japan are the extreme minority. Most countries in the region are unwilling to overtly pick sides, but try to use what leverage they have to create a strategic equilibrium, ultimately hoping to use this to increase their own security and gain more room for profit.

Of course, the situation is extremely complex, with opportunity and challenge juxtaposed. Asia is by no means the only strategic focus of the U.S., nor one which the U.S. will necessarily place above all others. Currently, the U.S. is in a situation where it cannot neglect any area, whether it be Europe, the Middle East, or Asia.

The Asia-Pacific region is the center of global geopolitics, and is where China will be moving forward and becoming the main source of external threats. Asian geopolitics is undergoing the deepest and most complex changes since the end of World War II. The region should undoubtedly become the focus of China's global geopolitical strategy. The transitional period between the old order and the new will be uncertain and malleable.

The Asian landscape is undergoing a historical and extremely complex transformation, as a multitude of conflicts are interwoven. All manner of forces will reaffirm their standing in the new order and, after an extended period of intense struggle and acute upheaval, an entirely new state of affairs will come to be. China is well-qualified to play a proactive and positive role in moving this evolution in the right direction.

The author is a research associate at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.



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