Although the US has been cautious not to single out China's rise, there are reasons to believe that it is a fear of a stronger, more assertive China that has prompted new US moves in the Asia-Pacific region.
In many ways, this is just a return to normal realpolitik, which was delayed due to the US entanglement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is natural that the rise of a new power is creating reaction and resistance from the current power who does not wish to lose its dominance and privileges.
To respond effectively though, China needs not only a new strategy, but also a new foreign policy discourse without being seen as initiating a dispute or conflict.
This strategy, in turn, should retain the current focus on uninterrupted economic development as the top national priority. It should also replace passive diplomacy with active diplomacy and forgo the "peaceful rise" discourse in favor of the "responsible rise."
On a regional level, active diplomacy requires Beijing to capitalize on the fact that none of the regional states wish to see an permanent US presence in the region.
This was clear in the protests in Japan last year, as well as in Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's comments during the APEC meeting in November.
Priority should go to Japan and South Korea. Beijing should seek to resolve past grievances, and try to increase economic interdependencies to the point that all three develop a mutual interest in keeping ties strong, as with mutual interest comes mutual trust.
This active diplomacy should also be expanded to include other regions of the world. The fact is that US not only needs China to pull itself out of recession, but it also needs China diplomatically in North Korea, Iran, and Africa.
China, therefore, should seek to increase its diplomatic value to Washington through striving to engage with other parts of the world more meaningfully.
In this regard, public resentment against the US in certain parts of the world, as well as China's membership in organizations like the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, could greatly facilitate China's efforts to add to its diplomatic might.
Yet, active diplomacy should not come at the expense of economic development at home. Rather, they should be pursued in parallel. The real game is economic.
At a time when US qualifications as the leader of the world's free-market economies look more and more dubious, China's uninterrupted economic growth will become a strong source of soft power in and by itself, as more and more countries begin to look at China as the world's growth engine.
As long as the Chinese economy continues to grow, the world, let alone its neighbors, cannot afford the risk of ignoring or bypassing China.
Beijing also needs to gradually change its discourse about a "peaceful rise" into the language of a "responsible rise," expressing its recognition of the fact that power brings responsibility.
And as its power grows, it will behave responsibly by upholding its non-interference principle.
It will neither seek confrontation nor will it ever initiate one. Nevertheless, it has a number of specifically defined core interests which it will seek to defend, as the US itself does.
Whether the US is really looking to split Asia economically through means such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership is as yet unclear. If so, it would amount to an economic Cold War in the region.
Yet, it will not be the return of realism, but widespread nationalistic sentiments and politicized fractions on both sides that could cause a misunderstanding or misperception to escalate into conflict.
But as the US has become more realist in its "return to Asia," China should follow suit or else risk lagging behind.
The author is a security analyst at Transnational Crisis Project, London. email@example.com