Asia Must Take Mainland China's Rise More Seriously
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
April 29, 2014
Summary: The Chinese mainland has risen. The situation in Asia is bound to undergo gradual but fundamental changes. The governments of the United States, Mainland China, and other neigbors, including Taiwan, must consider their responses. How can they create a new relationship conducive to the interests of everyone. The US and China need not to return to Cold War era containment. They can cooperate and coexist amidst competitive wrangling. Obama has completed his visit to Asia. It is time the affected parties ponder the issues.
Full text below:
U.S. President Barack Obama is conducting a major tour of Asia. He has visited Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines. He is putting on a major diplomatic show. In his manner and his words, he is seeking to underscore the importance of the Asian-Pacific region to the US government. He is saying that the US government still maintains considerable influence in the region. Nevertheless, the situation has obviously changed.
The visit may be eventful and exciting. But behind Obama's visit to Asia, is a record of lackluster diplomatic achievements. US global influence has declined. In the past the US government could rely on its political, economic, and military might to exert a major influence on global affairs. But in recent years the situation has changed. Economic decline has led to huge cuts in US military and diplomatic budgets. The public is weary of foreign wars, The US government can no longer play the role of world policeman.
Consider the many international disputes in the world today. The US government can deal with them. But only with help from foreign governments. Since taking office, Obama has offered no grand strategy for US foreign policy. Instead, his priority was to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The US government has no solution for long-simmering issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. North Korea is getting close to making a nuclear bomb. But the US government can do nothing.
Consider some newer issues that the US government has mismanaged. The US was marginalized during the turmoil of the Arab Spring. Pro-American strongmen such as Hosni Mubarak fell. Obama dared not intervene in the Syrian civil war. Fortunately the Russian government persuaded Syria to abandon its chemical weapons program. Currently Ukraine is in chaos. Obama has no intention of engaging in a shooting war with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He could not even if he wanted to. All he can do is discuss sanctions with EU members. Putin has reacted to these sanctions with contempt. Mainland China's power has grown significantly. Disputes between Mainland China and Japan over territorial sovereignty and World War II have become increasingly acute. Sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea are heating up as well. U.S. forces in the Asian region face increasingly serious threats.
To avoid being ejected from Asia by Mainland China, Obama has resorted to "re-balancing." He has re-directed U.S. attention toward the Asian-Pacific region. HIs visit to Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines, encircled the Chinese mainland. Such a political move is not hard to understand. One. It sends a message to Mainland China. It says that the US government remains a powerful force in the Asian-Pacific region. Two. It strengthens relations with other Asian-Pacific governments. Three. It attempts to expedite the Trans-Pacific Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP), opening doors for American products. It also creates a trade bloc directed against Mainland China.
During Obama's first stop, he gave Japan a major gift. He publicly declared that the US-Japan Security Treaty covers the Diaoyutai Islands. He also expressed concern over Mainland China's unilaterally declared East China Sea air defense identification zone. This failed to persuade Japan to compromise on the TPP however. Negotiations continued until the last minute, when a Joint Communique was reluctantly released. Obama left empty-handed. Upon reaching Korea, Obama promptly blasted Japan's human rights violations against comfort women. He retaliated against the Japanese government and expressed solidarity with South Korea.
Obama's main task in South Korea was to strengthen the ROK-US alliance. It was to exchange views with South Korean President Park Geun-hye over the North Korean nuclear situation and the Northeast Asian strategic scenario. It was to discuss economic matters such as Korean participation in the TPP, and the implementation of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement. The US government also wants to postpone the transfer of wartime operational control to the South Korean government.
The last time a U.S. president visited Malaysia was in 1966. Since then nearly half a century has passed. This reveals the degree to which the United States has neglected Malaysia. Obama hopes to use the visit to cultivate relations with the Malaysian government. He also hopes to highlight friendly and cooperative relations with a moderate Muslim country. Malaysia is not especially eager to join the TPP. Obama personally lobbied Malaysia. The two sides will conduct follow-up consultations on their agreements. The last leg of the visit was the Philippines. Obama has long indicated that the United States would return to Asia. Besides TPP negotiations, he specifically discussed increasing U.S. troop deployments in the Philippines.
Several governments, including the Japanese government, the Malaysian government, and the Philippine government, have grievances with China over the Diaoyutai Islands, WWII, and the South China Sea. Relations between the Mainland Chinese government and the Japanese government, and relations between the Mainland Chinese government and the Philippine government have deteriorated. Obama's visit was clearly intended to prevent China from taking stronger action. The declaration of the East China Sea air defense identification zone has the US and other governments worried about a South China Sea air defense identification zone. They hope to block Chinese stealth expansion in the South China Sea.
But China remains the largest force in the region. It has close relations with all neighboring countries. These countries may want United States government backing on individual disputes, but only as protection and as a bargaining chip. They still hope to develop friendly relations with Mainland China and to seek out trade opportunities. If the US wants to use force to suppress Mainland China, the only willing ally is Japan.
The Chinese mainland has risen. The situation in Asia is bound to undergo gradual but fundamental changes. The governments of the United States, Mainland China, and other neigbors, including Taiwan, must consider their responses. How can they create a new relationship conducive to the interests of everyone. The US and China need not to return to Cold War era containment. They can cooperate and coexist amidst competitive wrangling. Obama has completed his visit to Asia. It is time the affected parties ponder the issues.
2014年04月29日 04:09 中國時報 本報訊