“Change” in the United States’ Policy towards East Asia Ruthless Criticism

“Change” in the United States’ Policy towards East Asia

Obama Offers a Share of Responsibility
for the American World Order
to the Rising World Power China

[Translated from Gegenstandpunkt: 4–09]

“No fear of a rising China!” – “Caution” is no longer the advice against a rising China; instead “no fear!” This is the new slogan coming from the White House towards China. President Obama has convinced himself that the successful rise of the Asian “colossus” to a capitalistic world power demands much more attention than hitherto [1] and a very close “economic and strategic cooperation.” Since then a program that attempts to combine the utilization of the expanding business sphere China with political containment is regarded as unrealistic and counterproductive. President W. Bush’s preventive declaration of war, not to let any rival arise, had put this containment on the agenda. Its purpose was to prevent the People’s Republic of China from eluding world-political control by the only competent world-ordering power, the United States. This has largely failed. China has had the liberty and has taken it to successfully advance in developing its power autonomously. This is something the American state dislikes. As is proper in a democracy, the new president blames his predecessor Bush for the lack of any effective political influence on the Asian world power’s policy. This is how the administration makes its need for correction known. What Obama treats as the result of a strategic mistake, in truth is a new imperialistic balance of power and testifies to the military superpower’s concrete political embarrassment: it is in search of suitable means to gain political control over a rival, as China is one.

1. China – a new kind of challenge for the American world power

The ex-communist People’s Republic of China has already gained a universally respected world political status in the upper league of state powers and is accumulating the means for making further ground vis-à-vis the United States. It bases its increasing clout on the permanent surplus of its national money wealth that it makes from its successful participation in the capitalistic world market. For this, it is using exactly the means that the free West and its American leading power have permitted – or even more exactly – ordered to the entire world of states. It has been welcomed that China has opened up to the world’s capital looking for investment; by now China has turned this change into its own means for a global offensive of Chinese capital; and it is transforming its economic capacities into political influence on increasingly more state-guardians of business. So China’s rise is taking place peacefully, i.e., completely in accordance with the rules of the world order that the old western victorious powers regard as useful – without any confrontation, without the enforcement of any exclusive rights of disposal and spheres of interests, without war. As is widely known this is more the exception when a new partitioning of the world is at stake. China is challenging the West with its own politico-economic weapons.

The starting point of the Chinese rise was neither surrender nor an actual deprivation of power after a hot or a cold war. China’s rise was not granted by any victor. Unlike the rise of Europe or Japan, it is not bought at the price of a fundamental “dependence in security policy” from the protective guarantee of an alliance’s foreign dominant power that has the last say in crucial matters of force. China has procured and is procuring the military instruments of its sovereignty – in part out of need, in part deliberately – not by cooperating with the USA in matters of armament, which would make it susceptible to blackmail. It is developing its war potential – despite a western weapons-embargo – on the basis of its scientific-technical forces of production, which it has built up on its national territory and is fostering with everything within its power. And the country even has nuclear weapons – even formally licensed ones, together with all the rights of a “legal nuclear power” and a permanent seat on the UN-Security-Council. Mao Zedong’s political heirs have thus brought it to an autonomous imperialism with the peculiar result that China is integrated within the prevailing order of competition but eludes the control of the USA that has enforced this order and seeks to keep it under control.

America’s aim is to deal with that. In particular the “bilateral relationship” between the USA and the PRC, which Washington already a decade ago targeted as its “designated main rival”, is drastically revealing a basic dilemma of the world power Number 1. As US-politicians put it, the problem is the following: how can the USA prevent competitors from becoming rivals that will threaten America’s leading role – i.e., prevent competitors, who operate in accordance with the rules of the global economic order, from so to speak peacefully stirring up the hierarchy of powers? The program to subordinate China to America's own supervision is confronted by some contradictions.

- By opening up military fronts on the globe or by deploying human or material war devices at some edges of the huge People’s Republic, China may perhaps be deterred from launching an attack on US-allies – like Taiwan – but cannot be prevented from continuing its way of success. There is no need for China to get involved in a confrontation, which is why it deliberately abstains from one, in line with its calculation on a secure, i.e., “peaceful rise.” Seen from this perspective, the destructive power of America’s superior military power is little ‘convincing’: it can of course destroy entire states including its masses but it cannot force China into obedience, into the adoption of America’s definitions of friends and foes and of the roles it assigns. This is something the global anti-terror war under Bush has revealed. It has not only not harmed China but fostered its rise: China has politically remained in or opened up business with countries on both sides of the axis between good and evil.

