Will Obama's Pivot to Asia "Score Points" with the Chinese?

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China is worried about the U.S. pivot.

Lewis Simons writes in praise of President Obama's "pivot" to Asia:

Mr. Obama, by accepting a friendly invitation to visit Southeast Asia, is choosing instead to deal with China as an equal on neutral turf, rather than seek direct confrontation. No threats. Just a show of smart power.

While his gradualist approach certainly will not be cheered by American conservatives, it is a style that is likely to score points among Chinese and other Asians who see a freshly reminted American president approaching them not with a clenched fist but with an open hand. He proposes refurbishing a long-faded American presence on the Asian mainland, competing again for its raw materials, investments and markets. [Emphasis mine]

While some Asian states have clearly welcomed the administration's "pivot," China hasn't been among them (see also here and this study of Chinese reactions to the pivot here).

President Obama isn't approaching China with as clenched a fist as the U.S. could possibly make, but the signs of a containment regime are unmistakable. It appears to be the case that Chinese officials preferred to deal with Obama than with Romney, but that does not mean their minds will be put at ease with respect to U.S. strategy.

That's not a bad thing, per se. The U.S. does need an approach to China that balances the defense of vital security interests with the need to avoid thoughtless provocation. Still, we shouldn't kid ourselves about what's going on. Certainly, the Chinese understand that the "pivot" is aimed at them and not in a manner designed "to score points."

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