The U.S. heads for its presidential election on November while China will witness its once in a decade handover of power on November 8. As the political faces of both countries change, relations between the two countries have grown increasingly strained.
In an interview with Foreign Policy’s Jonathan Tepperman, Eurasia Group’s China analyst Damien Ma said China is questioning the sincerity of America’s role in stabilizing Asia.
And he said a large-part of this is because of the ‘U.S. pivot to Asia’ policy. Remember, this was an important first-term foreign policy decision by president Obama’s in which he chose to rearrange foreign policy focus on Asia, and included plans to send about 60 per cent of the country’s naval assets to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020:
“The key takeaway I got was that there was a remarkable deepening of mistrust over U.S. intentions and I think the bottom line implication that I got from the Chinese side was that they felt that we [the U.S.] was a constructive and stabilizing force in Asia for the last decade of so. And with the pivot, with what’s happening in Asia now, there’s a sense we’ve become a destabilizing force. And I think they’re questioning our sincerity over how to play a constructive role in Asia given what’s going on.
What the Chinese would want is for us to lean on the Philippines and Japan harder, just as we ask them to lean on North Korea. That’s the analogy that they are looking at. And so it’s going to be a fairly tough issue going forward.”
Ma said there’s too much emphasis on the security side of the pivot, and that the focus needs to be as much on the economic side.
He also said that China sees Japan as a proxy for U.S. strength, because of its strong security treaty with the U.S.. “This U.S. pivot to Asia is leading to a lot of these outcomes from Tokyo.”
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