The New York Times has an editorial today that seems to have been written in a complete vacuum to recent news events. I don't know if it is because the NYT is not covering news that it should and therefore its editorial board is not reading other news accounts or if the editorial board is not reading its own paper. Either way, "A Rising China" is an amazing piece of ignorance.
"China's rapid economic growth and steady military modernization are transforming power relations across Asia. In recent weeks, Beijing has reached out to its old rival, New Delhi, courted Taiwanese opposition parties and fanned old grievances against Japan. This comes on top of the long-term deals that Chinese diplomats have been signing to give Beijing special access to the raw materials of Southeast Asia and Australia.
It's time for the United States to take more notice. America may still be Asia's dominant military power, but its economic role is receding as China advances. Unfortunately, Asian policy, long a stepchild for the Bush administration, has been further marginalized, thanks to the exit of the State Department's most respected Asia hands, Richard Armitage and Mitchell Reiss. Paul Wolfowitz's move to the World Bank leaves a similar void at the Pentagon."
There is the thesis. The United States is asleep at the wheel. Surprising, since Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice has visited 6 Asian nations (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Japan and South Korea), including China, since January 2005 with a clear goal of containing China. Surprising also since Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick is in Asia doing a 6-country tour currently, with China as a primary focus (see DEL here). Mr. Zoellick is even working to build a relationship with Vietnam, aiding the Bush Administration's quest to reach out to former enemies that share a common goal of not seeing a hegemonic China [See DEL here]. Dawn's Early Light traces just three major US foreign policy moves in Asia: 1) reaction to China over Taiwan 2) relations with Japan to contain China and 3) building a strategic relationship with India to contain China.
US Foreign Policy with China over Taiwan: Maybe the editors missed this article from the NYT prior to Sec. Rice's visit "China Releases Political Prisoner Ahead of Visit by Rice" (March 17, 2005) that focused on human rights successes by the US. Could they also have missed this NYT headline "Rice Urges Europeans Not to Resume Arms Sales to China" after the diplomatically suave Beijing government passed the "anti-secession law" which authorized "non-peaceful means" to reunite China? [See DEL here and here]. President Bush on his trip to Europe received support from the EU that they would not lift the ban on arms to China that has been in place since the 1989 Tianamen Square massacre.
Secretary Rice, prior to President Bush's election was the one to coin the phrase in Foreign Affairs (2000) that China was a "strategic competitor". The Bush Administration is intensely focused on countering a "rising" China.
US Foreign Policy with Japan to Contain China: What about this headline from the NYT "With Taiwan as Security Issue, Rice Prepares to Meet Japan Leaders" that states "But an administration official said the United States and Japan would also issue a joint statement on Saturday confirming a 'common strategic direction' on policies toward Taiwan, China and other regional issues. On Taiwan, the statement will "encourage the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan Straits dialog," the administration official said. This would be the first time that Japan has joined the United States in voicing public concern over China's growing military buildup in the area." The same article states [See DEL here and here] that "She and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld are scheduled to meet with Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori Ono." This meeting paved the way for the update to the US-Japanese Security Arrangement that added the defense of Taiwan to its purpose.
Additionally, The International Herald Tribune (owned by the NYT) writes:
"Japan, a long-term U.S. ally, is also seen to be cooperating with Washington in a new initiative to build closer ties with India in response to China's growing influence."
The US seems to be particularly focused on Asia while fighting a major war in Iraq and around the world in the War on Terror. However, the NYT editorial position states:
"Japan: For years, the United States has urged Tokyo to cast off its postwar pacifism and play a larger role in regional defense. Japan's current prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, is happy to oblige. But he has combined a more assertive military stance with an embrace of right-wing nationalism that offends and alarms the Asian nations that suffered wartime Japanese aggression and atrocities. His repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo have been particularly provocative; the shrine is where top Japanese war criminals are among the honored and the country's Asian conquests are celebrated.
"In this context, it was a mistake for Washington to encourage Japan recently to declare a security interest in matters concerning Taiwan, a former Japanese colony. Beijing seized on this declaration, along with Japan's bid for a permanent United Nations Security Council seat, as a pretext for permitting three weekends of anti-Japanese violence last month. Beijing achieved its purpose of throwing Tokyo onto the defensive, but is wrong to oppose Japan's Security Council bid and reckless to stir up past grievances. China and Japan, Asia's two biggest economic powers, need to work out a healthier relationship, and Washington should be actively looking for ways to help them."
The US is criticized for having Japan support a democratically elected government in Taiwan with military force. The NYT position appears to be not to defend any friend or bear any burden for the cause of democracy, but rather to not upset rising totalitarian nations. This is a ridiculous position, especially in light of the fact that the US doesn't control Japanese prime ministers. What was the proper US response to China for authorizing "non-peaceful means" to reunite Taiwan to the mainland in the esteemed opinion of the NYT editorialists?
The US has supported Japan becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which would help balance a rising China. [See DEL here] Such a proactive policy of supporting a friendly democracy in Asia would seem to be a positive step in addressing China's "rise".
US Foreign Policy with India to Contain China: The US Sec. of State surprisingly offered India the opportunity to purchase 126 F-16s or F-18s, (here from the NYT) on her visit to New Delhi. She also offered New Delhi nuclear technology that was also attacked in the NYT editorial pages. Dawn's Early Light wrote on March 25th that the US was offering India major incentives to join the American efforts to promote democratic India over communist China:
- India should purchase the US F-16s (up to 125 aircraft)
- The US will approve a smaller sale of F-16s to Pakistan, with New Delhi's knowledge
- The US will offer future, more advanced military hardware including:
- missile defense
- nuclear reactor technology
- high tech programs
- other advanced US weapon systems
- The US will engage in a long-term strategic relationship with India to contain China and proactively work to propel India into being a major 21st century world power.
What about state-owned India Air's recent decision to purchase 50 Boeing aircraft over Airbus that was heavily lobbied by Mr. Mineta, the US Transportation Secretary, as well as Sec. Rice? The NYT covered the Boeing purchase here.
Willy Lam of the Jamestown Foundation makes a well-researched and structured argument to the same effect in his piece "Beijing's Alarm Over New 'US Encirclement Conspiracy'". Mr. Lam writes:
"One of Beijing's worst nightmares seems to be coming true. Having apparently steadied the course in the Middle East, the Bush administration is turning to Asia to tame its long-standing 'strategic competitor.' While this particular term has been shelved since 9/11 – and Sino-U.S. relations have improved thanks to China's cooperation with Washington's global anti-terrorist campaign – there are signs at least from Beijing's perspective that Washington is spearheading multi-pronged tactics to contain the fast-rising Asian giant."
Contrast this with the NYT editorial:
"China's prime minister visited India last month and signed a series of agreements intended to increase bilateral trade and end a long-festering set of border disputes that once brought the two countries to war. An improved relationship between these rapidly developing countries, which are home to about 40 percent of the world's population, can only be welcomed. But it signals an enormous shift in the Asian power equation."
The Chinese can offer an increase in trade to India. The US can offer technological assistance, trade, access to nuclear technology for power, safeguarding oil supplies from the gulf, military technology and hardware, support for a UN Security Council seat, and many other benefits. It would appear the US is providing far better incentives to India than China is. And additionally, India is much less likely to end up in a war against the US than it is its rival China, whom it has fought with several times before over border disputes.
The NYT editorial is markedly pacifist in nature and seems to be blind to the major US foreign policy initiatives in Asia that its own newsroom has reported on. Whether or not you agree with the policy of containment for China, one cannot argue that the US does not have a proactive policy regarding a "rising" China and cannot argue that the US is not working with Asian countries to support that policy.