Is Obama ready for a stare-down with China?

Discussion in 'China' started by ajtr, Oct 4, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Is Obama ready for a stare-down with China?

    China's provocation of Japan over the Senkaku Islands shows a need for Obama to be ready for a crisis in Asia. He must buck up Japan and send a clear signal to Bejing.

    By the Monitor's Editorial Board / October 1, 2010

    After nearly two years in office, President Obama remains untested as a commander in chief during a tense standoff – his own Cuban missile crisis, for instance, or Iranian hostage-taking, Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, or 9/11.

    But he'd best prepare for such an encounter in Asia.

    Last month, China bared its fangs at America’s chief Asian ally, Japan. Beijing appeared to precipitate a crisis with its weak neighbor when the captain of a Chinese fishing boat deliberately rammed two Japanese Coast Guard vessels near the Senkaku Islands.

    For more than a century, Japan has had clear legal control of those rocky, uninhabited islands near Okinawa. But that has not stopped China from recently seeking ownership of them for offshore oil or to show everyone – especially the US Navy – who’s the new boss in Asian waters.

    Beijing surprisingly escalated the incident after Japan detained the captain. China retaliated by halting critical mineral exports to Japan and arrested four Japanese visiting China. Even before the incident, the Chinese Navy had been swarming near the islands.

    After two weeks of hostile reactions, Japan finally capitulated Sept. 24, releasing the captain. But not before other Asian nations saw just how much of a bully China has become.

    The United States praised Tokyo’s decision as a diplomatic necessity – but not before quietly stating that the defense treaty with Japan would require the US military to defend the islands if China took them by force.

    The crisis still lingers. China and Japan are demanding apologies. And Tokyo is considering whether to station its regular troops near the Senkaku Islands. The incident is thus a wake-up call for Mr. Obama to prepare for China again flexing its muscles in a dangerous way.

    Obama’s national security strategy, however, is to primarily focus on rebuilding the US. Indeed, in September, when China protested about a planned military exercise in the Yellow Sea with a US aircraft carrier, the US backed down rather than risk Chinese anger. And Obama didn’t do much to persuade Beijing that its ally, North Korea, was guilty of sinking a South Korean naval ship last March, killing 46 sailors.

    In July, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did take a legal stand against China’s bold claims to a set of disputed islands in the South China Sea, saying the claims must be resolved with multilateral diplomacy. But the US hasn’t done much about that since then.

    President Clinton was tested by China in 1996 after it lobbed missiles near Taiwan. He sent two aircraft carriers into the area in a show of defense for the island nation, which China claims as its own.

    But these days China sees the US as weak. The American economy is stagnant. Many of the top Obama officials, such as Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, are leaving the administration. The president wants major cuts in the Pentagon. US forces began to leave Iraq this year, and Obama plans to start a US retreat from Afghanistan next year.

    Since 2009, China has become more assertive in Asia. It recently told its neighbors that they are “small countries” while China is a “large country” – and that they should not expect an equal relationship.

    This bluntness only raised fears of confrontation, especially as China expands it naval reach. Japan now wonders if it can count on the US in a crisis. It is considering a boost in its military spending. Over the past decade, Japan’s defense budget has declined about 5 percent – while China’s spending on its forces has soared.

    Obama can help Japan by encouraging it to raise its military spending and invest in more defensive weapons. Such US advice is often needed to overcome decades of Japanese reluctance to become a military power again.

    Next month, Japan will host a summit of Asian and Pacific countries. This will provide an opportunity for Obama to make clear where the US stands on China’s coercive actions and his own readiness to respond to a crisis in the region.

    China must be persuaded that there is plenty of room in Asia for big nations to work together for security and prosperity. Those nations include Australia, India, the US, Japan, Indonesia, and yes, China.

    But until China sees its role as a benign benefactor in Asia, a US president should be ready to check China if it tries to strong-arm its neighbors in an imperialist way or hold them hostage to threats.