- Nor is the use of economic means of extortion an expedient means but rather cuts both ways. This is the result of China’s successful incorporation into the profiteering of American capital. The ‘mutual utilization’ has not only vehemently contributed to the development of Chinese wealth but brought about the result that China has gained remarkable positions of power vis-à-vis America: as the United States’ central ‘trading partner,’ China has first of all achieved an indispensable ‘role’ for American growth; and on the basis of its business successes in America it has secondly become the superpower’s number 1 creditor. As the latter, China buys the dollar-bonds with which the United States finances its wars and bank-bail-out programs – conversely, America’s solvency and freedom of indebtedness crucially depends on China’s ‘trust.’ The use of economic levers to blackmail China thus gives rise to the danger of an elementary self-destructive behavior of the American economic and financial power. And the functioning of the latter is known to be part of the US-world power’s national security.

- Nor does the tried and tested means of subverting a rule from within eventually really take effect in this case. Mao’s heirs have seen to that; they have abstained from communism but not from the execution of the state’s monopoly on force. The party, the police, and the army have gone through a capitalistic conversion into a “stable” institution, which the states of the free world were not the last to literally profit from. Because of this, however, and this is the snag, human rights and democracy have also been prevented from unfolding instead of developing themselves naturally out of the “market-economic freedom,” as had been predicted in many western capitals. With that, many opportunities for sponsoring oppositional trends and discontent peoples, on which the advocates of freedom are so keen, do not apply.

The result is unambiguous: the unwieldy Chinese rival that has become so strong, its reason of state and the use of its power eludes the desired control. It doesn’t permit interference. This is the intolerable state under which the United States suffers.

2. A not so generous offer for a harsh demand

Obama’s change is a new attempt to get the much too autonomous Asian great power under control. This state power, with its ambitions and its enormously increasing capacities is supposed to be incorporated into the American regime of control and be made productive for the US’s world political agenda and in this way also safe. The new president of the United States confronts the People’s Republic of China with the generous offer to recognize it as world power with own, admittedly competing, interests, so also with growing demands on sources of wealth and global political influence, and with the firm invitation to exercise its legitimate interests at America’s side – as co-world-ordering power. At the same time, he combines his offer of an “extensive political coordination” with a demand that asks from China quite the opposite of what he presents as offer:

“Given China’s growing capabilities and influence, we have an especially compelling need to work with China to meet global challenges. Yet China’s very size and importance also raises the risk of competition and rivalry that can thwart cooperation… …So how do we square this circle? Adapting to the rise of China, as well as other emerging powers like India and Brazil, while protecting our own national interests. This, I believe, is one of the key strategic challenges of our time. And the key to solving it is what I would call strategic reassurance.
Strategic reassurance rests on a core, if tacit, bargain. Just as we and our allies must make clear that we are prepared to welcome China’s ‘arrival’, as you all have so nicely put it, as a prosperous and successful power, China must reassure the rest of the world that its development and growing global role will not come at the expense of security and well-being of others. Bolstering that bargain must be a priority in the U.S.-China relationship.”
(US-Deputy-Secretary of State, Steinberg, speech in Washington, 24.09.09 – http://www.state.gov/s/d/2009/129686.htm)

Obama’s man touts a political deal for services rendered and services returned. The content of the envisaged bargain: The United States assures the PR China to be “ready to accept a growing role for China.” For this willingness, China is supposed to stick to a condition in return: if and only if the PRC does not infringe on the leading power’s rights and vested interests – and the USA certainly speaks and acts in the name of the entire world – will America tolerate its interests. The suggested ‘bargain’ is impressive because of two points: firstly the obvious inappropriateness of the American offer in comparison to the Chinese need, and secondly the insolence with which America nonetheless insists on China’s subordination, which it lacks the means to enforce. Generously, America offers respect and toleration – and already this is something China is supposed to honor explicitly: quite an unreasonable demand for a great power that avowedly regards it as self-evident that its really captured capacities and its growing influence in the world of states be respected – and with it also China’s purpose and right to assert its interests everywhere as well as to change the established balance of powers within the world of states. The US-demand to relinquish this claim, to allow Washington to dictate the limits of China’s ‘permitted’ self-interest, is not only adventurous in respect to China’s intentions. The demand also misses the level of the capacities that the country has long since achieved: even the world power America can no longer evade China – this is something Obama on his part after all has to admit; China is active as a global economic power and independent ‘global player’ on all the continents and it has all the licenses of the imperialistic world for doing so – America would have to terminate them!

