Foreign ministers from America, Japan, and Australia hurriedly conducted strategic talks in Vientiane, Laos, recently. In their joint statement, they said, “The ministers expressed their serious concerns over maritime disputes in the South China Sea. The ministers voiced their strong opposition to any coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions.” It was as if these three countries outside the region cared more about the peace and stability in the South Sea than the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China. When you compare these words to ASEAN and China’s joint statement, it is not difficult to see how these three countries are unwilling to accept defeat. They still have ulterior motives, and they are still trying to instigate problems and create controversy. America is particularly unconcerned with public opinion questioning its motives, and is wantonly hedging its bets.
In Vientiane, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that America had no position on the South Sea arbitration case. Some press commentators believe this means America is now a little more humble and willing to accept defeat. Actually, this is not true. America has always hedged its bets when it comes to China, usually in a negative way, but occasionally betting positively, too. We have to see this in a clear, accurate, and thorough way.
Betting negatively reveals America’s urge for global hegemony, and betting positively shows its resignation with the situation, when it is a gesture required by global strategy and national interest. However, if America bets too negatively and too greedily, it could lose in a horrible way. China has no interest in a bitter struggle to fight for global hegemony with America. China favors the growth of all powers and hopes for mutual partnership and joint cultivation. A mutually dependent relationship is good for both China and America, and good for all regions and the world. Since the mutually dependent relationship objectively exists, is there any benefit if America always feels uncomfortable with it? America should have realized long ago that while China does not instigate trouble, China is not afraid of trouble either. America should never misjudge the situation, bully others, or court disaster.
The author is a former senior Chinese official with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and a former ambassador.