Chinese strategists remember how Washington used the first island chain -- including Taiwan -- to hem in Chinese ambitions. Policing the East Asian commons must look like a new phase in an old strategy.
Beijing is loath to endorse any US-led initiative that seems to ratify US command of the waters off Chinese shores, where supplies of economically vital oil, natural gas and other commodities must pass.
Nor are worries about US containment confined to the seas. The PSI also purports to halt shipments of weapons-related goods and substances ashore and aloft. Tightening national export controls -- the laws and regulations governments enact to control the flow of strategic goods across their sovereign territory -- and enhancing customs and border security are some efforts that fall under the PSI.
To Chinese eyes, these measures look suspiciously like another pretext for US meddling along the Chinese continental periphery -- fanning fears of encirclement.
In short, makers of US policy and strategy should be wary of reviving containment and linking it to the PSI. Applied to the Middle East, Kennan's vision could help rally the Islamic world against the West and its allies, swelling the ranks of al-Qaeda and its ilk. And casual talk of containment could damage relations with China and other geopolitical great powers for no good reason.
If Washington needs a new strategy, better to search elsewhere for inspiration.
James Holmes is an associate professor at the US Naval War College and a senior research fellow at the University of Georgia Center for International Trade and Security. The views expressed here are his alone.