NEW RELATIONSHIP: The Beijing government stresses that China seeks a “a harmonious, peaceful rise to power and on becoming a responsible stakeholder in the international system.” During the meetings President Xi said he favored a “new type of great power relationship” based on mutual trust, respect, cooperation on important issues, and better ways to resolve differences.
Xinhua news agency reported: “According to Yang Jiechi, Xi’s senior foreign policy adviser, Obama responded actively to the proposal, saying that the U.S. side placed high importance on its relations with China and is willing to construct a new state-to-state cooperation modal with China based on mutual benefit and mutual respect, so as to jointly meet various global challenges.”
CLIMATE CHANGE: The U.S. is history’s biggest emitter by of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but relative newcomer China is biggest in recent individual years. At the summit, both agreed to reduce hydrofluorocarbon emissions, one of the most potent of the greenhouse gases. This is not a major step but a beginning. China on its own made an important announcement last month, vowing to put a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2016. This is considered a major breakthrough that will influence other nations, possibly even the U.S.
Omitted from the meeting was Washington’s customary complaint that China manipulated its currency to America’s disadvantage. For the last several years Beijing has been cautiously but systematically appreciating the value of its currency against the dollar until it now approximates natural value.
The summit was productive in its way, but that does not change either Washington’s geopolitical objectives or the threats implicit in its “rebalancing” to Asia.
Beijing is exceptionally anxious to keep the peace with Washington. It is a developing country with many crucial tasks ahead for decades to consolidate the economic and social conditions of a country which must feed, house, educate, and gainfully employ 1.3 billion people in a land area somewhat smaller than the U.S. with 314 million people.
China is also decades behind the U.S. in military terms, a gap that will continue indefinitely because the Pentagon constantly spends fortunes to maintain its weapons and logistic superiority. A war would wipe out the incredible advances China has made since the success of the communist revolution 64 years ago, which includes bringing about 700 million people out of poverty, creating a substantial middle class, and becoming the center of world production.
Washington wants friendly relations with the Beijing government, as it does with all countries. However, it imposes strict conditions for such relations. This is based on the fact that the U.S. has been one of two sharply contending, dominant global powers from the end of World War II in 1945 to 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved, and the single dominant world power — indeed, the mightiest hegemonic state in history — ever since. Those who rule the U.S. believe that it is the “indispensible nation,” ordained to lead, even as its economy suffers stagnation and Washington appears to have a penchant for “leading” the world from one war to another.
The great majority of countries enjoy friendly relations with Washington because they are willing to recognize the U.S. as world leader with special privileges and dispensations up to, and often including, getting away with the murder attendant to its illegal wars. Only a handful of countries do not accept U.S. hegemony — Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran among them — and Uncle Sam extracts a hefty price for such insolence.
Beijing seeks friendly relations with Washington for obvious reasons. Successive Chinese leaders have assured the U.S. government that China does not seek world leadership.
China does not challenge American dominion, at least openly, but it is extremely independent. Its tilt toward Iran and Syria, which frustrates the White House, are examples, as is its protection of what it believes are China’s economic, political and territorial prerogatives regardless of intense U.S. criticism in certain areas. In theory, China opposes unipolar (one country) world leadership, preferring a multipolar system, as do a number of developed and developing countries, but no nation will push the issue for the foreseeable future.
America’s leaders are apprehensive that if China largely continues for the next 10 or 20 years the unprecedented development of the last 20 years its mere success in relation to what could be America’s slow decline will result in Washington’s displacement.
That seems to be where the “Asia Pacific rebalancing strategy” comes into play. It has several purposes but two stand out. The main purpose is not to prevent China’s rise or economic success but to confine it in terms of global power, not that Beijing has evidenced a desire to wield such authority. The other purpose is to further integrate the U.S. into the region’s dynamic economic climate. The U.S. is bringing three of its strengths into the endeavor — alliances, money/trade, and military power.
The U.S. is bringing three of its strengths into the endeavor to confine China’s role in terms of global power:alliances, money/trade, and military power.
1. ALLIANCES: Washington is organizing the many Asia/Pacific countries historically within its superpower orbit to join a united crusade to keep China from exercising leadership even within its own geographical sphere of interest.
Such clients include Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam (lately), Australia, and quite possibly those on the periphery — India, and perhaps Myanmar and Cambodia. Indonesia and Taiwan may not want to get involved. Since Obama first announced his focus on Asia two years ago, the U.S. has been inserting itself into regional squabbles, particularly the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, always on the side of Beijing’s opponents to make them more grateful to their protector.
Most of these countries are rising economically or are already established, and they are beginning to develop close economic, political, and military ties with each other, but it is unlikely they could form a possible bloc that would some day “balance” China without the U.S.
2. MONEY AND TRADE: The U.S. is in the process of forming a free trade association of nations in the Asia/Pacific region, including countries in the Americas bordering the Pacific. It’s called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). China supports the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), but is “considering: membership in the TPP as well. The U.S.-dominated TPP will bring some economic benefits to all its members, but the main objective is to provide the United States with an important vehicle to become a major player in the region, political as well as economic, and thus a rival to China in East Asia.
There are various complications and intrigues involved with the TTP that I won’t go into, except for one progressive critique from the Council of Canadians: “The TPP is globally controversial because of how it will entrench a myopic vision of market-based globalization that is the main cause of runaway climate change and which has done little to create good, sustainable jobs or reduce poverty worldwide. The TPP also enhances corporate rights to sue governments when public policies interfere with how, when and where they make profits.”
3. MILITARY POWER: The unparalleled supremacy of the U.S. military/national security/surveillance apparatus — inefficient against guerrilla war (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan) but capable of becoming an unparalleled death machine if deployed against China — is not only coming to the Asia/Pacific region but it’s mostly there already, in certain places going back to World War II. The U.S. pivoted to Asia 70 years ago and never left. China has been virtually surrounded for years with U.S. naval, air and troop bases through the region from small islands dotting the western Pacific to Japan and South Korea in the northeast to the Philippines in the southeast, to Afghanistan in the west. This does not include air power, long-range missiles, surveillance satellites, and nuclear weapons at the ready.