    If other Asian nations can’t look to the US for backup, they would be well advised to start looking more to themselves.
  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Michael Klare: This expansion has not gone unnoticed in Washington

    There's a battle going on over the future of US policy and strategy. For now the focus is on terrorism and Afghanistan. But when that winds down, all eyes will be on China and its rush for resources.

    President Obama sees the risk. He talked with China's President, Hu Jintao, about co-operating in developing renewable energy. But the pressure to procure resources is greater than the incentives to develop renewables. The US military is divided on the issue. The Army and the Marines see terrorism as the greatest threat, but the Navy believes China's growing resource dependency on Africa and the Middle East explains its naval build-up and that the US must expand its own navy.
    China is not intending to be a threat. It needs a vast amount of resources to maintain its economic growth – it will need twice as much oil by 2030 as it does now. Most of it is imported and it will need to come from the same places that the US gets its oil from. That will be seen as an economic threat – and a military one in some eyes.

    The US and China will be the major players. In the past few weeks, military exercises have been conducted under the rubric of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, Peace Mission 2010. This is an attempt by China to exert its strategic power in central Asia and the China Sea region.

    China and Japan have been in dispute over a couple of islands in the past two weeks. The islands are of no use, but the area contains a lot of offshore oil and gas. In the western hemisphere, China is relying largely on market forces and is not following up with its military. China is very aware that Brazil is America's backyard.

    In Africa it's another story. China's quest to control resources is often followed up with military ties. This poses a challenge to the US, which has responded by stepping up its own military presence. Africom (the US African Command) was established in 2007, and though its head does not say so, people in Washington say it is a response to China.

    What is different today is that the scale of demand for resources is greater than ever, thanks to the spread of industrialisation to much larger parts of the world. Supply is not growing fast enough to meet the demands.

    Michael Klare is professor of peace and world security studies and the author of 'Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet'
  4. Patriot

    Patriot Senior Member Senior Member

    Apr 11, 2010
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    Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
    US Seeks Calm in South China Sea

    The United States is urging the peaceful settlement of territorial disputes in the South China Sea. U.S. diplomats are saying Southeast Asia countries should negotiate a binding code of conduct with China.

    U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. told reporters in Manila Monday that while the United States is not directly involved in regional disputes in the South China Sea, it would be happy to help the 10 ASEAN countries to negotiate a deal.

    "The United States does not take a side," he said. "What we have said, however, is that the claimant states should come to their agreements, that, because there are disagreements between several of the claimant states; and this should be decided at the negotiating table."

    U.S. involvement in such negotiations could anger China, which has advised the United States not to interfere in what it considers a purely Asian matter. While neither China nor the United States is a part of ASEAN, Ambassador Thomas says it is an important issue for all of its members.

    "We believe that ASEAN should work together in negotiations with other states. We seek no conflict with any state including China," said Thomas. "This should be decided peacefully, and according to, there should be a code of conduct."

    China's ambassador to the Philippines, Liu Jianchao, told reporters in Manila last week that meetings have been held between China and ASEAN and that a formal code of conduct already is being negotiated.

    Ambassador Thomas says the United States is ready to help if asked.

    "We have to wait for ASEAN and China to agree to sit down, and then when ASEAN develops its goals and objectives, if they ask for assistance on specific items, we'll be happy to assist - if asked," added Thomas.

    Most of the ASEAN countries say they would like to address the disputes on a multilateral basis. China has preferred to deal with each of its neighbors individually.

    Two senior U.S. diplomats were told during a visit to China earlier this year that Beijing considers the entire South China Sea a core national interest. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States has a national interest in maintaining free navigation through the South China Sea.
  5. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    In Chinese admiral's outburst, a lingering distrust of U.S.


    On May 24 in a vast meeting room inside the grounds of the state guesthouse at Diaoyutai in Beijing, Rear Adm. Guan Youfei of the People's Liberation Army rose to speak.Known among U.S. officials as a senior "barbarian handler," which means that his job is to deal with foreigners, not lead troops, Guan faced about 65 American officials, part of the biggest delegation the U.S. government has ever sent to China.

