By Frank Ching
Country will have to tread carefully when protecting core interests
THE United States has recently, and repeatedly, made clear that its new defence policy is to put greater emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, with a view to playing a leadership role in Asia, to China’s evident discomfiture.
President Barack Obama proposed a leaner military strategy, with almost half a trillion dollars (RM1.5 trillion) in spending cuts over the next 10 years, while calling for a larger US military presence in Asia.
The new policy was embodied in a “Defence Strategic Guidance” issued by the Pentagon.
This said, in part, that “over the long term, China’s emergence as a regional power will have the potential to affect the US economy and our security in a variety of ways”.
This caused Beijing to bristle. Its Defence Ministry spokesman declared that allegations that China’s rise may affect the economy and security of the US were “groundless” and “untrustworthy”.
Aside from China, the new US defence policy was well received in Asia, which by and large welcomed the reaffirmation of America’s commitment to the region.
In fact, Washington is negotiating with the Philippines, which has territorial disputes with China, about boosting defence cooperation. Manila is reportedly studying a US offer to deploy surveillance aircraft to improve its ability to defend disputed areas in the South China Sea.
The US and Vietnam have also apparently agreed to closer defence ties. An American congressional declaration has called for a stronger US-Vietnam partnership.
Singapore, too, welcomes a US military presence in the region and has constructed a naval base designed to receive American aircraft carriers.
The US and Singapore held their first strategic partnership dialogue this month.
Although China is clearly unhappy with the new US defence strategy, it has refrained from making loud denunciations.
Instead, one senior Chinese diplomat said that while friction between the two countries was inevitable, “cooperation is the main goal, and the two countries’ competition will help to maintain peace and stability, which is the desire of all countries in the region”.
One reason for China’s relatively muted stance is its desire to ensure that the visit of Vice-President Xi Jinping to the US next month will be successful.
Xi is expected to become head of the ruling Chinese Communist Party later this year and to assume the additional post of head of state early next year succeeding President Hu Jintao.
The Washington trip, in a sense, will be Xi’s “coming out”.
It will provide an opportunity for Americans to take his measure and for the new Chinese leader to network with American political and business leaders.
Xi, who took part recently in marking the 40th anniversary of the visit to China of president Richard Nixon in 1972, used the occasion to reiterate China’s desire for good relations with the US.
He urged both countries to respect each other’s core interests and to properly handle their differences.
“To promote the healthy and stable development of Sino-US relations is not only the shared responsibility of the two countries,” he said, “but also the common expectation of the international community.”
Beijing must realise that its assertive, even aggressive, foreign policy in the last couple of years has created an environment in which East Asian countries welcome a US military presence to balance China’s increasing military might.
Moreover, countries in the region are also knitting closer security ties among themselves as a hedge against China.
Notable developments include India’s cooperation with Vietnam in the exploration for energy resources in disputed seas as well as Japan’s decision for closer security ties with Russia, with which it has unresolved territorial disputes.
In fact, there is a distinct possibility emerging of an anti-China coalition, which could include all of East Asia’s other major powers.
To prevent its isolation, Beijing has embarked upon a campaign to improve relations with its neighbours.
Thus, a senior Foreign Ministry official said that Beijing was ready to seize the opportunity of the marking of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Japan in 1972 to promote relations with Tokyo.
Similarly, another Chinese diplomat declared that China intended to promote its strategic and cooperative partnership with India this year.
Beijing should be aware that the US, and China’s neighbours, respect its newfound status as a global power.
However, in this interconnected world, each country, regardless of its size and power, is to some extent dependent on the goodwill of other countries.
So, in its attempt to realise and protect its core interests, China will have to tread carefully, lest it trample upon what other countries consider to be their core interests.
- US, China And Developments In Southeast Asia – Analysis (Eurasia Review) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- China’s next supremo expected to push hawkish policies (Deutsche Welle) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- U.S. regaining military foothold in the Philippines (Voice of Russia) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- China’s Double Speak – Analysis (Eurasia Review) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- China warns U.S. to be “careful” in military refocus (Reuters) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- China questions US-Philippines drills (Sify News) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- Prepare for war, Chinese navy is told as Pacific tensions grow (Evening Standard) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- Analysis – China looks across Asia and sees new threats (Reuters) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- South China Sea Conflict? No Way (Diplomat) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- India Raises its Game vs. China (Asia Sentinel) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)