Tuesday, October 18, 2011

12/10 Clinton’s Sweet & Sour China Soup

Hillary Clinton’s new essay on the US role in Asia makes clear the United States is there to stay. There’s little China can do about it.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spelled out Washington’s policy toward Asia in an essay in Foreign Policyreleased earlier today. Although the elaboration of this policy seems belated with the Obama administration approaching the end of its third year in office, Clinton spared no pains in describing and clarifying the various components of the United States’ Asia policy. 
Among the most avid readers of Clinton’s essay will be senior foreign policy makers in Beijing. The official response to the Clinton statement will most likely be muted. On the surface, at least, she didn’t announce new initiatives or policy changes. The apparent reason for Clinton issuing this document now is to reassure regional allies of the continuing US commitment to the region in spite of its domestic difficulties and rising isolationist sentiments, and to send a strong signal to China that Washington will maintain its current policy of deepening engagement with Beijing. It’s anybody’s guess whether she chose to time her statement on Asia with the imminent arrival of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (who will become China’s top leader in 2012) in Washington for his important official visit in November. 
However, a closer reading of the document is sure to produce mixed feelings in Beijing. Chinese officials will pay special attention to Clinton’s Asia policy statement at three levels. 
Of the most immediate interest to the Chinese is the part on bilateral relations.  Here they would most probably feel pleased. She not only placed deepening relations with emerging powers, including China, as the second most important policy component, but also devoted the largest portion of her essay, about one-seventh, to US-China relations. (By comparison, India got one paragraph, and was lumped together with Indonesia when she mentioned other emerging powers.)  An additional reason for Beijing to like the Clinton statement is the positive tone in which she cast US-China relations. She appeared to go out of her way to accentuate those aspects of US-China relations that actively strengthen bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas. 
However, Chinese officials’ mood will certainly grow more sour as they examine the other components of the United States’ Asia strategy at the policy level. In particular, they will be unnerved by those policy actions – strengthening bilateral security alliances (identified as the most important component of US policy), forging a broad-based military presence (which essentially means further upgrading and expanding US military capabilities in the Western Pacific), and advancing democracy and human rights. In Beijing’s eyes, these measures are part of a subtle framework of strategic containment and can harm Chinese security interests and undermine the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.

Of special interest to Beijing would be the announcement, made in the Clinton statement, that the United States will soon deploy its newest high-tech littoral combat ships to Singapore. In addition, given recent signs of a political thaw in Burma and the military junta’s abrupt cancellation of a $3 billion dam project to be constructed by China, Clinton’s olive branch to Burma’s rulers in her statement should undoubtedly cause some heartburn in the Chinese capital. Clinton’s tough statement on maintaining the stability and freedom of navigation in the South China, repeating essentially what she said just a year ago in Hanoi, is unlikely to go down well in Beijing, either. Many Chinese officials now blame the United States for the escalating tensions in the South China Sea.  
Even measures aimed at promoting trade and investment won’t escape scrutiny in Beijing. The most worrying initiative mentioned by Clinton in this area will be the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a future free trading bloc in the Asia-Pacific that excludes China. Even though this American initiative remains in its conceptual stage, its long-term strategic implications may be too unpleasant for Chinese officials to contemplate. 
Taken together, at the strategic level, the Clinton statement will be seen in Beijing simply as another declaration that the United States is determined to remain as Asia-Pacific’s pre-eminent power. That is probably why the essay is titled ‘America’s Pacific Century.’ The strategic message to every country in the region, particularly China, is crystal clear: don’t count us out and don’t even think about pushing us out. 
Seeing itself as the inevitable regional hegemon, and the United States a declining superpower, China can’t be pleased by this bold assertion of American resolve. But in reality, there’s little China can do, either today or in the foreseeable future, to change this strategic reality. The staying power of US pre-eminence in Asia doesn’t solely depend on Washington’s absolute or even relative capabilities (which are declining). It is derived from the United States’ unique role as Asia’s strategic balancer. Elsewhere in the world, the United States may be deeply resented for its power and imperial overreach. In Asia, the American presence is welcomed with open arms. The reason is simple: However unpleasant US hegemony may be, Asians would pick it over Chinese hegemony at any time. 
Unless China can do something to transform this geopolitical reality in Asia, it will have no choice but to learn to co-exist and thrive under the shadow of enduring American pre-eminence.

    1. Bill
      You know how the US currently support (like literally, with cash) groups that China does not like? Ie, the falungon, Dalai, Uggars, etc?