Obama’s program of persuading an autonomously-‘emancipated’ great power like China by a comprehensive offer of toleration and cooperation into relinquishing a ‘rivaling’ world-policy not only reveals America’s unshakeable claim to maintain its leading role but in particular the dilemma to which the American policy owes its change.[2]

3. Attempts to swear the (much too) powerful rival to ‘common interests’

The diplomatic offensive, with which Obama is seeking to convince Beijing’s leadership of the benefit of a ‘positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship,’ is accordingly arranged. The script avowedly aims at the powerful rival’s ‘engagement’, in other words on its integration. This formula stands for the endeavor to engage the nationalism of a foreign state power to a constructive role within the framework of the American world-ordering program by peaceful means – that is by all means beyond the use of military force.

For this purpose, Obama’s team is first of all trying to pointedly enhance China’s status as regards their bilateral and international relationship. The offer to the “political global player” is being puffed up, the country promoted to a “key nation” and the promotion underlined at summit meetings by well-stage-managed evidence of respect vis-à-vis the ruling figures. A “strategic and economic dialogue (S&ED)” is institutionalized, on which the future fate of the world is supposed to depend in substance; meantime, there’s even a rumor of a “G2.” The international supervisory bodies are being reformed, China’s rights and those of other “emerging markets” within them are being strengthened. As explanation meant to back up the credibility of the offer to deal with China as co-ordering world power in the future, the Americans declare that “we need China to meet the world’s challenges.” In this way they emphasize that they have turned away from Bush’s “unilateralism” – something which above all confirms to the Chinese leadership how untenable the American claim for hegemony has become – and they thus mean to encourage China on its part to let the old “clichés” and reservations against this claim drop and to turn them into motives for supporting America. This is how the programmatic intention that seems so absurd is meant: “We will…put special emphasis on encouraging …China…to be full partners in tackling the global agenda” (H. Clinton, http.//www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/July/126071htm) – as if this state would be missing any imperialistic ambitions in influencing and shaping the world of states. The emphasis in such a diplomatic hypocrisy lies on the responsible use of power, and what is meant is that its high-handed use disturbs America.

What is more, the demands that Beijing's politicians ought to fulfill – as a service returned for Obama’s friendly invitation – are on their part presented as just one big offer to China’s national interest. The request to agree to the American world-ordering agenda is not meant to be an unreasonable demand because both great powers and in general “most nations worry about the same global threats” (H. Clinton June 15, 2009 http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/july/126071.htm). Being on the side of the strongest power on earth, beyond any disputes, in the fight against the so-called “common challenges” must be in China’s enlightened self-interest – so runs the dogma of the new diplomacy of co-opting. For that, the traditional disputes with the Chinese – the Taiwan-question, the “manipulated” yuan-exchange-rate, the lack of democratic freedoms, the dealing with the Tibetans and other minorities are first of all officially being played down. The Dalai Lama is honored in Congress, but the president abstains from meeting him at present in order not to provoke the Chinese government before his visit to Beijing.[3]

Instead, Obama is pressing for a consensus in all strategic main issues on which America’s (forceful) world order depends: anti-terrorism, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, security of energy resources, or else climate-change, and the safeguarding of world-economic growth.

When equating its own vital interests with those of its designated partner qua threat scenario, it is perfectly clear to the US-administration that the “natural differences” of both great powers that compete for the sources of wealth and the scope of their political influence also and in particular concern these ‘fields of common interests.’ And this is even so clear that the administration doesn’t see any harm in letting exactly these fields of allegedly identical challenges appear on its detailed list of remaining “mistrust” as central points of the conflict. The mentioned global challenges obviously have quite a different national meaning for the upstart China than they have for the traditional superpower United States, which is why tackling them in practice turns out to be rather different.

