Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on a recent trip to China tried to downplay America’s militarism in Asia-Pacific and convince the Chinese that it is not an attempt to contain China’s rise.
“Our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is not an attempt to contain China. It is an attempt to engage China and expand its role in the Pacific,” Panetta said recently. “It is about creating a new model in the relationship of two Pacific powers.”
But Panetta isn’t fooling anybody. The Obama administration’s so-called strategic pivot to Asia Pacific, which involves surging American military presence throughout the region aims at containing China and has been slowly provoking negative reactions across official China.
According to Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell in a recent piece in Foreign Affairs, “China is the only country widely seen as a possible threat to U.S. predominance. Indeed, China’s rise has led to fears that the country will soon overwhelm its neighbors and one day supplant the United States as a global hegemon.”
They add that America “is the most intrusive outside actor in China’s internal affairs, the guarantor of the status quo in Taiwan, the largest naval presence in the East China and South China seas, the formal or informal military ally of many of China’s neighbors, and the primary framer and defender of existing international legal regimes.”
Washington has also been building new military bases and refurbishing old ones in the region in order to lay the ground-work for an “air-sea battle” with China. The idea is to have enough US bases peppered throughout the region so that China would be too surrounded to safely attack.
A recent report from the CSIS predicted that next year “could see a shift in Chinese foreign policy based on the new leadership’s judgment that it must respond to a US strategy that seeks to prevent China’s reemergence as a great power.”
“Signs of a potential harsh reaction are already detectable,” the report said. “The US Asia pivot has triggered an outpouring of anti-American sentiment in China that will increase pressure on China’s incoming leadership to stand up to the United States. Nationalistic voices are calling for military countermeasures to the bolstering of America’s military posture in the region and the new US defense strategic guidelines.”