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forging a containment China strategy « Previous | |Next »
March 16, 2006

One characterstic of the Bush Administration's attitude to empire--establishing a global Pax Americana--- is its unilateralism. This means that alliances, economic or political, and international law inevitably hinder the most powerful nation and serve to blunt the overwhelming power of the United States. What constrains the US as empire today is not just the international terrorism on its borders. Nor is it the threat Iran poses to the US's regional interests in the Middle East. It is also the rising economic power of China, and the pace and reach of its military build-up.

America's worsening problems in Iraq is beneficial to China's global standing, diplomatically and militarily as it provides an opportunity for China to counterbalance U.S. hegemony and create a multipolar world.

Matt Davies

The US neo-cons seek to contain China, aided by a willing Japan and a compliant Australia. China's presence has the effect of blunting US power in Asia, and it challenges the neo-con assumption of preponderant American power. Consequently, the United States' recent endorsment of India's nuclear weapons program, endeavoured to bring India into the American camp as a counterweight against China. China was the ghost at the US-Indiia banquet - an unspoken presence that no one really talked about. The US is intent on maintaining its dominant position in Asia-Pacific indefinitely, and in solidifying its global pre-eminence through military superiority.

I doubt that during Condelezza Rice's forthcoming visit to Australia there will be much explicit public talk about creating a new regional balance of power that forges a China containment strategy.

Over at China Matters China Hand argues that the Bush containment strategy toward China is based upon the premise of unmatchable military force that permits the U.S. and its allies to pursue:

... an aggressive China strategy—including the willingness to escalate to armed conflict if the opportunity presents itself—without fear of excessive consequences.American unilateralism is predicated upon the idea that U.S. backing will embolden client states to risk the prospect of military confrontation with China.The result of this policy is defense pacts that are supposed to enable to the militarization of foreign policy i.e. including the increased threat of force in the strategic equation.

This is dangerous territory. As China Hand points out such pacts are intended to be destabilizing, and lead to what is supposed to be for the world’s only superpower a virtuous cycle of escalating tension, culminating if necessary in armed conflict that the U.S. camp is uniquely positioned to survive and profit from. Iran is a good example of this. it leads to pre-emption. The centerpiece of United States unilateralism is "pre-emptive military actions" all over the world. The imperial 'republic' becomes the sherriff.

So the opportunity exists for Australia to asserts independence and advocate the foreign policy objective of constructing a multi-polar world, rather than a global order dominated by one superpower. Will the Howard Government have the courage to publicly put some limits around American unilateralism? Will they tell Condelezza Rice to go take a reality check? That the US should accomodate itself to China's "peaceful rise" to major power status and not endeavour to actively thwart it. Or will the Howard Government piously defend the realpolitik of US national interest and assert its tacit role of being a deputy sheriff?

Will the senior ministers tell Rice and her entourage that her realist form of containment is reckless and foolish and imperils Australia's place in the world? These are unfashionable views--untimely ones.

Update: 16 March
George Mulgan, writing in the Canberra Times, supports my account. He says that:

America's Asia strategy is increasingly all about China. The United States is fixated on China's emergence as a peer competitor, and seeks to maintain the current balance of power in East Asia in its favour. This represents a classic hegemonic response to the rise of a rival great power.America will not be able to balance China alone into the future. It needs allies...US policy has consistently been to try and cement the third side of the triangle between Australia and Japan, with China's rise adding a new urgency to this approach. Japan has previously been a reluctant party to these three-way arrangements

Mulgan concludes by saying that 'It is vital that Australia and Japan not allow America to depict China as a common bogey and for Australia to ensure that its China policy serves its own national interests, not those of the United States.'

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:14 AM | | Comments (0)