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The People's Daily, China

New Focus of the Asia-Pacific
Strategy of the United States


By Feng Ni

Translated By Stefanie Zhou

18 January 2013

Edited by Gillian Palmer


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

The “rebalancing strategy” is one of the major foreign strategic initiatives launched by the Obama administration. Although the U.S. government affected several changes in its formulation, from the “return” to Asia to the eastward shift of strategic focus to early 2012’s “strategic rebalancing,” its core intent remains the same — that is, in the context of strategic contractions as the pattern of international powers is going through profound changes; the United States will devote relatively limited resources to Asia-Pacific regions that are crucial to the future development of the U.S., maintain U.S. dominance in those regions, share dividends from rapid economic growth and respond to the rise of emerging powers represented by China.

In the development process of the U.S. global strategy, valuing Asia did not begin with Obama. After World War II, the United States already had many bases and stationed troops here and established a bilateral alliance system, with the alliances between the U.S. and Japan, South Korea and Australia at its core. After the Cold War, neither Bush nor Clinton ignored Asia.

The distinguishing features of the "strategic rebalancing" are the following: Firstly, Asian policy’s weight in the U.S. global strategy rose to an unprecedented height and became its main focus. Secondly, the so-called "strategic rebalancing" exhibited unprecedented integrity in the political, diplomatic, economic and military aspects in full swing. Thirdly, in the process of "strategic rebalancing," the United States not only fully excavated resource “stock” in the region, but also devoted full effort to expanding the “incremental.” Fourthly, the United States fully utilized its so-called “smart power” under relatively poor strength.

Obama's second term intends to further make a difference and timely adjustments in the Asia-Pacific region. The future of the U.S. Asia-Pacific policy may show three basic trends:

1.) Seeking non-contact competition with China through deep involvement in the territorial waters and territorial issues between China and a few neighboring countries. Interfering in the conflict between China and its neighboring countries is one of the important starting points of the Asia-Pacific "strategic rebalancing" of the United States, but the negative effects of this technique to the United States are beginning to show. The United States realized that intervening in the territorial waters and territorial issues between China and neighboring countries and taking a clear bias not only sends the wrong signal to the related country, but also greatly increases the risk of the United States itself being involved in the conflict and ultimately hurting itself. To this end, the Obama administration may continue to intervene in the dispute during the implementation of “strategic rebalancing” in its second term, but with a relatively cautious stance on the degree of intervention and pushing its allies and partners more to the foreground in the competition with China. The United States will use its huge superiority in strategic strength for background support.

2.) Changing focus from the Pacific Ocean to both the Pacific and Indian Ocean. The focus of the return to Asia during Obama's first term was the Pacific region. Whether the historic visit to Myanmar after Obama’s reelection or the joint visit to Australia by Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Panetta, the visited locations are thought-provoking. Both Myanmar and Australia are important countries located between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. The Obama administration will plan the layout of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region from a wider field of vision, or the two oceans strategic perspective.

3.) Changing focus from showcasing military and diplomatic power to greater emphasis on economic means. Obama's first term “returns” in the political and diplomatic, military and economic aspects in full swing, but the effect on the military and diplomatic aspects are more obvious. Economic problems became the relative bottleneck for "strategic rebalancing." Obama's second term may make strenuous efforts to compete for dominance of the economic integration of the Asia-Pacific region.

The author is a researcher of the Institute of the United States at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.



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