Fear of Wounded Pride Drives Our China Policy

U.S. policymaker are wearing blinders if they think China will take containment sitting down. Pictured: Chinese missiles. (Photo: the Diplomat)

U.S. policymaker are wearing blinders if they think China will take containment sitting down. Pictured: Chinese missiles. (Photo: the Diplomat)

Right-wing mass media, for instance, Fox and its publications, has demonstrably affected public opinion. Progressive sentiment is frozen out, but sometimes it does find its way into centrist or once conservative media. An example is the once conservative, now more centrist, New York Daily News featuring front page after front page attacking gun advocates. In that setting progressive media is probably capable of having its greatest impact.

Another example is the National Interest, a national-security publication that was actually co-founded by a Kristol (Irving), but, devoted to realist policy, is currently center right. Yet if often features progressive opinions.

For instance, a recent article by John Glaser titled The Ugly Truth About Avoiding War With China. He writes that “China threatens the United States only insofar as America insists on being the dominant power in China’s backyard.” Apparently the United States seeks to follow a policy of containment. But, “If we try to contain China’s rise … these predictions of doom may prove right.”

… containment is problematic: it carries the dubious presumption that China’s most likely reaction to U.S. expansion in the region is to become a docile power, eager to give up its regional ambitions. In reality, Washington’s determination to maintain dominance in East Asia is much more likely to generate an intense security dilemma.

In fact

America’s presence along China’s maritime periphery is highly militarized and provocative, with the U.S. Pacific Fleet conducting countless exercises and training events with dozens of countries in the region. Washington’s massive military presence on the Korean Peninsula, and just across the East China Sea on the southern tip of the Japanese archipelago, are perceived as substantive threats to Chinese security. America’s position as the largest naval presence in the East and South China Seas also stokes fear in China, particularly because roughly 40 percent of Chinese oil imports come by sea and pass through sea-lanes that are subject to interdiction by the United States.

…  Conflict over the sovereignty of Taiwan or uninhabited islands in the South China Sea risks entangling the United States in a regional war that serves the interests of other countries, not its own.

In other words:

Maintaining military predominance in East Asia simply doesn’t add much to our unusually secure position.

In the end:

The struggle for primacy in East Asia is not fundamentally one for security or tangible economic benefits. What is at stake is largely status and prestige. As the scholar William Wohlforth explains, hegemonic power transitions throughout history actually see the rising power seeking “recognition and standing rather than specific alterations in the existing rules and practices that constituted the order of the day.”

It might hurt U.S. pride to stand down in the Pacific, but that might be all that we would lose.