CAN CHINA AND US BOTH BE PACIFIC POWERS?
May 22, 2015
Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing on Saturday to prepare for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming state visit to the United States and other U.S. – China exchanges. Despite the initial purpose of the visit, international and domestic demands that the U.S. express its concerns over China’s assertive land reclamation projects in the disputed South China Sea was the primary media focus during his visit. In response, Chinese military leaders underscored China’s determination to safeguard territorial integrity and urged the United States to honor its promises of neutrality in the South China Sea issue. Can China and the United States both be Pacific powers that coexist with each other peacefully?
The United States has been increasingly asserting its displeasure over China’s expansion of shoals and islets in the South China Sea. A senior Pentagon official said last week that the United States might consider sending ships and aircraft to within 12 nautical miles of built-up reefs near the Philippines, an American ally, to demonstrate its commitment to freedom of navigation in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Three days after Kerry’s meeting with China’s President Xi, The U.S. Navy’s second-most senior commander Admiral Michelle Howard, vice chief of naval operations, said in Singapore on Tuesday that the United States is considering flying aircraft or sailing Navy vessels close to the artificial islands in disputed waters. Admiral Howard also confirmed the U.S. would stand with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) if its 10 member countries decided to work together to counter China. “If the ASEAN nations want to get together and do something to demonstrate their united purpose we’ll be supportive of that,” she said.
China has responded strongly to the statements by the U.S. . The state-owned Global Times released a commentary saying, “if U.S. warplanes fly over China’s islands, and if its warships enter the waters 12 nautical miles from China’s islands, then we believe the Chinese military would prove that America’s unilateral actions picked the wrong place and wrong people.” While meeting with John Kerry, Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of China, urged the United States to take an objective and fair view of the South China Sea issue, correctly understand China’s policy intention, honor the commitment of not taking sides on territorial disputes, speak and act prudently and do more to work for China-U.S. mutual trust and peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Chinese President Xi, on the other hand, maintained an overall positive view of the bilateral relationship during meetings with Kerry. “In my view, the China-U.S. relationship remains stable on the whole,” Xi told Kerry during Sunday’s meeting at the Great Hall of the People. “The broad Pacific Ocean is vast enough to embrace both China and the United States.”
It is risky for both the United States and China to keep escalating the tension over disputed water in the South China Sea. Direct U.S. military engagement may lead to military confrontation that evolves two major Pacific powers. Despite the perceived rising China threat and US rebalance to Asia, the United States and China do share common goals on many other issues, including boosting trade, cooperating on non-proliferation, and the importance of environmental concerns, that can be two Pacific power coexist peacefully.
For more information on this topic, consult the following sources:
Bloomberg Business – “Xi Tells Kerry China and U.S. Can Both Be Pacific Powers”
The Diplomat – “The Real Issue With US-China Relations”
U.S. Department of State – “Joint Press Availability With Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi”
Associated Press – “On eve of Kerry visit, China chides US over South China Sea”
CCTV America – “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wraps China visit”
South China Morning Post – “On visit to Beijing, Kerry urges easing of South China Sea tensions”
New York Times – “Kerry Expected to Bring Up China’s Sea Claims During Visit”
The Wall Street Journal – “U.S. Admiral Calls on China to Explain South China Sea Land Reclamation”
中华人民共和国国防部 – “范长龙会见美国国务卿克里”
环球时报 – “社评：克里访华没出“对中国施压”的猛料”
环球时报 – “社评：用中国的两手对付美国的两手”
人民网 – “克里访华35小时：十大议题的沟通”
Compiled and edited by Stella Ran Zheng