- The PRC has meanwhile advanced to a first-rate capitalistic economic power. Does it therefore not necessarily have an elementary interest that the global economy will come out of the crisis as rapidly as possible? So runs the American administration’s rhetorical question within the framework of the “economic dialogue.” Somehow it does. The Chinese government has at any rate launched a huge “stimulus package,” i.e., mobilized lots of credit so that China will quickly come out of the crisis, as a winner of course. Other successful nations have just done the same thing. On that, Beijing now gets special congratulations from Washington. In an exemplary way – so it is said, slightly falsifying the true motives – the Chinese administration has followed the American task and boosted its domestic economy. The praise is the transition for announcing further desires for correction. China would anyway be well advised to adjust its economic policy in this sense. Only to its own advantage, of course, it is expected to make itself less dependent on exports in the future, in other words to stop monopolizing the American market by means of a politically falsified exchange-rate of the yuan. Rather, it ought to build itself up as “an important source of global consumption,” i.e., as market for others, thus contributing to the “stability of global growth.” (Steinberg, ibid) The advantage would thus be a typical “win-win-situation” as America asks for: the United States could massively earn in export business, use China as its ‘growth engine’, thus enabling it to remove undesired “imbalances” in its national accounts. And China, the biggest lender to the USA, would no longer have to worry about the dollar’s value, or else the devaluation of its – anyway over-sized – currency reserves; thus enabling itself to stop questioning the dollar as leading currency. Practical assistance for re-education is added free of charge in the form of penalty tariffs for Chinese tires and steel tubes. The measure is accompanied by the assurance (a case of “reassurance”!) that it is in no way meant to be misunderstood as the beginning of a “protectionist spiral” because both sides firmly stick to the WTO. Its rules are after all binding for fair trade, and only that trade is fair that guarantees America’s benefit.

In this way it becomes on the one hand obvious that this equation actually no longer holds and that the times are gone when the dollar was “our currency and your problem.” That was then – when and as long as the money-makers and their national sponsors saw themselves without any alternative bound to the only world power’s money and had to rely on it. On the other hand, it also becomes manifest that Obama sticks to the claim to restore the order of competition that suits the USA – an order with a built-in guarantee for America’s benefit. And all the world is asking itself how ‘the crisis-beaten USA dependent on China’s role as a creditor’ will find the necessary pressure without harming itself.

- On the next field of the common relationship, there is a twofold antagonism of the highest imperialistic caliber at stake, which China should eliminate by cooperative behavior. The diplomatic invitation in the form of a documentary report –
“The United States and China share an interest in stable and sustainable energy supplies…” is followed by an enormously constructive demand to the Chinese to contain itself. It reads as follows:
“Resource competition is another area of concern. With its rapid growth and large population, China’s demand for resources, whether oil, gas, or minerals, is surging, but resource mercantilism is not the appropriate response. China’s moves in that direction have raised legitimate concern not only in the United States, but also among our other partners and among resource-rich developing nations. The problem is not just that China’s mercantilist approach disrupts markets; it also leads China to problematic engagement with actors like Iran, Sudan, Burma, and Zimbabwe, and undermines the perception of China as a country interested in contributing to regional stability and humanitarian goals.” (Steinberg)

China is conceded a ‘legitimate right’ to oil and gas. But when it sets about securing its access to resources by treaties with raw-material states – as is standard among modern imperialists – then it firstly is about an illegitimate trade at the expense of the American energy supply, a historically out-dated “mercantilist approach.” And when China – for lack of alternatives in a US-controlled world of resources – gets involved with states that the White House boycotts as dissidents, then this is secondly undermining America’s security interests. This is the way in which the USA tell China that its competitive behavior is no longer tolerable – but in the way of an appeal to China to search for acceptable ways of supplying energy in order to avoid damage to its reputation. The Americans can perhaps even be helpful thereby. There’s at any rate a bilateral project under way for using solar energy.

- The Obama-administration even wants to win the nuclear power China to a tightened regime of “nuclear proliferation.” The diplomatic version that “China has begun to do more to support the international proliferation regime” (Steinberg, ibid) and the subsequent announcement of “hope” that the Chinese leadership will be willing in the hot case of Iran to eventually escalate isolation and sanctions at the side of the USA are revealing one thing: the PRC considers this “global threat” of nuclear armament in wrong hands also differently and it means something else than the American President when it presses for a “diplomatic solution” and rejects a forcible one. It at any rate sees no reason to abandon a promising partner like Iran, because the latter insists on its right tonuclear technology and disturbs the American order in the Middle East. Rather it invests there in the development of fossil resources, bets on future pipeline-routes to China, and considers a closer political alliance with a state that the West is taking for a trouble-shooter.

