WALTER RUSSELL MEAD
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be arriving in Beijing at perhaps the diciest moment in US-China relations since Richard Nixon reached out to shake Chou Enlai’s hand on his historic visit to what American conservatives then still called Red China.
Last fall, the Obama administration pulled off a diplomatic revolution in maritime Asia — the coastal and trading states on and around the Asian mainland that stretch in an arc from Korea and Japan, down to Australia and Indonesia, and sweep around through southeast Asia to India and Sri Lanka. Via Meadia has been following this story closely; it is the biggest geopolitical event since 9/11 and, while it builds on a set of US policies that go back at least as far as the Clinton administration and were further developed in the Bush years, the administration’s mix of policies represent a decisive turning point in 21st century Asian history.
The legacy press, still befuddled from drinking too much of the ‘US in decline’ Koolaid so widely peddled in recent years, has still not grasped just how audacious, risky and above all successful the new strategy is: the United States is building a Pacific entente to counter — though not to contain — the consequences of China’s economic growth and military posture in the region. The US is lending its unequivocal support to the smaller Asian states who have boundary disputes with China in the resource-rich, strategically vital South China Sea. It has announced new deployments of troops and new military agreements as it extends its military network from northeast Asia (Japan, Korea, the Pacific islands) south and east to Australia, Singapore and beyond. It continues to deepen its strategic relation with India — Asia’s other nuclear superpower with a billion plus citizens and a country which openly states that the purpose of its (growing) nuclear arsenal is to balance China.