    Everything, Guan said, that is going right in U.S. relations with China is because of China. Everything, he continued, that is going wrong is the fault of the United States. Guan accused the United States of being a "hegemon" and of plotting to encircle China with strategic alliances. The official saved the bulk of his bile for U.S. arms sales to China's nemesis, Taiwan -- Guan said these prove that the United States views China as an enemy.

    U.S. officials have since depicted Guan's three-minute jeremiad as an anomaly. A senior U.S. official traveling on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's plane back to the United States dismissed it, saying it was "out of step" with the rest of the two-day Strategic and Economic Dialogue. And last week in Singapore, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sought to portray not just Guan, but the whole of the People's Liberation Army, as an outlier intent on blocking better ties with Washington while the rest of China's government moves ahead.

    But interviews in China with a wide range of experts, Chinese officials and military officers indicate that Guan's rant -- for all its discomfiting bluster -- actually represents the mainstream views of the Chinese Communist Party, and that perhaps the real outliers might be those in China's government who want to side with the United States.

    Guan's speech underscored that 31 years after the United States and China normalized relations, there remains a deep distrust in Beijing. That the United States is trying to keep China down is a central part of the party's catechism and a foundation of its claims to legitimacy.

    More broadly, many Chinese security experts and officials view the Obama administration's policy of encouraging Chinese participation in solving the world's problems -- including climate change, the global financial crisis and the security challenges in Iran and North Korea -- not as attempts to elevate China into the ranks of global leadership but rather as a scheme to enmesh it in a paralyzing web of commitments.

    "Admiral Guan was representing what all of us think about the United States in our hearts," a senior Chinese official, who deals with the United States regularly, said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with a reporter. "It may not have been politically correct, but it wasn't an accident."

    "It's silly to talk about factions when it comes to relations with the United States," said a general in the PLA who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. "The army follows the party. Do you really think that Guan did this unilaterally?"

    China's fear of the United States was very much on display this past weekend during the Shangri-La Dialogue, where Gates and his Chinese counterparts clashed repeatedly throughout the program.

    Gates said it was unnecessary for the PLA to hold the military relationship hostage because U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are, "quite frankly, old news." The United States has provided military assistance to Taiwan since 1949, when the Nationalist government of China fled to the island after the Communist victory on the mainland; this assistance did not stop when Washington normalized relations with Beijing in 1979.
    "You, the Americans, are taking China as the enemy," countered Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu. Zhu rose to prominence in China in 2005 after he warned that if the United States came to Taiwan's defense in a war with China, Beijing would abandon its "no first use" doctrine on nuclear weapons and attack the United States.In January, Washington announced a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan, prompting China to downgrade its military ties with the United States. China's stance on the issue is part of a concerted campaign to change a foundation of U.S. policy in the region -- its security relationship with Taiwan. At the very least, Chinese officials said, they want the Obama administration to reiterate a commitment it made in a joint communique with China in 1982 to decrease arms sales to Taiwan.

    The U.S. framing of Guan's speech and the entire PLA as being out of step with the times is significant, analysts said, because the Obama administration could fall into a trap of expecting more from China than it can deliver. On the plane back to the United States, for example, U.S. officials predicted that despite Guan's outburst, China would welcome Gates and that it would also begin to side with South Korea against North Korea following the release of a report in Seoul implicating the regime of Kim Jong Il in the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship on March 26. China did neither, and interviews with PLA officers indicate that the military is highly suspicious of the South Korean report.

    U.S. officials have also expressed the hope that China would work harder to press Iran, for example, to engage in talks on its nuclear weapons program. The United States also wants China's cooperation on slapping new sanctions on Tehran. China has shown more flexibility on this issue, but it is still unclear whether it will ultimately support sanctions.

    Chinese analysts say the Obama administration ignores what China calls its "core national interests" -- especially U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan -- at its peril.

    "For years, China has opposed arms sales to Taiwan among other things, but we were never strong enough to do anything about it," said Cui Liru, the president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a think tank run by the Ministry of State Security. "But our national strength has grown. And it is time that the United States pay attention."

    "This is not just a talking point that can be dismissed by your government," he continued. "It is something that must be dealt with or it will seriously damage ties."

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