Washington, we are told, is now "pivoting" its energy, resources and attention from the Middle East and Europe to Asia, reflecting a recognition of the increasingly vital importance of that region for future American wealth, security and global influence. Unfortunately, the execution of this shift, and China's response, are combining to deepen mutual suspicions and potentially destabilize the entire area, ending the decade-long stability in Sino-American relations that resulted from a U.S. foreign-policy shift after 9/11.
At that time, Washington moved decisively away from viewing China ominously as a rising "strategic competitor" (to quote George W. Bush) and toward significant levels of Sino-U.S. cooperation in combating terrorism and dealing with a growing array of common problems, from climate change to global economic instability. This shift brought Washington’s approach back into line with an earlier, long-standing U.S. policy of fostering greater Sino-American engagement while conducting low-key military hedging against the possibility of a future hostile China.
With President Obama and Secretary Clinton's recent trips to the South and Western Pacific, expanding U.S. involvement in multilateral economic and security-related fora, and a strengthening of Washington's traditional military alliances, the United States is now signaling an intention to move back toward the pre-9/11 strategic focus on a rising China. That focus places a premium on explicitly balancing against and constraining Chinese power and influence across the region.
This piece was originally published at the National Interest. Click here to continue reading.