Enhancing global stability
Updated: 2012-11-15 08:09
By Shen Dingli (China Daily)
Obama should seek greater cooperation with Beijing during his second term in office instead of trying to contain China
The US remains the world's only superpower, but the collective rise of emerging economies has to some extent affected its global dominance and it is undergoing a process of relative decline after its decade-long war on terrorism. It is foreseeable that over the next four years, as its global dominance continues to decline, the US will try to take more aggressive measures to maintain its hegemony.
At present it sees tilting its strategic center of gravity to the Asia-Pacific region as a priority to maintain its global supremacy. Of course, such an adjustment doesn't necessarily mean significant expansion of its military presence in the region. It will probably maintain its current input of resources or increase them to a limited extent. Even so, its strategic adjustment will continue to unsettle East Asia and raise tensions in the region.
For Washington, its "return to Asia" policy has facilitated its desire to contain China's development space in the Asia-Pacific region. So the administration will certainly continue this strategy. Barack Obama's forthcoming Southeast Asia trip, his first overseas visit after re-election as US president, highlights his emphasis on East Asia and on counterbalancing China's influence in the region.
While China is speeding up the task of building itself into a maritime power, the US is accelerating its efforts to contain China in its surrounding maritime areas by using existing international law to restrain China's maritime rights and interests. Although the US recognizes the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as a codification of customary international law, it has not ratified it for fear of eroding US sovereignty. However, the Obama administration has pushed for ratification in recent years, as it believes the convention can be used to limit China's rights and interests in the South China Sea, and it is trying to promote the formulation of new international regulations to limit the relevant rights and interests of China.
The US is striving to promote some of the ASEAN countries to draft the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and to include China in the system to limit China's policy options in safeguarding its interests in the South China Sea. The US will continue to interfere in the South China Sea issue as part of its policy to contain China, which will further deepen China's mistrust of the US.
The US' implicit backing of Japan in its dispute with China over the Diaoyu Islands has also emboldened the Japanese government to become more aggressive in its bid to claim the islands it names the Senkakus.
However, despite turning its attention to the Asia-Pacific, the US perceives its most pressing concern as the growing competition in "common land" areas, such as the deep oceans, space and cyberspace; areas where the US has enjoyed an overwhelming advantage for a long time. With the rise of emerging powers, the US believes its superiority in these areas is under threat. So, it is sparing no effort to maintain its advantages and will continue to focus on these areas during Obama's second term.
The US has developed the most sophisticated remote sensing capabilities in space. It can carry out full-time information reconnaissance and scanning of the airspace of the entire planet; it has deployed a vast submarine information detection system to closely monitor other powers' offshore activities; and it has long taken the lead in cyber attacks and defense.
Yet, obviously, the factors to promote the US to give priority to peaceful approaches to solve international disputes still exist. Its stagnant economy and its high dependence on the world mean international cooperation is an important part of Obama's foreign policy. Washington knows it does not have the strength to run the whole show on its own, considering the severity of the challenges it faces both at home and abroad.
Obama might make a concession to Pyongyang in his second term so as to stabilize relations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, with the premise that the DPRK accepts a freeze in its nuclear program.
And although the Obama administration is more likely than before to launch military strikes if talks break down on the Iranian nuclear issue, cooperation still tops the list.
If the Obama administration pursues more positive interaction with the rest of the world it will enhance international stability in the future. So instead of seeking to contain China, it should seek to expand the two countries' common interests.
The author is director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.
(China Daily 11/15/2012 page9)