Guide Asia Overview: Protecting American Interests in China and Asia

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This will require a serious review of U. Nowhere are these needs more clearly evident than in East Asia. As almost certainly the foremost center of global economic growth and great power rivalry in the 21st century, it presents by far the greatest long-term challenge but also the greatest opportunity for the United States. It will almost certainly remain the primary source of U. Indeed, in contrast to the protracted problems afflicting the Middle East and Europe, East Asia could constitute an anchor of global stability and prosperity if key relationships and friction points are managed properly.

It is also fueling an emerging regional arms race that taxes U. This negative dynamic is reinforcing doubts among our allies and other countries about the durability of the U. Many Asian nations fear the United States no longer has the domestic discipline, political and social cohesion, resources and attention span to sustain its longstanding role as a force for stability and prosperity in the region. As a result, they view U. Yet Asians do not want to be forced to choose between Washington and Beijing.

When China behaves responsibly, its neighbors want to strengthen economic cooperation with it. When Beijing seeks to use its new military and economic muscles in a more coercive fashion, its neighbors look to the United States for support.

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But at the same time they deeply fear the prospect of any U. Thus, the key challenge for the United States in East Asia is to forge a path that reassures in both directions: For this approach to succeed, the United States must set as the goal of its policy the establishment of a stable balance of power with a more influential and powerful China, rather than pursuing a vain quest to preserve our traditional absolute regional military superiority.

If the United States can capture this dynamic in our policy approach to the region, the East Asian miracle will continue to have a solid footing. Such an approach must be rooted in the reality of a complex, interdependent and essential Sino-U. Beijing is neither an enemy nor an ally. It is both a strong competitor and an essential collaborator in many areas. China has a larger population, longer history, more foreign currency holdings and more trade than the United States or any other country. American consumers depend on China for an enormous range of manufactured products.

China in turn is a major market for key U. It holds large amounts of American debt and has an enduring interest in a strong and vibrant U. China also sends more students abroad than any other country—with an unprecedented three hundred thousand plus students in the United States alone—many of them absorbing ideas for management and technology as they gain a deeper understanding of how open market economies function.

In Asia and parts of the world beyond, China is rapidly becoming the principal trader and lender—including for key U. In the diplomatic realm, China is gaining significant influence in world affairs. Beijing has taken an increasingly active part in existing international organizations but has also begun to develop new regional structures in which it is playing a central role, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Boao Forum and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. China is also expanding its multilateral engagement across the globe, often presenting itself as a spokesperson for the developing world.

Beijing formally adheres to most international norms but differs strongly with the United States on basic issues like the protection of human rights and individual freedoms. And it favors state control of various areas of societal behavior such as the internet. This represents a challenge to traditional U. China has land borders with fourteen countries, some small and inconsequential but others, like Russia and India, wielding significant power and resources. Four of these neighbors have nuclear weapons, and the United States has a nuclear umbrella over Japan and South Korea.

While China can develop formidable naval capabilities along its coastal areas, it lacks unfettered access to the open seas, whether the Pacific, Indian, or Arctic Oceans. It does not control the island chains on its eastern flanks, and narrow straits restrict its naval access to the Indian Ocean. Modern history has not been kind to China. It lost vast swathes of its territory because of its earlier weakness, and it lagged behind Japan in modernization. In the 19th and 20th centuries, multiple wars were fought inside China or on its borders.

In addition, vast sweeps of China's western regions are occupied by ethnic minorities, such as the Tibetans and the Uighurs in Xinjiang, living in their historic homelands. These regions are vulnerable to separatist sentiments, which reinforces the importance China attaches to preserving national unity and territorial integrity. Understandably, the Chinese believe that over the last two hundred years they have been bullied and victimized by stronger powers.

They are determined not to let this happen again, and genuinely believe their own rhetoric that their goal is not to dominate but to avoid being dominated. Their neighbors, not surprisingly, are skeptical of this claim. Moreover, the Chinese may be poor judges of their own future behavior since their military modernization gives them growing capabilities to bully weaker countries around their periphery.

History has demonstrated that some regions of the world are not conducive to sustained domination by major powers. No major power has been able to dominate Europe for the last two hundred years, despite several attempts. East Asia is another such region.

Japan tried to dominate it and suffered a catastrophic defeat. While the United States has enjoyed maritime primacy in Asia for seventy years, it has certainly not dominated East Asia as a whole. Moreover, domestically, China—like the United States—faces huge challenges, including slowing economic growth, an aging population, a shrinking workforce, and badly skewed income distribution.

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And the military reforms Xi is undertaking pose significant implications for promotions and career patterns. China is in no position to seek regional much less global dominance. Given the strategic circumstances outlined above, fundamental U. The security imperatives of China and the United States are potentially, but not inherently, incompatible.

