President Obama’s “New Type of Big Power Relationship” Thrusted at the Chairman Xi

May 21, 2014News


(Photo Credit: Getty)

(BGF) – In this article Professor Seki Hei discusses the impact of President Obama’s recent visit to Asia, as well as the notion of “new type of big power relationship” between the United States and China.

By Professor Seki Hei

The U.S.-Japan Joint Statement and Xi Jinping’s Whitewashed Rampage

The U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Asia in the end of April 2014 brought about two epoch-making events in relation to the national securities of the related nations. One is regarding the defense of the Senkaku Islands in which China and Japan are fighting over their ownership; the President Obama had made a clear statement to recognize “the Senkaku Islands as the target of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty” for the first time as the U.S. President.

Importantly, the statement above was not made just as a verbal promise, but was clearly mentioned in the U.S.-Japan joint statement, which possesses a high official- ness. Since a joint statement works also as the pledge of the U.S. to the world, it is not an option for this world giant, the U.S., to abandon its responsibility over its international joint statement. In short, with this joint statement, the U.S. government had declared to the world, that it is not accepting China’s use of power against the Senkaku Islands, which is under administration of Japan, and that it is prepared to use its military force for the prevention of such case.

Although some media point out that the true intention behind the U.S. bringing out “application of U.S.-Japan Security Treaty on the Senkaku Islands” is to use it as an exchange condition to lead Japan to compromise in the TPP negotiation, this is not the case. This is because the joint statement including the “application of U.S.-Japan Security Treaty” was announced as scheduled, despite the fact that the Japanese government did not compromise in the negotiation for the TPP during Obama’s visit in Japan. Interpreting the decision of the U.S. government regarding its defense of the Senkaku Islands as its “condition for exchange” for the TPP negotiation is an excessively distorted and superficial understanding.

Of course, despite President Obama’s clear statement of the “application of U.S.-Japan Security Treaty”, this does not necessarily mean that there is 100% guarantee that the U.S. army will take action based on the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty in case of the emergency in the Senkaku Islands. In fact, it is true that the move of the U.S. military force cannot be predicted until the very moment of an emergency.

The important point here is that the fact that “the move of the U.S. army cannot be predicted” applies for the Chinese side too, who is on the side of attacking the Senkaku Islands. As it is clear from the “New Type of Big Power Relationship”, which I will discuss further later, although China is currently considering compartmentalization of power with the U.S., they are neither ready nor willing to face collision with the U.S. At least for now, it is largely possible that the overwhelming U.S. military force will defeat the Chinese military force. Once China gets defeated in a war against other countries even for once, its domestic affairs will face turmoil and the Chinese Communist Party will definitely find it difficult to maintain its dictatorship. For the Xi Jinping regime, thus, it is too much of a risk to face collision with the U.S. army.

As long as the U.S. move is unpredictable, it would not be a realistic option for China to execute military action on the Senkaku Islands. If there is any possibility for the U.S. military intervention, China would be reluctant for its military action. In this logic, it is clear that the President Obama’s statement of the “application of U.S.- Japan Security Treaty” and the joint statement in which the statement above is included would powerfully serve as deterrents to China’s Xi Jinping regime. It is undeniable for anyone that the possibility of the mobilization of the U.S. military force in case of an emergency on the Senkaku Islands was increased, with this “clear statement of the “application of U.S.-Japan Security Treaty” and the joint statement by Japan and the U.S. as their national pledges.

Moreover, it is the Xi Jinping regime, who as the party directly involved, taking the statement on the “application of U.S.-Japan Security Treaty” the most seriously, more than anyone else. Thinking rationally, with the incorporation of the clear statement of the “application of U.S.-Japan Security Treaty” into the U.S.-Japan joint statement, or in other word their “pledges”, the chance of U.S. military mobilization in case of Chinese army’s attack on the Senkaku Islands is now not only a few percent. The chance is, in my view, over fifty percent. In such context, the only option available for the Xi Jinping regime is to abandon its military action on the Senkaku Islands. With the risk of U.S. military intervention, China would never be able to take action. In short, on the very day of April 25, 2014, from the very moment of the announcement of the U.S.-Japan joint statement on the “application of U.S.- Japan Security Treaty on the Senkaku Islands”, the possibility of China’s military action on the Senkaku Islands had been practically diminished.

The U.S.-Philippine Military Agreement – The Return of the U.S. Spearhead

On April 28, President Obama had visited the Philippines as the final destination to visit during his visit to Asia and had a meeting with President Aquino. It was decided to establish an epoch-making agreement between the two countries, before holding the summit conference. The two governments signed a new military agreement, which allows the expansion of U.S. military in the Philippines.

With this new agreement, the U.S. forces will be able to build its own facilities within the Pilipino military’s base, enabling the expansion of its aerial and naval patrol.

As for the possible site for the construction of the U.S. military base facilities, districts including the Subic district, where the U.S. naval force once used as its base, are considered. Anyway, after its military withdrawal from the Philippines after the

end of the Cold War in 1992, the U.S. military forces finally achieved its comeback after 22 years.

The stationing of the U.S. military force in the Philippines 22 years ago was the preparation for the Cold War against the Soviet Union; the intention for the U.S. military force stationing this time may seem apparent. The country who is in trouble with China regarding the ownership of the islands in the South China Sea is the Philippines, and, at the same time, it is widely known in the international society that the conflict between these two counties could possibly end up in a military collision. In a sense, it can be said that it is the Philippines that is at the frontier of preventing the Chinese takeover of the South China Sea.

Since the U.S. military force will come back to the frontier against the Chinese military forces, their target will be nothing but the prevention of China from ruining the “peace and stability” in the South China Sea area with its military power.

As observed above, the strategy of the President Obama for his visit to Asia, which was welcomed with the great deal of fanfare, is apparent.

