What Trump’s administration wants for the Pacific?: detecting the American “Pacific” strategy towards China
This article has been published at the blog https://internationalaffairsanalysis.blogspot.com/2019/07/what-trumps-administration-wants-for.html. In this article there are some changes concerning the photos.
The economic rivalry between China and USA
Nowadays, China is a very strong country at all sectors. As it is usual, it has expansionist views not only in the region of the Pacific Ocean, but also globally. So, it is normal that fatefully it will confront with USA for dominance.
The present article examines the strategy of the US towards China in an effort to tackle the gradually bigger power and influence of Beijing in a specific part of the globe, the Pacific Ocean. It can be assumed that Trump’s government has a strategy, which consists of a net of alliances and strategic partnerships, the presence of military forces in the region and the approach of countries which were not friendly to the US.
At first, this text mentions briefly the reasons why China is a threat for Washington. After that, the American strategy against the Chinese threat is presented. A note is important here: I know that maybe there are a lot of other aspects of this strategy, but I will try to inform you for the backbone of it. In the end, there will be a conclusion with a critical review of the mentioned strategy.
Understanding the Chinese threat
China is a rival some years now of the American interests in East Asia and in the world in general. As far as the Pacific Ocean’s region is concerned, the biggest problem appears. First of all, China has a flourishing economy. This allows it to increase its trade, to build strong armed forces and to fund foreign actors, lobbies and governments. Also, its soft power which is projected by the Confucius Institutes around the world can be added here. Additionally, its technological advance is of the utmost importance and many times US intelligence officials have warned their government about the new jeopardy is appeared.
Its relations with Russia have been ameliorated and this collaboration creates a “headache” on the White House. In addition, Chinese ambitions for world dominance are expressed by the OBOR Initiative. This project is about to upgrade the geopolitical significance of Beijing and to aid its economy. A lot of money has already been given to investments in poor countries which will help the plans of China. Some of the most important installations where the Chinese have invested are ports in southeast Pacific Ocean. If the militarization of several small islands in the South China Sea will be added, a Chinese zone will be created. In this zone, China will control whatever is moving or is happening and, of course, it will prevent any foreign activation. In the long run, the Chinese presence will be total and as a consequence the American one will be ceased.
The American movements
One of the countries that is important for Washington is Taiwan. From 1949 when the communists took power in mainland China and persecuted the anti-communists who found shelter in Formosa Island (Taiwan), the latter is America’s bastion against China. The two countries have mutual cooperation treaties and the US Armed Forces have created a safe net around the Asian country. Beijing doesn’t recognize the nationalist government of Taipei and it states that it is a region of mainland China. The Chinese threat has led Trump’s administration to endorse a $2 billion sale of military equipment to the Taiwanese Armed Forces in order to strengthen them. This sale includes armored vehicles, anti-aircraft systems and others. Also, the president Tsai Ing-wen is going to meet the US president on July, an indication that the bilateral relations continue to be excellent. It is obvious that except the military sector, USA tries to strengthen its ally diplomatically as well.
It can be assumed that Trump will support the candidacy in the upcoming elections of the president mentioned before, because she is pro- American and the he has a very good relationship with her. However, this scenario causes nervousness to Beijing. The enhancement of Taiwanese- American relations is perceived as a counter-measure and a threat for Chinese interests. Even thought a war is not very possible to break out, the intensification of an economic- diplomatic warfare from China is anticipated.
The US government cannot underestimate another ally, maybe, the only country in the region which can counterbalance the Chinese economic power, Japan. After WWII Japan became at its turn an important ally for Washington. Now, its role is as vital as during the post- War period. There are a large number of American troops stationed on Japanese soil in order to offer protection from China and North Korea. Also, there is collaboration at the sectors of cyber-defense, ballistic technology, economy and trade. Although, some problems arose because of American sanctions on Japanese products importing in the United States, in general, the relations are very good. Two another reasons which proves that are the sale of a number of F- 35 fighting aircrafts to the Japanese Air Force and the mediation of the American diplomacy so as to the confrontation between Japan and South Korea, both allies of USA, to be tackled.