The solution is not for the United States to double down militarily, spending vast amounts of money in a futile attempt to remain militarily predominant across all of maritime East Asia. Such an approach would be virtually certain to result in an intensifying arms race and political rivalry with Beijing that would undermine the basis for vital Sino-U.

At worst, it could generate a new Cold War that benefits no one. Ideology would play an important role in the U. Imperialism had to be legitimized to the American people. The emergence of the "Anti-Imperialist League" in the late s — with which Samuel Clemens Mark Twain was associated — served as a warning that neither the rationale of christianizing the Catholic heathens of the Philippines articulated by President McKinley, nor that of Manifest Destiny promoted by Albert Beveridge would do. Following the ruthless pacification of the Philippines, the U. This was not simply propaganda.

This justification brought the colonial enterprise into line with U. The idealist dimension to U. Imperialism is often explained primarily as an outcome of economic expansionism. This is certainly the case in Latin America, where, for example, in the cases of United Fruit in Guatemala and International Telephone and Telegraph ITT in Chile, political and military initiatives were undertaken largely to support the interests of particular corporations and to create the political climate for the expansion of U. In contrast to Latin America, commercial rationales were formulated to support the extension of the strategic reach of the U.

This was true as far back as , when Commodore Matthew Perry brought his ships to Tokyo Bay to open Japan up to commerce.

Obama Policy toward China and Asia - Jeffrey Bader - Fairbank Center

It was not unusual that a naval officer rather than a merchant forced Japan to open. In , when the U. China, Korea, and Japan were sources of exotic imports rather than significant exports. Investments in the region were negligible. As Griswold said, "American capital for the exploitation of China [was] being raised with difficulty. What lay behind the great leap westward was not a business cabal but a strategic lobby of naval and political expansionists mainly interested in extending the reach of the U. Entrepreneurs operating in Hawaii, the Philippines, China and the interstices of the dominant European empires vociferously supported the expansion, but they did not constitute the center for U.

That center was in New York and oriented far more towards Europe than Asia. Navy became particularly adept at invoking a commercial rationale to promote U. Acquiring bases in the far reaches of the Pacific would, among other things, provide a powerful impetus to the creation of the "two-ocean navy. The small island of Guam in the Marianas and the Philippine archipelago were depicted as stepping stones to the riches of China but only to justify their annexation in the face of significant domestic opposition.

Hawaii had been under the control of American planters for over a decade, but it was not until the Spanish — American War of that its strategic importance was fully appreciated.

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During the war, the naval base at Pearl Harbor was instrumental in projecting U. Chief of the colonizing army that subjugated the country, MacArthur described the Philippines as. Its strategic location is unexcelled by any other position in the globe. The China Sea, which separates it by something like miles from the continent, is nothing more nor less than a safety moat.

It lies on the flank of what might be called several thousand miles of coastline; it is the center of that position. It is therefore relatively better placed than Japan, which is on a flank, and therefore remote from the other extremity; likewise India, on another flank. It affords a means of protecting American interests which with the very least output of physical power has the effect of a commanding position in itself to retard hostile action. So important was a western Pacific presence for the institutional expansion of the Navy that when key Army officials favored withdrawal from the region in the s, arguing that the Philippines and other Pacific U.

This set the stage for the U. Projection of strategic power continued to be the central impetus behind U. In reality, this military network formed an autonomous transnational garrison state. Power projection was the principal determinant of U.

U.S. Imperialism in the Asia-Pacific

The strategic and political priorities were underlined by the fact that the U. These policies severely disadvantaged U. It was only when the Cold War began to wind down, during the Reagan presidency, that corporate and trade interests began to dominate the U. Pressures for this shift had, of course, been building for years; pressures based on the growing and accurate — perception of both U.

It was only in the late s, with the waning of the strategic threat, that the Washington elite allowed U. But whether pushed principally by strategic motives, as in Asia, or by corporate interests, as in Latin America, U. It was an idealism born out of the U. Anti-colonialism and democracy thus coexisted in often sharp tension with the strategic and economic imperatives of U.

The annexation of the Philippines exemplified the American dilemma. The solution was also classically American: This functioned successfully to build consensus about imperial expansionism among both Americans and Filipinos.

A wholesale transplant of formal political institutions began shortly after the conquest. By the time of independence in , the Philippine political system was a mirror image of the American, with its presidential leadership, separation of powers, two-party system, and its Lockean emphasis on private property as the foundation of liberty. In the actual exercise of power, the Philippine democratic system was a marriage between the feudal paternalism of the Philippine elite and the Chicago-style machine politics of the s.

Electoral politics was enthusiastically embraced by the regional landed elites; landed elites that the U. But it was hardly a belief in representative democracy that made them eager students. Their eagerness grew because democratic elections provided a means for that fractious class to compete, relatively peacefully, for political office and alternating turns in power. For the poor majority of Filipinos, elections afforded the illusion of democratic choice — that is, the ability to choose among different elite candidates and elite political parties.

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Democracy did not extend to the economic sphere.