      China should seriously start supporting the enemies of the USA. Like Iran, Pakistain, Cuba, etc etc. And I mean giving them cash in the literal sense, not just political support.
      If the US come back and say China “support terrorism”, tell them to first stop supporting terrorists in China, who have killed and murdered innocent children and woman. Because the US is currently supporting terrorists in China, they have no right to demand anything else from anyone else.
      • Sean
        Bill-How much did the chinese goverment pay you to say that? Falun Gong members are terrorists? Tell me a terrorist act they engaged in? Amazing all those terrorist attacks the Dalai Lama made. I forget, what did he blow up again? Wow…don’t let facts get in the way of you getting paid. I’m sure your name is not Bill, but that doesn’t make me a genius as it’s obvious.
        • a_canadian_observer
          @Sean: Bill is just a CCP mole in disguise.
        • Huang
          If you think Bill was paid by Chinese Government to say what he feels was truths,then others can also think you are being paid by the US Government to make that allegation too.
          From your perspective, these Chinese separatists groups are just fighting to be free and an opportunity to live in a Democratic society without any indepth look at these groups motivations and demands.
          From Bill’s point of views, these separatists movements are a product of Western power’s intentions to undermine China stability,social developnments,and peaceful livelihood for all the people in China(including all ethnic groups or religions these activists claiming they are struggling for).
          Fairly speaking, members of every one of these groups were supported,funded,and in some case even advised by Western powers.
          It would be difficult for most people in the West know whats bad about these Chinese separatist groups since the medias and governments in the West put on so many layers of sugar around these so-called sweet and gentle democracy or freedom fighters that the bitter inner core has never been tasted by people in the free World. China know them from the inside out-fortunately for the Chinese.
          P.S. Use the same attitudes to understand these groups’ true agendas the way you would when you view the “Communists China” with doubts and investigative manners and you would spot the tale-tale signs of what they are up-to. Don’t be surprise if you do because the Chinese have been trying to tell you this since forever already.
          • a_canadian_observer
            @sean: Huang is sugar coating the standard rhetoric line from the CCP propaganda. Just the line below alone, no responsible and respectable government would say:
            “Fairly speaking, members of every one of these groups were supported,funded,and in some case even advised by Western powers.”
            If that is true, would you expect the CCP government to be that quiet? Now you see the power of being able to control people’s mind.
          • Huang
            “CCP and propagandas” are the two most frequently used or emphasized terms by some bloggers hoping that the “dull and Cold-War era terminalogies” would serve to dis-credit the truths contributed by many Chinese bloggers. Will this work? It works on those with limited understandings with regard to China. It would not be able to withstand the merit-scale from people who have the heart and minds to penetrate all the murky screen of mis-leading informations prevalent in most of the Western news and official channels.
            Ironically, it is second nature to people living under communism to know what propagandas are the moment they see them while many people in the “Free World” know the definition of “Propaganda” in a general sense and would accept what ever their respective governments’ say or do with absolute trusts. As expected, the trusts and whole-heartness confidences are the main causes many recent military and political fiascos surfacing from their concealments in the US and a few other countries.
            P.S. Deceptions and truths are equally NOT easy to be tell. Nevertheless, a clear conscience and an un-corruptable mind usually enable one to see through many of tricks put forth by illusionary schemes.
    2. ExBridgePlayer
      i agree with the comment that the article shows a weak hand. Big labradors never need to bark like chihuahuas to get respect. her words merely represent wishful thinking with the american economy/finances in such bad shape. more like a company pre-announcing a product to forestall defection. it seems to me the primary u.s. focus for the next decade will be domestic after a decade of foreign interventions/fiascos (the years after vietnam come to mind).
      with overseas chinese controlling such large slices of southeast asian economies, both time and fortune is on china’s side. the u.s. has an insurmountable task to change this inertia. i don’t see how. the u.s. is not exactly making new friends elsewhere to allow her to focus on the region.
      imho history has shown that china can be quite hands off so long as her leadership is unchallenged. a big problem with the u.s. as world cop is the way it tries to micromanage situations it doesn’t have fundamental understand leading to unexpected consequences.
    3. Harry
      (By comparison, India got one paragraph, and was lumped together with Indonesia when she mentioned other emerging powers.)
      • John Chan
        Philippines and Vietnam must be very disappointed; they have been trying desperately to lure USA’s attention, so that they can leverage USA’s eminence to protect their illegal gain in the South China Sea. Yet there is no mention about them in the ‘America’s Pacific Century.’ It is most likely that those two nations have either not paid enough tribute to the bully or nothing worthwhile for the USA’s attention.