- Nor does the encouraging thanks to China for showing exemplary (co-)operation in the case of denuclearizing North Korea lack a certain irony. When America insists on a “keep going!” it does so because of its discontent with the results of the famous “Six-Party Talks” – in a pointed gesture, North Korea tests its newly acquired nuclear and missile material without China feeling called upon to deprive the country of its oil- and food-supply. Instead, the chief in office, Wen Jiabao, publicly even offers “military help in case of a crisis” to the “regime of Pyongyang.” The same thing applies here, too: China is against a nuclear armament of North Korea but out of its own national calculations. It seeks to avoid a “destabilization” of the region that would lead to American war-actions against its neighboring country, but is in no way interested in a deprivation of power of this “buffer state” at the expense of an American-South-Korean-Japanese security expansion. So China refutes the definitive extortion and starving-out of North Korea and does not even properly enforce the jointly agreed-upon heightened sanctions and controls.

So there are two things revealed in all these and other fields of the “common interests”: on the one hand that Obama’s diplomatic offensive to co-opt China comes from the harsh conflicts that have opened up between both nations. America tries to get the PRC to adopt its ambitions in ordering the world. China is expected to regard these ambitions as its own conditions for competition and success, recognize the USA as leading power and guarantor even of its rights, and support it accordingly. On the other hand, all the diplomatic efforts of the new US-administration reveal that America is lacking an effective political lever to force China into good behavior. China is unimpressed and uses its means to build up its economic and strategic positions. [4] And it uses Obama’s state visit in November mainly to convey its own standpoint to the polite guest as regards America’s attempts to absorb it – and what is more, in an explicitly self-confident manner, as is reported from all sides: China is prepared for a world-political cooperation but not at America’s conditions but in line with its national interests. And it defines them itself. When Obama then informs his disappointed US-public, which reported the Chinese “no,” that there were “no breakthroughs" in elementary questions but “the foundation laid for progress” (Los Angeles Times, November 19, 2009), this is also a clarification. The world power USA does not want to and will not put up with China’s response.

4. The need for control in armament diplomacy

America’s diplomatic offensive vis-à-vis China is a practical test for whether something like neutralizing and harnessing the new big competitor can be done peacefully. The president on his part sees it that way or in a similar way when conceding without drama that his line is less due to a new recipe for success but more to a fundamental embarrassment that China has inflicted on the super power. Statements of the following sort –

“I have no illusion that the USA and China will agree on every issue, nor choose to see the world in the same way,” Mr. Obama said. ”But that only makes dialogue more important.” (New York Times, July 28, 2009)

reveal the negative starting point of all the efforts to integrate China, namely the fact that the interests of imperialistic states exclude themselves. China's building itself up as autonomous world-political power on the globe runs counter to the US-world-order; but this is happening without the USA being able to prevent it. Predictability and control are therefore necessary already for the desired continuous diplomatic contact to emerge. This is also and in particular true for the field of the military balance of power. Here, the PRC has a lot to catch up with. And it is busily arming itself. Above all, it procures a modern war fleet in accordance to the acknowledged imperial maxim: ‘Whoever wants to protect his global interests, has to rule the waves.’ That again gives Washington “serious concerns.” In face of the “expansive manner” of the Chinese naval forces, which no longer restrict themselves to coastguards, of the territorial conflicts with several neighboring countries (for islands and sea-beds containing raw materials) that have become more explosive, of diverse incidents with US-war-ships and so on and so forth, the US-government is asking aloud what “China’s motives and ambitions” are. There must be something principally wrong with them. The Pacific after all still is the US-Navy's domain and this ought to remain so. So it can also be taken for granted that the American fleet “is active there” as usual. But this doesn’t prevent China from extending its military presence. It’s just the same case: The PCR doesn’t contravene the imperialistic rules that the Americans have set and call the world order; it uses them, in this case the “freedom of the seas.” It also respects the clear casus belli for the USA – no force against allies, including Taiwan – without relinquishing any claim, but nonetheless makes progress with the “natural” dialectics of displaying its power economically and militarily. [5] This is the reason why America considers it to be absolutely imperative that “transparency” for the purpose of “confidence building” be restored. Hence Obama has arranged regular military contacts with his colleague in office in Beijing. The Americans – at least – want to know what the Chinese are doing on the sector of the competition of forces; and the Chinese want to know what the Americans are offering for protecting their vital interests.

