America has been engaging in a lot of activity around China’s periphery
From Ta Kung Pao, China; 16 August 2010
On the whole, Sino-U.S. relations are driven by interests. During various stages of bilateral development, both countries have recognized their shared interests and at the same time, tried to negotiate their individual interests.|
America needs to adjust its mentality and welcome and accept China’s military’s strength and modernization. Otherwise, not only will there be constant friction between America and China, but also America will constantly feel worried and uneasy.
Recently, America has been engaging in a lot of activity around China’s periphery. They have been conducting military exercises in northeast Asia and openly getting involved in the South China Sea dispute. Why would they do this?
For the past thirty years, Sino-U.S. relations have generally been driven by interests. During various stages of bilateral development, both countries recognized their shared interests and at the same time, tried to negotiate their individual interests. In the 1980s and 1990s, most of the negotiations dealt with bilateral relations.
At the turn of the century, the scope of bilateral relations has expanded greatly to include more regional and international issues. As a result, conflicts due to differing interests have also increased. This is mainly reflected in regional and global issues.
America is facing a complicated situation in Southeast Asia. After the end of the Vietnam War, America remained uninterested in Southeast Asia for a long time and lacked a clear strategy in the region. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was not organized by the United States; it was formed to challenge America’s strategy. In 1995, America normalized relations with Vietnam, but bilateral relations were still adversely affected by issues left unresolved after the war.
During the East Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, the Clinton administration responded slowly and did very little. It seemed as if America considered Southeast Asia to be a very low priority region in its foreign policy. After September 11, 2001, America considered the region to be the second front of the war against terror, but its hard line policy caused divisions with Muslim countries such as Indonesia.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was absent from many of the ASEAN Regional Forums, causing many Americans to criticize the Bush administration for neglecting Southeast Asia.
At the same time, China was rising, and relations between China and other Southeast Asian nations were improving. China provided a lot of aid to Southeast Asian countries during the financial crisis, made sure the Chinese yuan did not depreciate and even worked hard to increase its imports from Southeast Asia.
Thanks to the ASEAN+1 (including China) and ASEAN+3 (including China, Japan and South Korea) Regional Forums, ASEAN constantly increased its influence in the region. Today, China and the ASEAN members have opened a free trade zone, and they are on a fast track to economic and trade cooperation. Both political and academic experts in America suddenly noticed that power had become relatively unbalanced, which is why the Obama administration announced, “The United States is back.”
America wants to increase its cooperation with ASEAN, and as long as it benefits regional stability, there is no problem with that. Yet, America’s recent involvement in the South China Sea territorial dispute hurts regional stability. America was never a part of the South China territorial dispute. Previous administrations all maintained neutrality and would not make irresponsible remarks about the dispute.
Just last year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told news agencies in Manila during an interview that America’s policy was to not intervene in the territorial dispute involving the South China Sea islands. Now Obama wants to change the previous policy of neutrality. American officials and scholars all expressed their disapproval of China’s territorial demands.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about international law and maritime law at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi, Vietnam, without mentioning the history of the South China Sea conflict. It seems as if this conflict just started today. This is an extremely one-sided opinion. Expressing this kind of opinion at a dignified international meeting like the ASEAN Regional Forum provokes China, and sows discord between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors. This will undoubtedly make the issue more complicated and more bothersome. This is not helping to solve any problems; it is merely causing more trouble.
America is trying its utmost to get involved in one side of the controversy, when in actuality it is trying to use these countries to balance the power between itself and China, as well as restrict China’s power. Some of these Southeast Asian countries that are making overtures with both America and China are trying to gain economic benefits, as well as a sense of security. America is just trying to use these countries; the proximity between these countries is limited.
Some countries, like the Philippines, have clearly stated their position, saying that the South China Sea negotiations should be conducted strictly between China and ASEAN, without the intervention of America or other third parties. It is clear that the Philippines is not grateful for Hillary’s help.
Both domestic and foreign media agencies have commented on current developments. Some think that both America and China will reveal their strategies very soon. I think this prediction is too pessimistic. There is no need for a showdown between America and China. First of all, these various disputes have not changed the basic fact that the two countries still have broad common interests, especially economic co-dependence.
Second, these disputes have not affected the importance of bilateral responses to regional and global challenges. Third, the dispute between America and China has not affected China’s relations with the international system as a whole. For the past 31 years, China has been developing within the international system, and it will continue to develop in the international system.
It is necessary for China and America to negotiate their interests more thoroughly with regard to regional and global issues. China’s international interests are expanding. Twenty years ago, maritime navigation security was not nearly as important to China as it is now. America can no longer define China as a continental country, nor can it limit China’s naval movements to the first chain of islands.
In order to negotiate its interests, America will have to change its mentality. America needs to truly accept that China is becoming prosperous and strong, and needs to stop feeling so sensitive about China’s development. This is easier said than done. America regards itself as the best in the universe. Americans are not satisfied with second place; they will not even accept a tie for first place.
Right now, China is not competing with the big boss. Not only does China not have the ability, but it does not have the desire to compete. But America must recognize that every country has the right to exist and the right to develop. America’s military capabilities and facilities are far ahead other developed countries, not to mention developing countries.
But as soon as China slightly increases its military expenses and adds a few weapons, experts in America say that the balance of military power in the Asia-Pacific has changed, which is an exaggeration. China’s “Four Modernizations” have always included the modernization of national defense. The strength of the Chinese military must modernize, China must own an aircraft carrier, and China must have a navy.
The best plan for America is to accept and welcome China’s military strength and modernization, as well as adjust its mentality. Otherwise, not only will there be constant friction between America and China, but also America will constantly feel worried and uneasy.