Will Obama’s rebalancing strategy last?

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/8 22:43:39

The 11th East Asia Summit was held in Vientiane, capital of Laos on Thursday, with US President Barack Obama in attendance. In 2011, he became the first American president to attend the conference, when he came to push forward his rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy.

He will leave office in a few months. Will his successor come to East Asia as frequently as he did and will this rebalancing act be passed on? Asia is watching.

The strategy has had some effect. A few Asian countries have welcomed it, which has brought quite a few troubles to China's diplomacy, and it did not cost Washington too much.

But the US' eventual aim of containing China's rise has not been realized. In the past six years, just as Washington turned its attention particularly to Asia, China's overall strength has been growing, so has its clout in Asia.

No matter who replaces Obama, the US will continue to focus its attention on Asia, as the region boasts the most potential for economic growth, and is also a center for both old and new geopolitical rivalries.

Even if Donald Trump is elected, he will face a number of constraints if he wants to adjust the country's Asia policy. The rebalance to the Asia-Pacific has evolved from the pivot to Asia, which was coined by Hillary Clinton in 2010. She must feel attached to it.

The core of the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific includes deployment of 60 percent of US naval assets to Asia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, and smart diplomacy which aims at alienating China from other countries. It also includes engagement with China.

China seems to have room for maneuver in the face of Obama's China policy. Among recent US presidents, Obama has perhaps used the least hard-line rhetoric toward China. But his rebalancing strategy has imposed the most pressure on China, and the Sino-US relationship under his term has been somewhat undermined.

So from a "mild" US president's tough China policy, we can get a clue as to the trajectory of future bilateral relations.

One the one hand, we should not expect this US strategy will take a back seat following Obama's departure. On the other hand, we should note that China has managed to withstand pressures and respond to provocations. Accidentally, this strategy turns out to be a proving ground for China to become mature during its rise.

As long as China's GDP is getting close to that of the US, Washington will put Beijing in check, with or without the rebalance strategy.

China should adopt a calm mind and handle complicated matters with ease.

Posted in: Editorial

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