Monday, January 30, 2012

America Looks West - Finally

For the first time in decades, the United States has decided that it is once again a Pacific nation with primary interests along the Pacific rim.  Having gone without a grand strategy since the fall of the Soviet Union, it is past time for a major refocusing of energy.

It is not necessary for such a refocusing of energy to have sinister aspects.  While there are those who worry that American interest in the Pacific rim is necessarily antagonistic and ultimately confrontational toward China, it is neither likely nor inevitable.  Here is why:

First, neither China nor the United States have territorial goals that are in fundamental conflict.  China is quite sure that Taiwan is part of the Middle Kingdom while those on Taiwan are not as convinced, the United States has clearly had a policy for decades that will not recognize that small island entity as an independent state.  The only line that American has drawn with respect to Taiwan is that it will not tolerate a forcible rejoining with the Peoples Republic of China using armed conflict.  The United States has interests in maintaining free passage of the seas, but has no interest in preventing Chinese access to those same waters.  

Second, both China and the United States have economic interests that coincide with freedom of the seas and free access to markets in Asia.  American economic interests are focused on opening new markets to American products and gaining access to Asian products.  American technical expertise connected with Asian productivity stand to increase encourage specialization and enhance relative advantages to both country's advantage.

Third, it is unlikely that China and the United States will ever engage in a war.  Chinese military spending, while clearly aimed at modernization and worried about American technical advantages, is principally focused on regional dominance and not expansion.  American naval dominance on the blue water is not a threat to Chinese interests nor is Chinese dominance in their own coastal waters a threat to the United States.

American attention to the Far East will reinforce the Chinese sense that they are once again the Middle Kingdom of old.  As the United States shows the world that the new grand strategy is Chinese-centric and not Chinese-containing, a new, although limited, trust will begin to develop.  Such trust will lead to greater economic interaction, a greater U.S. share in overseas trade, and opening new markets in a huge population of people newly willing to spend their money on American technology.
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