Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/20 0:38:39
In a signed article published by the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter tried to trumpet the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy, claiming the US can "help ensure that the next 70 years in the region are as secure, stable, and prosperous as the last."
He also used more than a few words to criticize China, arguing that "Beijing sometimes plays by its own rules and undercuts those [regional] principles."
The article was published during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to China. A number of steps Duterte took, especially this visit, are regarded as undermining the US' South China Sea strategy, which is core to the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.
As the most outstanding diplomatic and political legacy of Barack Obama's presidency, Washington's rebalancing strategy is now in crisis. Besides the Philippines' fresh start over the South China Sea issue, the chances that US Congress will pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal are slim. Carter's article is refuting those voices pessimistic about the US strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific.
Washington has been claiming credit for safeguarding peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific, including the South China Sea.
Now the Philippines and China have reached a rapport after intense conflict over the maritime dispute. Washington should feel happy about the stabilization of the situation, but look how begrudging it is.
President Obama announced an overall lifting of the weapons ban on Vietnam during his visit there in May, a move widely seen as targeting China. But Beijing reacted positively about the improved ties between the former foes. Washington should take the same gesture, even if it is faking it, to compliment Beijing and Manila on their return to a friendly track.
Apart from the Beijing-Manila reconciliation, choppy waters between Beijing and Hanoi have also calmed down. The US should welcome the change and encourage claimants to negotiate for win-win cooperation if it really cares about the benefits of regional countries.
However, the US seems to be unhappy and feel betrayed. It is widely believed that Washington is pressuring Manila to return to confrontation against Beijing. US public opinion is hoping Duterte can retake a tough stand over Huangyan Island.
The major conflicts in the South China Sea are becoming those between China and the US, rather than territorial disputes. It is not difficult to cool Beijing's disputes with Manila and Hanoi down to a level that will not seriously jeopardize their friendly cooperation. Whether the US can restrain itself from the urge to dominate regional order and using "rules" as an excuse to contain China is a real test.
To Washington, rules and principles actually mean its leadership. US national strength is losing its advantage, but its obsession and sensitivity to hegemony have increasingly turned extreme, which leads to many problems.
China has no intention to drive the US out of Asia. In many cases, it doesn't reject the US' willingness to be a global leader. But we hope it knows that its strength is limited, as well as its understanding of the world.