US can no longer compel China to do its bidding
by David M Lampton/ 10 December 2017/ Financial Review
On entering office, US President Donald Trump put several contentious issues with China on the backburner in the hope of achieving his primary goal — North Korea’s denuclearisation. When that failed, the frontburner of US–China relations became crowded with previously repressed issues.
Several of these — US freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, talk of steel and aluminium tariffs, weapons sales to Taiwan, threats to tighten technology and investment flows as well as secondary sanctions on Chinese entities — threaten to become serious problems if not managed in a more careful manner than the Trump administration is currently demonstrating.
So what might the United States usefully do? There are three issues on which Washington should focus: fostering an economic balance of power in Asia that promotes regional stability, achieving more reciprocity in US–China relations and addressing the North Korean nuclear and missile problem.
A central part of Xi Jinping’s geoeconomic vision is the expansion of regional links and the promotion of urbanisation and growth on China’s periphery to make China the central node in this growing region. For Beijing, this means north–south connectivity — namely supply chains that originate in China and extend to the Indian Ocean, South China Sea, Andaman Sea, Bay of Bengal and beyond.
Unless Washington wants Asia to become a unipolar sphere of Chinese influence, it should become more involved in the construction of regional infrastructure to foster linkages that are not just north–south but also east–west from India to Vietnam through Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia and on to Japan and the wider Pacific. Read more…