Two US media commentators on Saturday called on Washington to rethink its China strategy and urged Beijing to resolve its issues with Taipei by peaceful means.
In an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Gary Schmitt and Dan Blumenthal said US Senate committees will soon vote on US President Barack Obama’s nominees for the heads of the US departments of state and defense, as well as the CIA.
They said a main focus of the committees’ decisions would be on security issues in the Middle East.
Quoting from a 2005 speech by former US deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick, Schmitt and Blumenthal said the US will also have to examine the Obama administration’s “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region and its China strategy.
“China’s choices about Taiwan will send an important message too ... It is important for China to resolve its differences with Taiwan peacefully,” they quoted Zoellick as saying.
Despite warming ties between Taiwan and China, Beijing’s military buildup has not relented, Schmitt and Blumenthal said.
“China has taken an even more aggressive posture toward its neighbors, with confrontations with Japan in the East China Sea, and Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea,” they said.
They also questioned China’s lack of transparency in terms of its military power, its attempt to keep its currency undervalued to favor its exports, limitations on foreign access to its markets and the lack of efforts in the fight against intellectual property piracy and commercial cyberespionage.
This assessment of China’s behavior “reinforces the [US] administration’s rationale for upping America’s strategic game in the Asia-Pacific region,” the commentators said.
The US Senate should be asking how the national security team will realize this goal despite cuts in the defense budget, they added.
The assessment also indicates that “to the extent [that] engagement is pursued, it should be with an eye to what is mutually and concretely beneficial, not with the expectation that the process itself will lead to China’s transformation,” they said.
“The first step for the new secretaries of state and defense in getting it right must be to understand what engagement can and can’t do, and to realize it is unlikely that China will become a member in good standing of the liberal international order until its leaders have made the decision to become liberal at home,” they said.
Schmitt is the director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Securities Studies and Blumenthal the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.