More important is his understanding on the term of “pivot.”
He said in a hearing that he understood “pivot” as “turning away from somewhere else.”
He further added that relations with China and other Asian countries “should not come, and I hope will not come, at the expense of relationships in Europe, or in the Middle East or elsewhere.”
“What we need to do is try to bring Europe along with us to recognition of the opportunities in the Far East. It would improve our clout. It would leverage the market,” he said.
Accordingly, Kerry’s understanding of the future US role in Asia also echoes Campbell’s interpretation of Washington’s new strategy.
When being asked if it was strategically feasible to rebalance from the Middle East when it still is not stable, Campbell replied that that concern is related to the logic of “a complete movement away,” but “rebalance” means the shifting of resources and balance, “a scale that subtly reorients.”
Both of them deny that the US will move away from other parts of the world, but affirm a deeper engagement in Asia affairs one way or another.
From Kerry’s vision to Hagel’s with regard to Washington’s future role in Asia, there are few differences with Campbell’s definitions.
Therefore, here are the questions: Are the doubts concerning the abandonment of the “pivot” strategy simply rising from confusions of definitions of the term?
Kerry’s interpretation of “pivot” takes on a negative tone.
Will he get the essence of the new strategy, especially on military issues where he has concerns, after “digging into it” as he says he will, without being affected by the bias “pivot” causes?
Will he consider the fact that the US posture in the past four years is mostly based on existing military ties with Asian countries as Locklear stresses?
Whatever the confusion about the term for the new strategy or actual differences in substance, actions and statements later responding to the regional situations will provide the answers.
Negotiation and cooperation certainly are necessary in tackling various thorny issues related to China, but a nuanced balance between hard power and soft power remains indispensable, especially given the uncertainties surrounding China’s goals of military modernization and naval projection.
Chang Yu-ping is a former research assistant at the Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica.