Home' Policy Magazine : Policy Vol 34 - No 1 Contents 50 POLICY • Vol. 34 No. 1 • Autumn 2018
BETWEEN DECLARATIONS AND DREAMS: CHINA, US FOREIGN POLICY AND SOUTHEAST ASIA
Ironically, the Chinese also have an interest,
at least in the short term, in a US that prudently
engages with and balances their rising power.
Indeed, if the US disengaged from Asia, regional
tensions would rapidly escalate. Japan would
plausibly acquire nuclear weapons, particularly
against a proven North Korean threat. In such
circumstances, Chinese confrontation with Japan
would intensify, and India and Pakistan would be
drawn into the conflict. Rising nationalism would
see the South Koreans hedge between China, Japan,
and an emboldened North Korea. Meanwhile
hedging states in Southeast Asia and the Pacific—
from Thailand and Singapore to Australia—would
have to make some hard choices.
If all this sounds like common sense, it bears
noting that common sense has been in short supply
in the region in recent years. Regional states have
prioritised economics over strategy and politics. Yet
as a Mao-era aphorism maintained, the people have
to concern themselves with politics because even if
they don’t care about politics, politics cares about
them. The principle still applies. Politics is alive and
well in the region.
Proactive diplomacy, statecraft and principled
but realist US engagement—as the National Security
Strategy suggests—are now needed more than ever.
This could prompt a more prudent version of the
‘China dream’ in order to contain regional conflict
rather than exacerbate it. The alternative, as Nixon
worried shortly before he died, was that opening to
China had unleashed ‘a Frankenstein [’s monster]’.
1 These include the 11 EU member countries of Bulgaria,
Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia,
Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia as well
as five EU accession countries from the Western Balkans:
Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro
2 See Thorston Benner et al, Authoritarian Advantage:
Responding to China’s Growing Political Influence in Europe
(Joint Report by the Mercator Centre for China Studies
and Global Public Policy Institute, February 2018), https://
3 National Security Strateg y of the United States of America
(NSS) (Washington DC, December 2017), p.47.
4 Australian Government, 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper
(Canberra, November 2017), p.25.
5 NSS, p.1
6 ‘James Mattis unveils new US military strategy focused
on threat from Russia and China’, ABC News (20 January
7 Halford J. Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality
(Westport: Greenwood Press, 1962), p.70.
8 As above.
9 Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1994), p.813.
10 This is the implication of the Australian 2017 Foreign Policy
White Paper which asserts ‘the centrality of the US alliance’
to Australia’s security whilst at the same time viewing
‘strengthening our comprehensive strategic partnership
with China’ as ‘vital’ (see note 4), p. 37.
11 Hillary Clinton, ‘America’s Pacific Century’, Foreign Policy
(11 October 2011), http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/10/11/
12 Jeffrey Goldberg, ‘The Obama Doctrine’, The Atlantic
(April 2016), http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/
13 See Walter Russell Mead, Special Providence: American
Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World (New York:
Routledge, 2002), pp.223-227.
14 Henry Kissinger, World Order Reflections on the Character
of Nations and the Course of History, (London: Allen Lane,
15 S. Rajaratnam, The Prophetic and the Political, eds Chan
Heng Chee and Obaid Ul Haq (Singapore: Institute of
Southeast Asian Studies, 2007), p.288.
16 Rosemary Foot, ‘Identity politics and the US rebalance to
Asia’ (Seoul: East Asia Institute, March 2016).
17 Yong Sun Ha and Yul Sohn The Co-evolution of Korea and
Japan (Seoul: East Asia Institute, August 2015
18 ‘Come Together on the Abe Road’, The Economist (12
19 Majuri Mukherjee, ‘India walking the line between China
and the US’, The Diplomat (27 April 2016).
20 Goldberg, ‘The Obama Doctrine’; NSS, p.46.
21 Cited in Greg Sheridan, ‘Sabre Rattling Imbues Shangri-
la with a Growing Sense of Menace’, Straits Times (5 June
22 Bonnie Glaser and Deep Lal cited in B. Schreer, ‘Should
Asia Be Afraid?’, The National Interest (20 August 2014),
23 Australian Government, Foreign Policy White Paper, p.46
24 Tom Mitchell, ‘UN Tribunal Rules Against Beijing in South
China Sea Dispute’, Financial Times (12 July 2016).
25 ‘China’s Overtures to Cement Ties with ASEAN’, Straits
Times (12 October 2013).
26 ‘China’s Island Building Lacks Strategic Logic’, Financial
Times (28 October 2015)
27 Henry Kissinger, On China (London: Allen Lane, 2011),
28 NSS, p.55.
29 James Bosco, ‘The One China Policy: What Would Nixon
Do?’, The Diplomat (5 January 2017).
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