018_Global12_InSight_2013

Global 13

Global Insight2013 Anti-Chinese sentiment clouds US foreign policy Two of the world’s biggest superpowers – China and the USA – have more in common than either side will admit. But while the USA is doing a good job of alienating its Asian rival – with antagonistic trade measures and naval interventions in the Pacific – the Obama administration would do well to bring China to the table to join it, and other nations, in the fight against real global threats, like climate change and food security, writesMichael Shank A in the White House to move towards fewer boots on the ington when it comes to Western diplomacy across the Pacific. In-terventionism saying, in a pointed remark, that “China does notmess around with you”. Xi illuminates a general problem in Washs President Barack Obama prepares for another four yearsof fighting and fixing foreign policy conflicts, the desire ground and more drones in the air is increasingly apparent. The the art of diplomacy, particularly among superpowers, one must public has little appetite for another million, or two, veterans fight- be deft at reading cultural clues and contexts and responding ap- ing another decadal war that costs trillions in US treasure and much propriately. Failure to do so, whether intentionally or not, has the spilt American blood. potential to completely fetter basic progress or, worse, ignite a vio- Yet while the new style of American warfare is upon us in the lent conflict that is direct or by proxy. Muslim world – that of Special Ops and laptop-operated drones When it comes to Asia and the Pacific, the USA seems particu- following White House ‘kill list’ orders – across the Pacific Ocean, larly reticent to read the right messages. Myanmar, for example, the USA is prioritising old methods of naval warfare and trade iso- did not open up its doors because of America’s sanctions – though lationism. they may have been a small deterrent to a continued clampdown by This confrontational style won’t fly well with China’s new, and the government now in Naypyidaw. Instead, it was motivated by equally confrontational, leader Xi Jinping. Mr Xi has already come more regional influences, including the Association of Southeast out swinging at American swagger, noting that foreigners across Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the trading implications and conse- the Pacific have “nothing better to do” than “engage in finger- quences of continued reform-related recalcitrance. pointing at us”. This was undoubtedly aimed at the likes of former In Myanmar, America’s economic lesson awaits. If the Obama ad- presidential candidate Mitt Romney (who claimed that he’d declare ministration is to pivot to Asia, it had better understand the subtle China a currency manipulator on the first day of his presidency), sinews that intersect its cultures and its subcontinents. In leading the and others in Washington who like to be particularly antagonistic development of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade bloc that towards China, like Senator Chuck Schumer and multiple Treasury includes 11 nations but excludes China, the USA sets a dangerous secretaries, including Timothy Geithner. precedent, one that immediately alienates a critical trading ally. In the USA, as Romney and Schumer exemplify, politics often The TPP is foolish move, not simply because it overlooks en- wins the day and anti-Chinese sentiment – no matter how warrant- vironmental and labour standards that should be a part of any fair ed the concerns on human rights, Tibetan sovereignty, labour and trade package, but also because China has now surpassed the US environmental standards – is a cheap shot to win patriotic points as leading a trading partner in the world. One hundred and twenty- among the US populace. four nations consider China their largest trading partner, while only Xi also pointedly took issue with American meddling and in- 76 nations claim the USA as their largest. This is a complete turna- round from six years ago, when the USA was the larger trading partner for 127 nations and China only claimed 70. The times are quickly changing. Keeping China out of the TPP, therefore, does much to alien- ate other nations and little to further America’s economic security. In an unsurprising response to the TPP, a Regional Comprehen- sive Economic Partnership trade bloc is being established that en- compasses 16 nations, including all of ASEAN and China, but not the USA. America first set the dangerous precedent of exclusion, which is now being replicated in response, to the endangerment of their trade-based economy. Don’t get me started on how bombastic the USA is with China on the currency front, given similar US involvement in manipulation of markets and the fact that China owns over a trillion dollars’ worth of American debt. Antagonism is not helpful here. The USA’s military lesson in the Asia Pacific is equally telling. President Barack Obama attends the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting at When America’s greatest potential adversary in Asia – China – has the ASEAN Summit at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia only one aircraft carrier, which it purchased from Ukraine, there is 18 lwww.global-briefing.org first quarter 2013global


Global 13
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