US being led a merry chase in eastern Asia

Updated: 2014-06-03 07:36

By Dong Chunling(China Daily)

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After the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs Daniel Russel's visit to Vietnam on May 7, the disputes between China and Vietnam have flared up again.

With the open support of the United States, Vietnam held news conferences in which it raised its tone against China and sent ships to interrupt the legitimate drilling operations of a Chinese company near the Xisha Islands; it even connived in domestic protests against Chinese enterprises, which finally resulted in Chinese citizens being killed and injured and huge damage to Chinese enterprises in Vietnam.

In the evolution from territorial disputes to friction then to bloodshed, the US culpability is evident. It is obviously trying to use the dispute between China and Vietnam, as well as the other territorial disputes in the South and East China seas to contain China.

Although the strategy has been well-implemented, the US might not benefit from it.

First, it has lost the moral high ground. The US has constantly told the world that its rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific is aimed at maintaining regional order and stability, not containing China. But what has happened in Vietnam, violence, social unrest, even bloodshed, has shown this for the lie it is.

The Asia-Pacific has not been more peaceful or stable since it has become the focus of the US' strategic attention; on the contrary, it is becoming increasingly unstable the more the US meddles in regional affairs.

The region was on the path toward greater integration and common prosperity, and it was considered the engine of the global economy before the US implemented its rebalancing policy; now the integration process has been derailed and people are discussing the possibility of the region being the spark for a third world war.

Second, Asian countries are not the only victims of the US' wrongheadedness, the US too is a victim of its folly. Having suffered from the 2008 global financial crisis, the US faced a sluggish recovery, bad international credit and lack of public confidence in the government process. US President Barack Obama responded by eyeing the economic vitality of the Asia-Pacific. However, his administration has failed to tap the economic potential of economic cooperation with the region by focusing on a political and military strategic shift to Asia-Pacific that is aimed at containing China.

The US might feel it is performing well in its bid to contain China, but it is simply getting farther away from the original objective of using international situations to boost its domestic recovery. The Chinese idiom of "harvesting the smaller potato and forgetting the bigger one" aptly describes the US' actions.

However, what the US is losing is more than just a "potato", by becoming involved in China's disputes with neighboring countries, it is casting a shadow over its relations with China. And it is in danger of letting the tail wag the dog, as those countries with disputes with China, emboldened by the US' support, are becoming ever more rash.

Of course, in executing its rebalancing strategy to the Asia-Pacific, the US aimed at using others to conduct its strategic arrangements, thus cutting military expenditure. US decision-makers no doubt never foresaw that their nation would become a chess piece of its own regional pawns and be dragged into their own ridiculous games.

With these countries believing they have the support of the US no matter what they do, if the US continues its strategy of containing China with their support, they will lead it by the nose into a situation it does not want.

The author is a researcher with China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.