Evan Resnick: The Perils Of Containing China!

The Obama Administration's policy of "rebalancing" to the Asia Pacific appears to be a nascent attempt to contain China. It would behoove US policymakers to recognize a key distinction between Washington's current proto-containment of China, and its successful containment of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Obama Administration officials have emphatically denied that the much discussed US policy of "rebalancing" towards the Asia Pacific, represents an attempt to contain China. Sceptics may be forgiven, however, for taking these denials with the proverbial grain of salt. The military, diplomatic, and economic components of the re-balance, which the administration previously dubbed the "pivot" collectively make little sense, other than as a nascent effort to thwart China's geopolitical expansion. Laying the foundations for containment. Militarily, the US has deployed Marines to Australia, dispatched Littoral Combat Ships to Singapore, and engaged in intensified defense cooperation with its formal allies of Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines, as well as with other states in the region, such as New Zealand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and India. Additionally, the Department of Defense has pledged to recalibrate its distribution of naval capabilities between the Atlantic and Pacific theaters by the year 2020, from a 50-50 split, to a 60-40 split favoring the latter. These initiatives, in turn, followed on the heels of the administration's early 2010 announcement of a US $6.4 billion sale of advanced weaponry to Taiwan. The US has complemented these military moves with a more assertive diplomatic posture in Southeast Asia. The most high profile initiative in this regard, has been its constructive engagement of the reformist Thein Sein regime in Myanmar, which was exemplified by President Obama's highly symbolic visit to that country, as well as Cambodia, in the immediate wake of his November 2012 reelection. The administration has also adopted a more intrusive position, regarding the ongoing maritime dispute regarding the South China Sea, striking a posture that directly contravenes China's expansive claims. Finally, even the economic pillar of the re-balance, the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, a regional free trade zone, consisting of 12 potential partner states, appears designed to exclude China. The TPP framework is restricted to countries capable of meeting high US standards, in such areas as intellectual property rights, labor, and environmental standards, in which China lags far behind the other prospective members.     

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