Meeting the Challenge of Chinese Expansionism on the East Asian Littoral
By Dean Cheng, Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
Reviewed by John Sylvester
A major challenge for any American administration just now is maintaining a wise balance as we cope with a rising China. It is not an expansionist power in the way that Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia was. But with the collapse of communism in China, the regime's survival depends in part on its public's confidence in its defense of Chinese nationalist interests. China, thus, wants modern and substantial military forces and will be prickly in defending its maximum historical claims to land and sea. We just as obviously must defend the backs of our friends in the area.
This report from the Heritage Foundation lists Beijing's recent provocative moves in in what it calls its waters: These include placing the South China Sea under Chinese administrative control; rejecting mediation with other nations claiming waters and islets there; establishing in the East China Sea an air defense identification zone overlapping those of Japan and South Korea; and, in a show of force, dispatching the new Chinese aircraft carrier to the south, where it almost collided with an American naval vessel.
As could be expected, Mr. Cheng criticizes Secretary of State Kerry for "neglect" of East Asia. His own policy prescriptions include:
- More public diplomacy on our part in East Asia, including more American cultural centers in Asian universities, in the fashion of China's Confucius Institutes here. I hope Congress will take his advice and increase the Department of State budget for such.
- Advance free trade in Asia. Both Kerry and the President want to do this, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty negotiations face opposition in Congress from both liberals and conservatives.
- Maintain regional security. He states: "American security requires the U.S. getting its economic house in order—but economic improvement cannot be obtained at the price of gutting American security."
- Rethink inviting the PRC into RIMPAC. He maintains that including Chinese forces in these military exercises, without demanding U.S. military participation in Chinese similar exercises, amounts only to "currying favor with Beijing" and exposing the forces of friends and allies to massive intelligence penetration.
Though our Administration tries for engagement with China, Cheng seems to favor, in the conservative fashion applied to Cuba, a policy oriented towards isolation. Even so, he ends by advocating a U.S. policy of a firm, reliable presence in the region. Not much dispute there.