Clinton’s Sweet & Sour China Soup

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spelled out Washington’s policy toward Asia in an essay in Foreign Policy released 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.
 
Comments
64
ozivan
October 20, 2011 at 23:45

@John Wong. The PLA has openly admitted that they are 2 decades behind the US, yet nobody cares to listen to what they have said.

But when non-Chinese authors and some bloggers speak of the military prowess of China, they quickly want to challenge them.

They should hear from the horse-mouth, ie the PLA.

Roland
October 19, 2011 at 19:55

Yes I agree. PLA seems to develop their Naval forces at a fast speed. Withi this speed, I predict that soon we’ll see two fighter jets, two submarines, two boats from PLA collided badly in high sea

John Wong
October 16, 2011 at 23:11

US naval forces is currently holding position number 1 in the World today. China is not even being ranked number 5 on the list, it will be very unfair to compare China’s PLAN with the US navy. Talking about sea battles experience, count for yourself, how many major battle China has fought in the last 100 years? Note, shooting unarmed fishmen boats cannot be counted as battles, which including using battle group ships with airforce and submarines supports; not to mention using space imagery technology.
I hope war will not break out in Asia, but please stop comparing a cat to a tiger.

Cyrus14
October 16, 2011 at 16:18

Your dreaming if you think China can win against the US. A Chinese wet dream at best.

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