Where China-US relations go will have a bearing on not just the bilateral relations between the two major powers, but also the stability of the entire world. As such, there is enough reason for the international community to show concern about the United States’ plan to send Marine Expeditionary Units to East Asia as part of its efforts to contain China.
It is hard not to see a close association between what the US has said about China in the past couple of months and its plan to deploy the marine units in East Asia. In its National Security Strategy released in December, the Donald Trump administration listed China and Russia as the biggest challenge to US power. Not long after that, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis released the US’ National Defense Strategy, which stated that “great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security”.
What is even more worrying is that the US is making its case about the threat from China by pointing fingers at Beijing’s efforts to build military outposts in South China Sea and its military exercises around Taiwan.
Despite the reiteration by China on many occasions that what China has done in the South China Sea is in defense in its own territorial waters and poses no threat to the freedom of navigation, the US still cites it as an excuse for its stronger military presence in the waters. As far as Taiwan is concerned, the island is part of China, and Beijing has every reason to do whatever it believes appropriate.
In addition, the US has turned a blind eye to the fact that China has been working with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to successfully ease tensions in the South China Sea.
It seems as though a Cold War mentality is shaping the Trump administration’s China policy, which will be detrimental to China-US relations and inevitably to regional stability and world peace at large.
With China now the US’ largest trade partner and the US the second-largest trade partner of China, what both countries have achieved economically and politically over the past several decades is the result of their joint efforts to manage their differences.
If the US acts on the belief that China is a rival rather than a partner and continues to try and contain China, it will only increase the tensions and uncertainties.