        • Het Xay
          John Chan, with VN’s president signing stuff in India at the same time with VNCP boss in China doing some talking with China’s Ccp boss. How could the US mention VN in the WP? It’s called being very diplomatic.
    4. ozivan
      Re: Newest high-tech Littoral Combat Ships deployed to Singapore ? Obviously, Singapore will be the happiest.
      Can anyone tell me the real purpose ? Not the wider purpose that they can be used to secure the SCS. Indonesia and Malaysia may perceived them differently.
    5. Havoc
      From my point of view, US is sending out a strong message to cover up her weak (and getting weaker) overall posture. This declaration signals to the world that US is very much worried about her stance and presence in Asia, that she has to clarify repetitively how much she is not ‘threatened’ by China while labeling China as a ‘threat’; and she’s sending out more navy force to strengthen her position which China ‘can’t do much about it’. China certainly ‘can’t do much’ about US navy’s presence in Asia, but conversely the American knows these bases are for display of power only. They are not going to do much on China too.
      I think US is pretty clear that it’s just a matter of time countries like China, Brazil, and Russia stand on par with her, and she’s losing the ability to counterbalance all of them simultaneously (and financially). In fact, she’s increasingly needing them to play antagonists if she wants to prolong the period of her ultimate dominance. While for China, having a hard time with her regional partners isn’t a total bad thing, at least now she knows how far her influence goes, and how much attention she gets from that. While China and US are playing friends or foes, other Asian nations are certainly feel more secured as neither wins, yet they are afraid of being too close to the less-profitable side.
      • BP
        The problem with China is its economy being in big trouble for now! Yes, The US’s economy currently is in trouble too, but its resilience is a great help for its recovery in the very near future!After all, this century is still the American century not the Chinese’s! The Chinese economic crisis is just a matter of time and sadly unavoidable!!
        • Tom
          China’s power is controlled by a few men. This power continues expand and will be out of their hands. China’s future is very dark.
        • exBridgePlayer
          Have you just finished reading Gordon Chang’s Coming Collapse of China? I guess if we all wait long enough, we’ll all be dead and you and him will both look so far-sighted. People in denial simply can’t accept that China is run by competent technocrats who managed to soft land every ‘crisis’ since late 80’s. Judging by the empty storefronts on every block near where I live, I don’t see the resiliency of the U.S. economy. The only place where this century belongs to America is in your day-dream. My bet is that China will surpass the U.S. before the Second Ave subway is completed. One is a certainty while the other one can only pray for.
        • Huang
          The entire global economy is in trouble right now and that means the country or countries you identified yourself with is also in trouble too.
          Of course you may be wishing the trouble would best be on China alone,but wish and reality don’t always follow one another.
          Its bad enough to have a global financial crisis, its even worst to have people wishing mis-fortunes on one another based on fears and jealousies.
        • John Chan
          Listening too much to Hugh Hendry’s hot air will cloud one’s mind; he has been wrong so many years about the demise of China, he is about as good as Gorden Chang. Ill wishes will not arrest the decline of the West.
          • BP
            It’s so simple. The US, EU currently are the big markets for the cheap chinese goods! They are now stuck with their own economic problems that could bring the whole world back to recession! Who will buy chinese stuffs?Then China’s export sector will be collapsing,even worst than in 2008 crisis! China’s fixed investment growth model since 2008 is now also in its last leg for busting with too much bad debts!!The US & EU ( beset with their own trouble)cannot and will not come to rescue a collapsing China! That’s the end of the CCP but not of China! they are quite different!
          • John Chan
            The West is unable to rescure itself right now is due to its ideological inflexiblity, anything works but it is slightly tinted with socialism, it won’t touch with 10 foot barge pole. On the other hand, CCP would use anything as long as it works. It is a total reverse how USA and the West rised at the first place.
            The structure in China right now, the end of CCP is the end of China. Your ideological fixation on the demise of CCP, if it is not superfical and ignornant then it is wicked.
            Rescue China from the Westpac, I don’t think China ever dares to dream about it. China would be appreciate greatly if the Westpac could just leave China alone. From histroy China knew anything the Westpac said it was good for China must be poisonous, in the old days it meant a blade on the territoy. So please keep your western generosity to yourself, not helping is the best help the Westpac can offer.
          • Huang
            You failed to take into account the trade protectionistic fervors and the likely impacts on a country you identify with( a place where you would call-my country).