The generous offer of a partnership to the challenger from Asia therefore also contains a moment of ‘avoiding hostile developments.’ “Mutual reassurance” – so Obama’s diplomat for Asia – just as it had been pursued with the enemy in the Cold War, now is to preserve and foster the perfect amity with China. This political vocabulary is not really unfitting. Its meaning after all contains all the relevant facets – from a well-meaning consideration of foreign national interests and an assurance of good intentions to the appeasement of the counterpart, when things are becoming precarious, up to the clarification with which kind of resolute power the opponent is faced with.

5. The United States’ “key partners” in the region refuse the role America has assigned them for

When the US-policy is brought “into line” with the new balance of power in Asia, enhancing the world political status of the PRC and the relationship to it, this has consequences for the “rest of the world,” especially for the neighboring countries of the “new giant.” Already the US-government’s comprehensive offer for cooperation is the starting point for new national calculations, produces new necessities and chances for enforcing one’s own claims. Projects for building an alliance with the powerful Chinese neighbor are also finding a new impetus. These “reactions” that on their part contribute to an imperialistic stirring up of the region are not the issue of this article here. But it becomes obvious that the American world power in its turning to the “new power center of the world” is going to be faced with autonomous decisions of sovereign powers of a smaller or bigger caliber that it didn’t order. This is also true for America’s friends firmly included in its plans. Two examples:


When the USA turns to its future main rival China, it avowedly does not mean to do so at the expense of its traditional allied relationships in the region. It is not part of Obama’s calculations that in particular the Japanese state views the political promotion of the PRC, which is the main addressee of the security alliance between the USA, Japan, and South Korea, as another proof of the “loss of importance,” i.e., the precarious ‘situation’ of its own nation. Nor did Obama in the least reckon with this nation’s need to emancipate itself from its one-sided dependence on America’s means and calculations. To the contrary: of course does the Obama-administration first of all take it for entirely certain that Japan, South Korea, and China’s remaining neighbors will develop a constant, even growing need for protection against their rising neighbor. This has immediately been chalked up as beneficial prospect: since such a guarantee for protection can only come from America, these countries’ political loyalty and military allegiance to the alliance will be quasi automatically ensured when China will display its power! This was the promising assumption. In the meantime, half a year later, however, Washington in all earnestness has to see to it that the main ally Japan – after its regime change – considers the ‘situation’ exactly the same way and will not on its part think up new ways for successfully asserting itself. [6] After all, there are strong signs pointing in that direction, which Obama’s strategists take note of “with great concern”:

- In January 2010, the Hatoyama administration terminates the supply of US-warships in the Indian Ocean, which are involved in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

- It insists on a revision of the new agreement, in negotiation for a decade, about the stationing of troops, which is supposed to provide a remaining future secure bulwark in Japan for tens of thousands of US-soldiers and the most modern war material.

- When, in his familiar manner, the US-Secretary of Defense thereupon raises a warning right from the middle of Tokyo that the USA will insist on the treaty and on its bases in Okinawa and that Japan’s backing down will undermine firstly the security alliance with America as well as secondly the security of the entire East-Asian-Pacific region, his Japanese opposite number actually dares to contradict him in full spotlight. So the American press has to notice “nasty notes” and “openly made comments of objection” coming from Japan against American demands – things that “the USA has not heard for the last decade.”

- Last but not least, the prime minister Hatoyama and his Democratic Party in Tokyo are fostering the vision of creating an East-Asian Community along the example of the European Union, with the PRC and Japan as leading duo – what, in Washington’s view, would amount to an exclusion of the USA. For if Japan voted at all for an inclusion of America in order to “balance” the imminent Chinese domination, it would be in a “hopeless position.”

Instead of a dead-certain ally, the United States is thus faced with a “new challenge.” And Obama’s first state visit to Japan stands under the prior premise to avert disagreement. The president is given the advice “to end speculation that Tokyo wants to enhance its relationship with its neighbors at Washington’s expense.” (Interview with Sheila Smith, “President Obama Tours Asia,” November 11, 2009 http://www.cfr.org/publication/20639/president_obama_tours_asia.html ) In Tokyo, the American beacon of hope invokes the 50-years-long “indestructible partnership,” while wishing it to continue for the entire 21st century. In return he promises “more equal rights.” The Japanese beacon of hope on his part says yes to the alliance but no ‘keep on going’!” – politely spoken: one now has to “cast one’s eyes into the future and not back to the past.” After all, the Japanese state power had been “somewhat passive” – in other words a bit obsequious – in the last 50 years. And that’s enough now.

