America Will Re-examine Its China
Strategy, Possibly Relax Sino-US Relations
By Wen Rui
Translated By Mollie Gossage
13 February 2013
Edited by Lydia Dallett
China - Huanqiu - Original Article (Chinese)
In recent days, American officials and think tank scholars have reflected upon Obama’s second-term foreign policy, its most interesting component being the adjustment to the U.S.’ Asia-Pacific strategy. On January 24, at the confirmation hearing for his new position as America’s Secretary of State, John Kerry expounded upon much of his diplomatic philosophy before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He emphasized that America must “thoughtfully” advance an Asia-Pacific strategy and strengthen its ties with China, not make threats and bring about a backlash.
Kerry expressed in his speech that he intends to continue focusing attention on Sino-U.S. relations, promoting balanced relations by rebalancing strategy, because “it's critical for us to strengthen our relationship with China." He also expressed that the ideal focus for a rebalancing strategy will be economic, of which the core will be the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership. He believes that although China and America may become competitors economically, they cannot view each other as adversaries and thus weaken both sides’ ability to cooperate on many issues. He hopes for the transformation of Sino-U.S. relations in the direction of strengthening cooperation.
Not only has the American government showed indications that it may relax Sino-U.S. relations, but American think tanks and strategy scholars have also put forward suggestions for the American government’s future Asia-Pacific strategy. Former White House Senior Consultant of East Asian Affairs Kenneth Lieberthal bluntly suggested in a recent statement to Obama that in the Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy that has been put forward for more than two years, America has been dragged further into the security field, whereas its exertions in the field of economics have not been great. Lieberthal suggests that American and Chinese heads of state remain in frequent contact and expand political and military dialogue; that the U.S. accept China’s participation in Asia-Pacific military maneuvers and invite China to participate in the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; that it relax restrictions on technology exports to China; and so forth, thereby relaxing America’s relationship with China.
A few days ago, Harvard University Professor Joseph Nye expressed in a New York Times article that containment was a policy designed during the Cold War era—not the policy America is currently using or should be trying to use. He also suggested America “work with China, don’t contain it.” Additionally, America’s Cato Institute Director of Foreign Policy Research, Justin Logan, recently issued an article pointing out two major defects in today’s U.S.-Asian policy: First, there is an inconsistency between economic engagement and military containment; and second, the rise of China is getting mixed into the same discussion as U.S.-China competition. He believes that if the American government continues to implement policy as it has been doing, it will bring about serious issues. He suggests America reconsider the contradictory nature of the core of its Asian policy, thereby avoiding deeper trouble in the Asia-Pacific region and even the world.
From the above it is obvious that — regardless of whether it is American officials or think tank scholars — all equally emphasize the undue military intervention of the former Asia-Pacific policy as leading to the escalation of Sino-American disputes. The politically strained Asia-Pacific situation has resulted in amended opinions. The Obama administration and its diplomacy team are bound to re-examine the Asia-Pacific situation and balance America’s diplomatic strategy across the globe. As for its Asian strategy, it will shift from excessive emphasis on a military deference Cold War containment policy to a multi-pronged (political, military, economic, diplomatic, cultural, etc.) approach with all areas integrated, comprehensively enhancing American influence in the Asia-Pacific region to solidify dominance. Especially where Sino-U.S. relations are concerned, America will adjust strategic thinking from its former Sino-U.S. strategy — which, through its military intervention, has continually escalated mutual suspicions — to strengthening Sino-U.S. strategic dialogue. This will emphasize the two nations’ strategic cooperative relationship, and through this easing of Sino-U.S. relations, stabilize the Asia-Pacific situation. This shows a distinctive difference from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s strongly aggressive stance concerning Asia-Pacific affairs.
Although John Kerry and Hillary Clinton’s diplomatic thinking are not at all in tune, there is still some commonality — their policies will still safeguard and consolidate America’s interests and dominance in the Asia-Pacific region. As before, this is the important diplomatic focus of the Obama administration in its second term. America adjusting its Asia-Pacific strategy cannot fundamentally loosen its involvement or influence in the Asia-Pacific region — on the contrary, it can only deepen it. What’s different from before is, on a more detailed policy level, America will carry out appropriate changes and adjustments according to changes in the current political situation. The Asia-Pacific strategy will take a more realistic, flexible form.
Worthy of our attention and thought is this: in the context of these adjustments to America’s Asia-Pacific strategy, both sides ought to question how to turn challenges into opportunities, maintain good momentum in the development of peace and realize the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on both sides of the strait. This looks to be of prominent importance.
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