            China’s consumer porducts are sold all over the World as we speak. The low prices and quality goods are benifiting China and the countries buying those affordable items. In essence, its a “WIN-WIN” situation.
            Of course, the first and most simple attitude is to wish(like a dream,it can also turn out to be a nightmare too)that all of China’s trading partners would stop doing business with China in order to bring harms to the Chinese economy. In reality,this shorted and un-wise approach would do quick and more harms to those advoctaing such a “dream plan”. If you know a little bit about international trades, you should be able to understand the logics. Likewise, the Chinese would continue to promote trades and cultural exchanges with all the World nations and people whether you are happy or not.
            Finally, If all of the Western economies employ trade protectionistic policies toward China, your very country would automatically be economically affected too. So, be kind and be smart,my friend.
        • SCdad07
          @BP – “The problem with China is its economy being in big trouble for now”
          Same statement was made over and over the last decades. So, look at China 10, 20 or 30 years ago and now.
          I still have to find any other country, whether communist, social or democratic, has successfully developed and accomplished her medium goals, referring to China’s 5 year plan.
          British’s financial minister claimed to stay the course on austerity last week. And UK announced couple of days ago to print 75 billion pounds to buy government bonds.
          The republicans in US want to defeat Obama at all costs – killing her economy’s recovery is the number 1 priority. Empire throughout history declined, not due to external attacks, because it rotted from inside.
          For your comfort, September trade surplus for China has declined, 2 months in a row, to US$14.5 billion.
    6. yang zi
      actually the feeling is mutual. US has to live with China’s big existence in Asia.
      China doesn’t need to be hegemonic, it just need to be firm in its claims. China should warn US not to farm out its strategic initiatives. specifically, it should tighten the leash on Philipine.
      • Leonard R.
        Yes. China should tighten its leash on the Philippines. I think so. It might be time for China to trot out another PLA General to threaten the United States too. That will be helpful.
        “Keep your hands off the Philippines – or else. “China could claim the Philippines as Chinese ‘jurisdiction’. I think this is a reasonable step.
        Chinese central bankers should also make theats. These will be helpful too. That is what works with China – US relations – threats and insults.
        And if they don’t work, China should go to plan “B” and start whining.
        It may not work. But they are very good at it.
        • yang zi
          China has no power to tighten the leash on Philippines, US should do so. Philippines is the most irresponsible of US treaty allies in Asia.
          I don’t mind US’s strong presence in Asia, but it should be able to regulate the behavior of its allies.
          • a_canadian_observer
            @yangzi: If you call the PH and VN US allies, and the issue is the SEAS, then the one who should control her behavior is china. VN and PH have no problem presenting the disputed issue at the UN while china has been making every effort to avoid. AFAIK, all SEA nations welcome the US as the reagional police.
    7. Leonard R.
      Who is paying to park these ships in Singapore? If it’s the US, why are American taxpayers paying to protect rich Chinese in Singapore? If Singaporean Chinese want to protect themselves from Mainland Chinese, they should pay for it. Or they should do it themselves.
      I think a permanent US Navy presence in Burma OTOH, would be a fantastic idea.
      I think US sailors might enjoy it too.
      I disagree somewhat with the author. Most people in Asia would prefer to be independent. But if forced to choose, I agree with the author. Most sane people would choose the US hegemony over Chinese hegemony.
      Why? Because Americans are incompetent as dictators. China for all its flaws, does know how to subjugate large populations.
      Finally, I salute SOS Clinton. I think she’s the best SOS in decades.
      • Frank
        Check your fact.
        Americans have to borrow their children’s money to pay for the moorage in Singapore.
        Most likely, there will be permanent China Navy presence in Burma soon. China is building a harbor. Hong Kong already owned another one in Burma.
        All thanks to Hillary Clinton. She is the best ??? !!! Hahaha.
        Wow. I guess that is why you say “Americans are incompetent”.
        • a_canadian_observer
          SOS Clinton makes her chinese counterpart look like a school kid.
          • ozivan
            I agree. Hilary ( Hilarious ) in fact, makes every of her counterpart ( not only Yang Jiechi ) in the world look like kids.
            She is fond of walking into every big show in town, makes a stunning statement; exits grandly , after leaving everyone in town stupefied.
      • John Chan
        @Leonard R.,
        Singaproe is at prime spot, their premises are very valuable. As a free market capitalist, Singaporean will not let USA use its premises free of charge, but for the long term contract basis, Singaporean might give USA a discount.

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