So the USA first of all has to register that its “most important” ally in the region cancels its passive subordination, which was such a comfortable basis for America’s military presence in Asia, even though Obama is intending a special role in the framework of the new East-Asian strategy also and in particular for Japan and South Korea. As powerful Asian states, their cooperation is needed for getting under way and establishing a proper “multilateralism” in the “powerhouse of the world”, i.e., one that secures America its permanent access to the local sources of wealth and the control of the local powers. [7] Controlling China is of course the first priority.


The strategy of channeling China’s inevitable emancipation by cooperative integration explicitly or likewise applies to other former “emerging powers” too. As far as India is concerned – the other “rising Asian global power” – its technological and military display of power is even partially being fostered in that a delivery of entire nuclear power stations, fuel rods, and high tech-weapons is being planned. To that extent, there’s continuity with the Bush-administration’s policy, which by actually recognizing India as nuclear power paved the way for ‘a new phase in deepening bilateral cooperation between the world’s two largest democracies.’ (November 24, 2009,http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/joint-statement-between-prime-minister-dr-singh-and-president-obama) The purpose is and remains not only to secure the prospects of business but to gain increasing influence on the world-political alignment of this ‘21st century-power-giant’ courted from all sides. For the USA has firmly planned on India for a long-lasting strategic partnership, as Secretary of State Mrs. H. Clinton confirmed on her state-visit:

“We see India as one of a few key partners worldwide who will help us shape the 21st century,” She pleaded for a “dramatic extension of our common agenda and a bigger role for India in solving global challenges.” (Indiatimes, July 19, 2009)

At the same time, this involves the slightly modified assigned role to the South-Asian great power that it should be placed into position less as a “counterweight against China” (Bush) but as a “stabilizing factor” that helps America in all its arising tasks when ordering the world, not only in East-Asia. In the case of India as well, the dialectic of strengthening its “international role” for functionalizing the rival nation is pursued. America grants India the status of a world power entitled to demands; from now on it is allowed and supposed to contribute to supervising the world economy within the framework of the G7. At the same time, the Obama-administration is emphasizing the price that the assumption of ‘greater responsibility’ will demand: India too, has to come up to the requirements of the world order. This means in particular:

- India is expected to commit itself to combating terror as desired by America. It is not only supposed to go on fostering Afghanistan’s rebuilding in order to gain positions there against its main enemy Pakistan, but also to consider this enmity finished on its part and to fight together with Pakistan’s government against Islamic terrorists. For Pakistan is needed as America’s military ally and kindly asked to deploy its troops at its north-western front against Al-Quaeda and the Taliban instead of being prepared for a superfluous confrontation at its south-western border with India, its arch-enemy.

- India that has not signed up to the non-proliferation treaty for nuclear weapons and considers “the NPT as a flawed treaty…that did not recognize the need for universal, non-discriminatory verification and treatment”[8] (India's External Affairs Minister) is expected to engage in enforcing a tightened global nuclear regime that will also restrict its ambitions in building-up nuclear capacities.[9]

- The supply of military equipment and other ‘sensitive technology’ to India will be bound to its willingness to subscribe to an ‘end-user agreement.’ The latter concedes America the right to control on the spot whether India really functions as ‘end-user’ of the exported power devices, in other words does not resell them or use them in a way in which they weren’t intended.

Small wonder therefore that there’s growing suspicion – which India anyway widely holds – on the partner’s side that the USA may misuse its sovereignty and ‘merely’ harness the country’s capacities. New Delhi announces opposition so that Washington’s calming words are needed here, too. But it is also clear that statements like that from H. Clinton – “It is not incumbent on the United States to give orders to India” – will calm down the ‘concerned voices’ from the capital. For, with that, America’s demands on India are in no way cleared out of the way.


