U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines this week. America's Asia-Pacific "rebalancing strategy" is at a crossroads.
Since Obama announced that the U.S. would "return to Asia" three years ago, the country has spared itself no effort on the subject. However, its Asian allies have begun to experience their own doubts and fears. Firstly, they're afraid that the U.S. will shift its focus to the conflict in Ukraine, the Syrian crisis, the Middle East peace agreement, and the Iran nuclear talks, and turn its strategic eye back to Europe and the Middle East. Secondly, they're afraid that if they provoke conflict with China, the U.S. may abandon its support and choose to protect its own wider interests. Thirdly, some allies, like Japan, are afraid that with China's rising influence they may be marginalized.
On the surface, what has caused the above concerns is Obama's failure to honor his government's commitments, and his absence from the East Asia Summit and the APEC summit due to the government shutdown last year. In addition, the weakness and inclination to compromise shown by the U.S. in its response to Russia during the Ukraine crisis has left its allies worried about its commitment to their protection, and its ability to deliver.
However, there is a deeper element to the issue - that America's Asia-Pacific "rebalancing strategy" is a product of the Cold War mentality. It will not bring peace or prosperity to the Asia-Pacific region, but will lead only to regional instability and unrest.
Firstly, the starting point of the strategy is to use allies to restrict or delay China's development, so that the power balance in the Asia-Pacific region will be conducive to U.S. interests and enable it to maintain its status as "boss".
Secondly, it is a strategy of betting on both sides. On the one hand it aims to contain China, on the other hand it hopes to take advantage of development opportunities brought by China's economic growth. The U.S. policy towards China leaves its allies uneasy, always worried about "betrayal". This concern is elemental, and cannot be resolved by a visit from Obama, or by some speech he makes.
Finally, the U.S. needs its allies to balance China; conversely, its allies also need China to balance the U.S. Therefore, a strange phenomenon has arisen in the Asia-Pacific region, where security relies on the U.S. while the economy relies on China, reflecting the region's complexity. In the long run, the current situation is conducive neither to the U.S., nor to regional peace and prosperity.
The fact of the matter is that America's Asia-Pacific "rebalancing strategy" represents the application of a 19th century method to solve the 21st century's problems, and it is doomed to failure. The U.S. needs to ask itself whether it plans to continue its stategy of containment and betting on both sides, or participate constructively in and benefit from the economic development in Asia-Pacific region.
The article is edited and translated from 《美亚太盟友为何忐忑》, source: Jiefang Daily, author: Wu Zhenglong.