Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tadae Takubo

【#516】U.S. Striking Counterblow against China

Tadae Takubo / 2018.05.30 (Wed)

May 28, 2018

     Elizabeth Economy, director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, a leading U.S. think tank, has contributed a persuasive essay to the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs, titled “China’s New Revolution.” “China is an illiberal state seeking leadership in a liberal world order,” she says in her excellent characterization of the third revolution by Chinese President Xi Jinping, following the first revolution by Mao Zedong and the second revolution by Deng Xiaoping.

Economy’s essay advocating reciprocity
     China has come under growing fire as it has benefitted much from the present international order but tried to push its own rules while being the world’s second economic and military power. President Xi tried hard to deny China’s threats at the latest congress of the Chinese Communist Party, indicating a dilemma for the Chinese leader who has triggered China’s bad international reputation because of its behavior but had no measure to improve the reputation.
     How should we deal with such China? Ms. Economy advocates “reciprocity,” urging U.S. President Donald Trump to build up military power in the Asia-Pacific and advocate the principles of liberalism; to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific initiative; to clarify U.S. support for Taiwan to counter Beijing’s attempt to isolate Taiwan; to implement joint “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea; and to come back to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. Reciprocity apparently means that the United States should come up with a counterblow immediately after Beijing punches Washington.

Trump switched to hardline against China
     In fact, the Trump administration has begun to implement Economy’s ideas. The United States, though alone, has steadily carried out freedom of navigation operations in the past year. The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed the Taiwan Travel Act that allows senior U.S. and Taiwanese officials to exchange visits to respective capitals for talks on national security and other topics, enabling President Trump now to hold talks with Taiwanese President Tsai Ingwen. When China asked foreign commercial airlines to describe Taiwan as part of China on their websites, the White House said, “This is Orwellian nonsense” in a statement on May 5, urging China “to stop threatening and coercing.” On May 23, the U.S. Department of Defense rejected China’s participation in the Rim of the Pacific exercise planned for this summer. What do these U.S. actions imply?
     Kurt Campbell, who was assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs in the Obama administration, also harshly criticized China in his contribution to the previous issue of Foreign Affairs. We must acknowledge that U.S. liberals and conservatives have begun to be united in exercising vigilance against China.

Tadae Takubo is Vice President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.