China’s response to US President Barack Obama’s plan to “pivot” US attention and military power from the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan to East Asia has been remarkably mild.
Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said last month in Hawaii, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia that the US would give security priority to Asian allies and friends, as well as US forces in the Pacific. Obama pledged that coming budget cuts would not affect this plan.
Experience shows China often greets such strategic designs with outraged cries that the US is seeking to “contain” China or impose US “hegemony” on Asia.
However, in this instance, the initial response came in a routine statement from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin (劉為民), who was limited to saying: “When developing state-to-state relations, one should take into account the interests of other countries as well as the whole region, and peace and stability of the region.”
Subsequent statements last week were equally bland, some with a touch of sarcasm, others with a tone of condescension and still others with a murmur of confusion. The intriguing question: Why the subdued pushback?
It might be that China’s leaders, who have repeatedly shown that they do not understand the US, do not know what to make of Obama’s new strategy in Asia.
Perhaps the members of the Chinese Politburo, like many Americans, want to see whether Obama takes action to execute his new security posture.
“If [the US] sticks to its Cold War mentality and continues to engage with Asian nations in a self-assertive way, it is doomed to incur repulsion in the region,” Xinhua news agency said.
Another possibility is that Beijing sees this as evidence of the decline of US power, that the US will soon be confronted with the reality of its economic weaknesses and that it is desperately seeking a way to cover up the consequences of that.
“It was not a good time for US President Barack Obama to attend the EAS [East Asia Summit], given the unstable state of the American economy, and the Congressional supercommittee’s failure on the federal budget,” the China Daily said.
“The biggest challenge facing the United States is its sluggish economy, so China should pay greater attention to the economic measures of the superpower, which is actively seeking a ‘return’ to Asia,” the People’s Daily said in a commentary.
“The United States should depend on its own efforts to recover its economy. If it only cares about strengthening its dominant status ... no Asian country will have time or interest to play the old strategic poker game with the United States,” it added.
Another Chinese assessment is that Obama’s strategy in Asia is intended to support his re-election campaign.
“No sooner had the curtain fallen on the summit meetings in Bali, Indonesia, than Obama sent home the message that he had garnered business deals to support hundreds of thousands of jobs for his countrymen,” the China Daily said. “His country’s struggling economy needs them. His chances of re-election need them. That is why Obama portrayed his nine-day trip around the Pacific Rim as a hunt for new markets.”
The most concrete response seems to have been the establishment of a strategic planning department within the headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army. This must have been planned for some time, but was announced last week by Xinhua.
“The newly-founded strategic planning department has been tasked with studying key strategic issues, drawing out development and planning for the military’s growth, and raising proposals on the general allocation and macro control of the military’s strategic resources,” Xinhua said.
Richard Halloran is a commentator based in Hawaii.
If social media interaction is any yardstick, India remained one of the top countries for Taiwan last year. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has on several occasions expressed enthusiasm to strengthen cooperation with India, one of the 18 target nations in her administration’s New Southbound Policy. The past year was instrumental in fostering Taiwan-India ties and will be remembered for accelerated momentum in bilateral relations. However, most of it has been confined to civil society circles. Even though Taiwan launched its southbound policy in 2016, the potential of Taiwan-India engagement remains underutilized. It is crucial to identify what is obstructing greater momentum
In terms of the economic outlook for the semiconductor industry, Taiwan has outperformed the rest of the world for three consecutive years. This is quite rare. In addition, Taiwan has been playing an important role in the US-China technology dispute, and both want Taiwan on their side, reflecting the remaking of the nation’s semiconductor industry. Under the leadership of — above all — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the industry as a whole has shifted from a focus on capacity to a focus on quality, as companies now have to be able to provide integration of hardware and software, as well as
US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy on China and the Indo-Pacific region will have huge repercussions for Taiwan. The US Department of State in the final weeks of former US president Donald Trump’s term took several actions clearly aimed to push Biden’s foreign policy to build on Trump’s achievements. Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s announcement on the final day of the Trump administration that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was committing “genocide and crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang was welcome, but comes far too late. The recent dropping of “self-imposed” restrictions on meetings between Taiwanese and US officials was
In memory of Diane Baker: one of the last working dance journalists, a true dance aficionado and dear friend. On Friday, through a mutual friend, I received the shocking news that dance critic Diane Baker had passed away suddenly at her apartment in Tianmu, Taipei. The news quickly spread, and messages of concern quickly swarmed in from the dance community in Taiwan and abroad. Her sister Sharon in the US later confirmed that Diane died of a heart attack on Wednesday last week. She was 65. Diane was a dear friend to Taiwan’s dance community. Her frequent appearance at dance performances in