Another aspect of the American strategy is the approach of Vietnam. This is not random. Vietnam due to its rivalry with China tries to protect itself. It hosted the bilateral dialogue between USA- North Korea in an effort to be presented as an actor of pacification and in order to boost its status. It can be said that Vietnam is emerging as front-runner factor. Being in the underbelly of China, it is a key factor for the navigation in the South China Sea and basically for the American Indo- Pacific strategy. This is why Trump accepted to meet Kim Jong- Un in Hanoi and as well as he approved the sale of military equipment to the Asian country. To the question why Hanoi wants collaboration with its former enemy, the answer is the Chinese threat. Washington has noticed that and there is a common ground for the two countries to secure their interests.
The smoothing of the USA- North Korea rivalry is very high on the State Department’s agenda. Trump’s meetings with the North Korean leader signify that turn on the American foreign policy. Though, until this time there is not a positive result and the situation is getting worse with the American movements concerning South Korea. The relations between USA- South Korea are old. USA supports this relationship and this is why Seoul purchased modern military equipment including the very effective F-35 fighting aircraft. This sale angered Un’s government and it declared that it will develop the appropriate systems in order to face the new aircraft. It is evident that the White House wants to enhance the military capabilities of South Korea because it’s a bastion against China and North Korea.The meetings between the leaders of USA and North Korea are a new phenomenon for the US foreign policy and for the global affairs. They are indicative that there will be some changes in the American strategy. Though, it is too early to talk about a total smoothing of the bilateral relations. Source: Commons Wikimedia
The American foreign policy cannot overlook Oceania. The Chinese influence has arrived and spread to the whole region. It is appeared with many forms- tourism, Huawei, pro- Chinese lobbies and the projection of military power against the not so strong Australian and New Zealand Armed Forces. Although, the two countries are benefited economically from the interactions with Beijing, they are under pressure from Washington to abandon any good attitude towards China. For this reason, the US is about to sell modern military systems to Australia including F-35 aircrafts and armored vehicles. What is more, Australian ships sail to the South China Sea in order to show that this maritime region is not a Chinese lake. The American pressure has bore results because it has caused a severe blow on Australian/ New Zealand- China relations and bilateral trade.
Last but not least, Philippines are a riddle for the American policy making. They have a strategic importance due to the proximity with the South China Sea and the ongoing spread of Chinese influence. They offer a stable base for US troops to operate against the Chinese ones. Also, their leader Duterte although he has a close strategic partnership with USA, at parallel, he strengthens the relationship with China. The stance of Manila has caused anger and alarm to the White House and it is very interesting to see how the American policy makers will handle the situation. Until now, the American presence on the island is undisputed, but faces challenges.
In conclusion, which is the Pacific Ocean’s strategy of Donald Trump’s government concerning China? As it seems, the hypothesis above is right. The American strategy is a mixture of forging the previous alliances with other Asian states and creating new ones with countries not so friendly towards the United States, a policy of pressure to ally governments in order to stop their approach with China and the sales of weapons to other countries with the aim to strengthen the preventive capability of friendly states, boost the national production and economy and that strategy predicts the mediation during tensions among American allies so as to stabilize the bilateral partnerships.
Important position in this strategy has North Korea. The latter is not as big threat as it is perceived in the West. It has only nuclear weaponry and it will use it in case it will be a target of an attack. It cannot threat the US interests severely. On the other side, China can harm US interests at all the sectors, including the nuclear one. Also, China is the main partner of North Korea. Normalizing the bilateral relations with North Korea, the American government not only helps its allies, who feel the danger of the North Korean nuclear program, but also reduces the bilateral tensions and it can distract the communist country from the Chinese sphere of influence. Having that completed, it can focus on tackling the “Chinese problem”. It is obvious that China is benefited from the tensions between Washington and Pyongyang because they work as a diversion and Trump wants to deprive this chance from the Chinese government.
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