Friday, December 20, 2013

China: The Best Thing Going for U.S. Power in Asia?

Robert Manning has an interesting post at the Atlantic Council blog that argues that China's recent belligerence and assertiveness in the last few weeks has done more for U.S. power and influence in Asia than anything the U.S. could have done alone:

At a moment when few give the Obama administration much credit for either competence or strategy, a cascade of events in East Asia in recent days, not least John Kerry’s trip to Southeast Asia, point to important gains for the stabilizing and offshore-balancing role of US policy toward the Asia-Pacific.

The driving force behind all these developments is none other than China, specifically its assertive, irredentist behavior in regard to disputed island territories in the East and South China Seas.  China’s recent imposition of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that extended into territory in the East China Sea claimed by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan has already generated a swift and angry response, with the US flying B-52s over it, Seoul expanding its own ADIZ, and Tokyo boosting its air presence.

Beijing’s impertinent behavior is proving more effective than anything the State Department could ever dream at mobilizing an Asia-Pacific coalition centered on the United States. Concerns that Beijing will, for an encore, impose a similar ADIZ over disputed territories in the South China Sea are a factor animating current efforts by the United States and its allies and security partners in Southeast Asia to bolster their respective maritime capabilities. During his visit to the Philippines, Secretary Kerry reemphasized that the United States opposed the Chinese ADIZ and urged China to “refrain from taking similar unilateral actions elsewhere in the region, and particularly over the South China Sea.”
.  .  .
 Why Beijing thinks its assertive efforts at creating new facts that alter the status quo serve its long-term interests is an intriguing question. It is clearly the opposite of just about everything the ancient sage strategist Sun Tzu advised. For the moment, however, China has galvanized the entire Indo-Pacific region to rise in opposition and bolster their respective defenses. Indeed, it is doing wonders for the administration’s rebalance in Asia as well as resulting in more capable security partners. Three cheers for China.
Read it all here.   Its hard to argue with Manning conclusion. Just look at that China has wrought: its anemic and pitiful response to the Philippines typhoon disaster (especially when compared to the U.S. response) has been noticed throughout the region.  Its ADIZ imposition has stopped its growing ties with South Korea, and has caused a miracle--South Korea and Japan agree on something!

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