China has not offered official recognition about how its own “assertive behavior” in the region has led to conditions that have allowed the US to assert itself, including
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s comments at the 2010 ASEAN Regional Forum that “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact”; the continued sparring between Chinese vessels and those of its neighbors in the East and South China Sea; and the general unattractive nationalist rhetoric of Beijing’s official newspapers warning that if countries in Asia “don’t want to change their ways” they will need to “prepare for the sound of cannons.”
Some analysts have expressed concerns that US military expansion in the Pacific could backfire and lead to a “cold war-style standoff” with China. Others comment that, if Obama is confronting China, such is an “inevitable consequence of being a power in the region.” There is no question that China is the heavyweight there and, with its economy thriving as those of US and of Europe struggle and slump, that China is charting its path to be dominant on the global stage. In asserting the US’s presence in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, Obama is taking the long view and thinking beyond his own presidency, as BBC editor Mark Mardell says:
President Obama thinks he sees the big picture and where America’s long-term interests lie. The Pacific region gives him a chance to practise his doctrine of leadership through alliances.
But it is also a region with some big, tough and seemingly intractable problems.
What sort of leadership America provides and with what aims will be a critical question not only for him but presidents to come.
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