Japan and South Korea feel similarly threatened.
At the same time, other regional countries are busy developing their own options.
None of them believe China’s routine assertion that it is not a hegemonic power.
In the US, there is an increasing realization that it is time to wrap up military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to focus on the serious challenge posed by a very assertive China.
The killing of Osama bin Laden is likely to hasten this process.
In a wide-ranging article on the Obama administration’s foreign policy in the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza wrote: “One of [national security adviser Thomas] Donilon’s overriding beliefs, which Obama adopted as his own, was that America needed to rebuild its reputation, extricate itself from the Middle East and Afghanistan, and turn its attention toward Asia and China’s unchecked influence in the region.”
Similarly, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell has said: “We’ve been on a little bit of a Middle East detour over the course of the last 10 years.”
However, “our future will be dominated utterly and fundamentally by developments in Asia and the Pacific region,” he added.
This is not to suggest that the US and China are on course for confrontation in the short-term.
Indeed, the two countries are periodically engaged in strategic and economic dialogue at high levels, designed to manage their often-prickly relationship.
In this, China’s poor human rights record is emerging as a difficult issue.
A case in point is the recent strategic and economic dialogue between the two countries in Washington where China’s crackdown on dissidents and other human rights issues was prominently highlighted by the US.
Indeed, a recent interview by Clinton with the Atlantic Monthly was released during the two-day talks, in which she labeled China’s human rights record as “deplorable.”
“They’re worried [about the Arab Spring or revolution], and are trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand,” she said.
Considering that she had said human rights wouldn’t be allowed to derail Sino-US relations, during her earlier trip to China, this is quite a turn around in the US attitude to China’s violation of human rights.
According to the Guardian the two-day talks with the Chinese side ended with “worsening relations over censorship and crackdowns on dissidents.”
The US appears quite serious on censorship and human rights violations by China, and is dedicating more funds to developing technology able to overcome internet censorship.
It is interesting that Clinton herself has now become one of the many subjects banned by Chinese censors.
Chinese Internet censors “recently blocked search results for ‘Hillary Clinton’ after a speech championing Internet freedom,” the Guardian said.
China is paranoid about a “Jasmine Revolution” type popular uprising, which it believes has been encouraged by the US in North Africa and the Middle East.
Beijing also fears that the US is up to no good with its advocacy of human rights in China.
Only a paranoid and insecure regime would cleave to such fears and conspiracies.
It is always going be difficult to create a partnership for peace with China when its leadership is looking for phantoms everywhere.
As they strive to inoculate China from the revolutionary virus, Beijing’s record on human rights is likely to get worse not better.