US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will arrive in China today. Some have labeled her latest Asia-Pacific trip as a "closing" one, because she may step down as secretary of state even if Barack Obama is reelected again in November's presidential elections.
The biggest "contribution" that she has brought to US diplomacy is the "pivot" to Asia. But besides greatly raising the mutual mistrust with China, the move hasn't yet brought pragmatic benefits to the US.
It seems that the US is trying to realize two goals, namely renewing domestic economic vigor and checking China's rise, so as to maintain its world hegemony, which is its ultimate strategic goal.
Checking China's rise is the wrong strategic goal for the US. This leading power, despite all its advantages, has limited strength but quite a few thorny tasks in its diplomacy.
Superficially, Clinton's proposal to restrain China with "smart power" diplomacy works on the South China Sea issue. But it appears to be merely a small trick from the perspective of the strategy of a superpower.
As for the economic recovery back home, the Obama administration has nothing to brag about. Clinton's rhetoric such as a "pivot to Asia" and "Internet diplomacy" helps attract public opinion and weave illusions for domestic voters who believe that the true crisis stems from China's "rapid growth" and "lack of democracy."
As secretary of state, Clinton fails to present Americans with this simple logic: In the long run, the US can only compete and cooperate with China on an equal footing, and it will have fewer and fewer resources to dominate and curb China.
Clinton has thrown around various slogans during her frequent visits abroad, but failed to contribute to innovating US strategic thought in regard to China. Properly placing China within its diplomatic framework tests the US mentality, rather than its military strength or how many alliances it has.
If US elites believe their own democracy can eternally guarantee their dominance of the world and that China's path of development will come to a dead end sooner or later, the US does not need to conduct reform at all.
Clinton's "smart power" diplomacy has fomented frictions between China and some surrounding countries in regard to territorial disputes. As a result, Chinese have felt more clearly the strategic pressure from the US.
However, it is precisely during the last few years that the Chinese have become more cool-headed regarding small frictions. Clinton, to a certain degree, has helped boost China's diplomatic maturity.
How the US and China look at each other will largely decide international relations in the Asia Pacific in the new century. We hope Clinton can reflect upon the deep harm she is bringing to the Sino-US relationship in the last few months before she leaves office and try to make up for it.