A Superpower Showdown in Asia

A Superpower Showdown in Asia

Has US grand strategy been successful? Overall, this is debatable. On the one hand, the US and its allies have helped China raise millions of its citizens out of poverty, an incredibly historical achievement. But while the US sought to make China into a responsible power by making it rich, it has only made it rich. Indeed, China has merely utilized its wealth to develop hard power capabilities to preserve and defend authoritarianism and defend questionable territorial claims over vital shipping lanes. If anything, this is the legacy of the 1994 Clintonian decision to delink trade with China from progress in human rights. Was the West wrong to engage China? To paraphrase Mao on the French Revolution, it is still too soon to tell, but certainly, the signs are not great. What is now important is how to manage a rising power with a brief window intent on refashioning the regional order to suit its own interests. Certainly, we all know the answer to that. As China pushes ever outward, it will find itself contained - not merely by the United States, but by all regional states who have vested interests in the current rules-based system. Of course, there will be those who say that conflict is unthinkable, who will counsel neutrality when Chinese naval forces clash with their Vietnamese, Philippine or Japanese counterparts. But as we know from history, we must all hang together or we’ll hang separately. In his final years in office, Obama must decide with regional allies and partners, what the red line is for China. And then he must act if that line is crossed.

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