Has the American foreign policy establishment and the Obama administration “lost it,” becoming completely irrational if not delusional when it comes to China? Hard as this is to imagine, the signs all point to yes.
In recent months, actions and words from Obama administration officials, from prestigious U.S. foreign policy associations, American academics, and “think tanks,” have been such as to unambiguously validate Beijing’s suspicions about U.S. strategy and intentions toward China. These suspicions were summarized by former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd in the April 16 Financial Times:
“In Beijing’s eyes, the US is deeply opposed to China’s rise. A document circulated among the Communist party leadership last year summed up the consensus view. American strategy towards China, it said, had five objectives: to isolate the country, contain it, diminish it, divide it and sabotage its political leadership.”
Listing items that would confirm Beijing’s view is depressingly easy:
Item #1. U.S. Opposition to the AIIB.
The diplomatic debacle of Obama administration failed attempted sabotage through boycott of China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) initiative is by now old news.
Fifty-seven countries including all of European G7 members, Australia, South Korea, Russia, South Africa, and all important countries from South and Southeast Asia will be founding members of the $50 billion institution, to be headquartered in Beijing. The only significant non-members: Japan and the United States.
Thus, at its inception, the AIIB will have almost as many members (67) as the Manila-based, World Bank Group-affiliated (and U.S. and Japan-dominated) Asian Development Bank (ADB), will boast an even purer developing Asia pedigree, and will be informed by an even clearer and more practically valuable and actionable operational agenda.
That the Obama administration would have lobbied the G7, Australia, and South Korea, among others, to boycott the AIIB is inexplicable except as active hostility toward China evidencing a strategy to isolate and weaken her; that is, to prevent China from challenging U.S. global supremacy, and a willing to impede Asian development to achieve this goal.
Pakistani residents walk past welcome banners ahead of the forthcoming visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in Islamabad on April 18, 2015. (FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images)
Item #2. The Council on Foreign Relation’s Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China.
Last month a pillar institution of the American foreign policy establishment, the highly prestigious New York-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), published a 44 page treatise entitled Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China.
The treatise is a clarion call and roadmap for abandoning the several decade policy of “congagement” (military/strategic containment and combined with economic/political “engagement,” aimed at coaxing China into the U.S.-led liberal system and institutions) toward China, and substituting a strategy of actively countering and undermining further Chinese strategic, political, and economic advances. In short, a New Cold War.
The theme of CFR’s treatise is the Washington-New York foreign policy and national security establishment’s long-prevailing doctrine, actually a non sequitur, that the United States’ vital national interests require maintaining unchallengeable American military and political primacy in all parts of the world, and particularly in East Asia. Hence, the Obama/Clinton overwhelmingly military “pivot to Asia” in response to China’s rise.
Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China is an often appallingly superficial, double standard laden, intellectually dishonest pot-calling-the-kettle-black screed. The authors assign oppressive and expansionist motives and objectives to China’s domestic policies and external initiatives (including the AIIB, regional bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, cooperative development schemes like “the New Silk Road”), while positing the innocence and benevolence–together with, however, the geostrategic imperative–of maintaining American hegemony in Asia.
The CFR treatise’s authors spell out initiatives and policies the U.S. should adopt to become “more strategically pro-active in meeting the Chinese challenge to U.S. interests….” These include “construct[ing] a new set of trading relationships in Asia that exclude China, fashion effective policies to deal with China’s …geo-economic tools in Asia and beyond, and …create a new technology-control mechanism vis-à-vis China.” Such policies are already in place or in process within the Obama administration’s “Asian pivot.”
A US Navy FA-18E taxis on the flight deck of USS George Washington during the ‘Keen Sword’, a US-Japan military exercise at the Pacific Ocean on December 10, 2010. The eight-day-long exercise which started on Decomber 3 ends on December 10 as around 10,500 US service members and their Japanese Self Defence Forces counterparts participated in.
Item #3 Pentagon shills in print and before Congress claiming “the China Threat” to ensure bigger budgets.
Self-serving alarums by purveyors of “the China threat” myth, issued through suborned and subsidized “think tanks,” national affairs journals, websites and other media—have reached unprecedentedly high volume as a chorus for Pentagon officials appearing before Congress and seeking bigger budgets and missions in East Asia.
The journal The National Interest has become a vehicle for this kind of self-interested shilling, and an article entitled “Superpower Showdown: America Can Stop Chinese Aggression in Asia” by Harry J. Kazianis could be a classic of the genre.
In its March/April 2015 edition, we have seen the same phenomenon entitled “The Case for Archipelagic Defense” by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr., in the more prestigious Foreign Affairs. This article urges a new role for the U.S. Army. “Rather than risk sending warships within range of PLA defenses or diverting submarines from higher-priority missions, the United States and its allies could rely on ground forces, based along the first island chain and armed with mobile launchers and antiship cruise missiles, to perform the same operations.”
Item #4 The relentless building on Okinawa, at Henoko–despite near deep, determined opposition of the provincial government–of a massive new U.S. military base, symbolically and practically representing permanent massive U.S. military presence of Japan. This base has little to do with the defense of Japan, but rather is about maintaining U.S. regional military primacy.
What is behind Washington’s increasingly shrill and apparently manic, even irrational, actions and words toward China? The answer is, I believe, provided by the late great Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew. In an interview in The Atlantic magazine, March 2013 edition, Lee said:
“For America to be displaced, not in the world, but only in the western Pacific, by an Asian people long despised and dismissed with contempt as decadent, feeble, corrupt, and inept is emotionally very difficult to accept.
“The sense of cultural superiority of the Americans will make this adjustment most difficult. Americans believe their ideas are universal—the supremacy of the individual and free, unfettered expression. But they are not—never were.
“Unlike other emergent countries, China wants to be China and accepted as such, not as an honorary member of the West. The Chinese will want to share this century as co-equals with the United States.”
Until America accepts and adjusts to this reality expect danger and conflict in Asia.