WSJ.com, May 20, 2014
–Commentary by Ying Ma
Even as China grows increasingly assertive in the South China Sea, the United States maintains that it’s not attempting to contain China. At the same time, China continues to insist it’s firmly committed to its “peaceful rise.” Are both sides faking it?
The answer is complicated. Some believe the answer is yes, while others argue that both sides are hedging to defend their respective interests and avoid open confrontation.
The U.S. has been unequivocal in stating that containment is not its goal. While in Asia last month, U.S. President Barack Obama declared, “We are not interested in containing China.” His comment was no surprise — to recognize containment as official U.S. strategy would trigger angry reactions from Beijing, reduce Chinese cooperation with the U.S. in crucial areas and inflame or create conflicts.
Beijing has reasons not to be convinced, though. The U.S. pivot to Asia, announced during Obama’s first term, clearly seeks to introduce breathing room to China’s economic dominance of the region. Most notably, the Obama administration has been hard at work to advance the Tran-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade agreement that excludes China but includes those friendly to America—most notably Japan, China’s archrival. The U.S. military also plans to shift forces to the Asia Pacific, and has announced plans to base 60% of U.S. naval forces in the Pacific by 2020.
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