Why the US will gain nothing from seeking to contain China

April 26, 2016 / scmp.com

In the midst of escalating tensions between the US and China, particularly in the East and South China seas, serious questions are being raised about the future of peace, security and prosperity in the region. Reflecting on these tensions, we need to return to the founding principles that originally brought wealth and mutual prosperity to both nations.

Much has been written about China’s “peaceful rise”. And with this meteoric rise there has been an increase in military modernisation and its assertiveness. This has raised concerns among China’s neighbours regarding its intentions.

Beijing, for its part, has not helped to clarify these intentions. Instead, President Xi Jinping (習近平) muddled the situation when he declared that China would not “pursue militarisation” of the South China Sea, then proceeded to install surface-to-air missile batteries on Woody Island in the Paracels and conduct exercises to shoot down unmanned aircraft. It has created not only a credibility issue but also elevated concerns about his ability to command the military.

For its part, the US has responded to China’s rise by blowing the dust off of the old containment playbook of the former Soviet era and modifying it with an element of economic engagement. This “congagement” (containment and engagement) would seek to contain China militarily while continuing to engage it economically.

China wants peace and prosperity in the region. Yet, its actions create precisely the opposite conditions. Washington claims it welcomes China’s peaceful rise. Yet, it treats China like a parvenu that doesn’t fit into the American-led world order. Therefore, Beijing continually needs to be humbled.

If Washington really wants peace and prosperity in the region, words must be matched by deeds. Cold-war mindsets like “mutually assured destruction” will not work in the more nuanced Sino-American relationship. The Chinese experience, beginning with colonial America, has been more a case of economic engagement that worked towards “mutually assured prosperity”. Read more…

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