[1] Already President George Bush, when taking office, had declared the “East-Asian-Pacific are” to be a strategic priority of America’s world-order policy. The new administration accuses him of having seriously neglected this area in the wake of the anti-terrorist war. Foreign Secretary Hilary Clinton’s first sentence at her visit to a foreign country – to the ASEAN-conference – therefore was an announcement that many participants understood as a warning: “America is back!” Both, the accumulation of capitalistic wealth as well as the concentration of rising great powers in this region – from Indonesia to China and India – have taught the necessity to the new US-administration to (re)gain the economic and strategic positions in this “powerhouse of the world of states” on which – so its own diagnosis – America’s existence as a world power will decide itself. “We consider that – our engagement in East Asia – indeed as crucial for our own future.” (US-Deputy-secretary of State, Steinberg, before Obama’s visit to the “powerhouse nations” in East Asia, Washington Post, November 7, 2009)

[2] So it is no wonder that the Obama-administration has seen itself in need at the domestic front to prove its realism, in other words the prospects of success of its China-strategy. For the latter is at once under suspicion and fire from the side of its concerned colleagues who consider the offer for cooperation to Peking’s leaders as nothing but a sign of weak leadership and unpatriotic retreat in the face of the future main rival. In response, the diplomats of “change” are literally becoming theoretical in terms of imperialism and are denying “the dogma” of the inevitability of war between an established and a rising world power. The traditional view which maintains the incompatibility of interests would thus take a “zero-sum-game” of the competition between powers for granted: “…but historians since Thucydides have pointed to a long string of conflicts generated by the emergence or rising powers that disturb the old order and challenge the existing power structure and predict the same gloomy future for China’s rise. Political scientists…talk darkly of security dilemmas that lead nations to take actions to protect their own security against potential adversaries, and that, by taking those actions, fuel the very conflicts they were hoping to avert. These academic perspectives obviously have strong resonance in the political debates we hear not only in the United States, but in China today.” (US Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg …Keynote Address to the Center for a New American Century, September 24, 2009, http://www.cnas.org/files/multimedia/documents ) The Obama-administration doesn’t really take this academic perspective. It wants to take serious efforts in persuading China to “share our vision of a new geopolitics of win-win solutions rather than zero-sum rivalries.” (ibid) – because it is better for all sides when China doesn’t challenge the existing structure of power. This is a fine denial of how likely the American-Chinese relationship is to lead into conflict!

[3] This doesn’t shirk the President back from sending a reminder in Shanghai and Beijing afterwards as regards the realization of human rights as “universal values” whose exemplary keeping “has made the American nation so strong,” and from making clear that the United States sticks to its basic legitimacy-reservation vis-à-vis China’s sovereignty.

[4] This alone partially challenges the United States to a defensive, inducing it to drop reservations against “China-friendly countries,” whose authorities it combated still yesterday, in order to avoid further competitive disadvantages. The Obama-administration recently offered Myanmar and Sudan prospects for cooperation in order not to let these states become the Chinese rival’s exclusive spheres of business and bases.

[5] “As China’s economy has grown and its global interests have expanded, its military spending has quite naturally increased, and its capabilities have been extended at sea, in the air, and in space. And in some cases, these enhanced capabilities have been coupled with actions, such as China’s over-board assertion of its rights in the EEZs (exclusive economic zones: areas of the sea, in which the bordering countries have specific economic and military rights of utilization), that have caused the United States and China’s neighbors to question China’s intentions.” (Steinberg, ibid)

[6] “A high official of the Foreign Ministry said the USA had felt well in considering Japan as a constant in the US-relations to Asia. This is no longer the case, he said and added that the toughest nut were not China at the time being but Japan.” (Dawn, October 16, 2009)

[7] “So I want every American to know that we have a stake in the future of this region, because what happens here has a direct affect on our lives at home…I know that the United States has been disengaged from these organizations in recent years. So let me be clear: those days have passed. As an Asia Pacific nation, the united States expects to be involved in the discussions that shape the future of this region, and to participate fully in appropriate organizations as they are established and evolve.” (Obama’s Tokyo Address, Washington Wire, November 13, 2009)

[8] A government representative in New Delhi, September 24, 2009, quoted according to RIA Novosti.

[9] So India is supposed to join the general ban on nuclear tests and the production of weapons-grade materials: “In order to prevent the production of further nuclear weapons, we pursue to negotiate a new international treaty that will verifiably prohibit the production of any fissile material for nuclear weapons. Out of the countries with unprotected facilities for fissile material, the United States, Great Britain, France, and Russia have already declared a moratorium for the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. Further countries, which would be afflicted by this new treaty, are among others China, India, and Pakistan.” (Translation of a quote by B. Obama, cited by the German Amerikadienst).