In short, the U.S. on one hand seeks to prevent China’s rampage by strengthening its relationship with its most important ally, Japan, through its statement of the “defense of the Senkaku Islands”, while on the other hand preventing China’s progress into the South China Sea by realizing the re-stationing of the U.S. military base within the territory of its semi-allied nation, namely the Philippines.

In addition, by incorporating Malaysia, which is in the “central location”, it is sought to complete the containment network.

From this perspective, it can be concluded that President Obama’s visit to Asia, while passing China aside, was actually the “containment diplomacy on China” from the very beginning to the very end.

To have China intentionally omitted from the list of visiting countries and to have Japan and the Philippines, the countries which are strongly in opposition with China, is nothing but a movement that emerged from “containment diplomacy on China”.

The U.S. to determine the shape of “New Type of Big Power Relationship ”

We are now encountering the question of what exactly is “the New Type of Big Power Relationship”. As it is widely known, this catchphrase was proposed up to the United States from the President of China, Xi Jinping. According to the explanation by the Chinese side, it “seeks to avoid the collision between the U.S. and China, and rather pay respect to the core interests of both countries to construct a win- win relationship”.

From its wordings, China’s targets seems not to have any problems; however the most serious issue is that the Chinese claim on the ownership of the Senkaku Islands and its hegemony over vast range of water such as East China Sea and South China Sea are included in its “core interests” and that China is requesting for the “respect”, or acceptance, by the U.S. This is the true intention behind the notion of “New Type of Big Power Relationship” – in short, this is a proposal from China to the U.S. of “compartmentalization theory” regarding their domination over the Pacific region.

In specifics, it divides the Pacific region into two parts, letting the U.S. to dominate the Eastern Pacific, but instead, having the U.S. accept the Chinese dominance over the Western Pacific. Of course, from the Chinese side, if this compartmentalization works, they can avoid collision with the United States and eventually construct a “win-win relationship”

The true intension of the Chairman Xi for his statement “(t)he vast Pacific Ocean has enough space for two large countries like the United States and China” is for this very reason. To “share the Pacific and be friends” is the most important point for the idea of “the New Type of Big Power Relationship” which Chairman Xi proposes.

However, if the U.S. is to accept this “New Type of Big Power Relationship” and China’s “core interests”, the whole region of the Western Pacific including East China Sea and South China Sea will be under the control of China. The power of the U.S. will be excluded from the Asia-Pacific region eternally. In this way, the U.S. will literally lose Asia.

Needless to say, the U.S. would not accept this one-sided “New Type of Big Power Relationship” proposed by China. Asia-Pacific region is the last stronghold for the U.S. to maintain its influence as the world’s giant, and is the “lifeline” that they have protected in exchange for the lives of a hundred thousand soldiers in the Pacific War. Hence, even if the U.S. recoils regarding Syria and Crimea, they will not let China do as they like in the Asia-Pacific region.

On the other hand, because the Asia-Pacific region is an important area for the U.S., careful treatment of China, or the largest political and military nation in Asia, is required. In addition, integration of the economical relationship between the two countries makes China an indispensable country for the U.S. economy.

In such context, one of the important diplomatic themes for the U.S. is how to define and construct “Big Power Relationship” with China, with the precondition of the contradicting situation where its intention is both to prevent Chinese hegemonism and to maintain stable relationship with China. From the analytical perspective of this paper, President Obama’s visit to Asia had clearly presented the ideas and strategies of the U.S. regarding these important diplomatic issues.

As analyzed above, with his visit to Japan, the President Obama had announced the joint statement that specified the U.S. obligation for “defense of the Senkaku Islands”. On his visit to the Philippines, he realized the return of the U.S. military forces back in the Philippines by signing a new military agreement. By taking these two epoch-making moves, which both is targeted at China, the President Obama and the U.S. government had sent out a clear message to the China’s Xi Jinping regime. In short, the U.S. notified two things to the Xi Jinping regime, firstly that the U.S. is not accepting China’s ambition of taking over the control of the Western Pacific including the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and secondly that the U.S. is prepared to prevent China’s adventurous actions with its military forces by cooperating with the allied and semi-allied countries in the region. In this sense, the U.S. had, as a matter of fact, presented a clear answer to the idea of “New Type of Big Power Relationship” presented by the Xi Jinping regime; that the U.S. is not accepting the Xi Jinping’s “New Type of Big Power Relationship”, which is on the premise of China’s control over the Western Pacific.

On the other hand, as mentioned above, with the statements “[w]e have strong relations with China” and “[w]e want to [say to China], we will be a partner with you in upholding international law” the President Obama is transmitting constructive messages to China during his visits in Japan and the Philippines; from the context of the analysis of this paper, this attitude can be interpreted as another form of answer of the U.S. to Xi Jinping’s idea of the “New Type of Big Power Relationship”. That is to say, that the U.S. on one hand is decided to prevent China’s hegemonism, but is also showing its interest to construct a “Big Power Relationship” with China, that would work in favor of the maintenance of the peace and stability of Asia-Pacific region.

In this situation, the ideas and answer of the U.S. toward Chairman Xi’s idea of the “New Type of Big Power Relationship” is absolutely clear. Although the U.S. is prepared to construct a stable “Big Power Relationship” with China, it is not on the basis of the U.S. acceptance of China’s hegemony over the Western Pacific. The basis of the “U.S.-China Big Power Relationship” that the U.S. hopes to secure is one in which China follows the legal rules to protect the peace and order of Asia-Pacific region and to take the path of coexistence and co-prosperity together with the related countries. That is the intention of President Obama’s statements “[w]e want to [say to China], we will be a partner with you in upholding international law” in the Philippines and “[w]e want to continue to encourage the peaceful rise of China” in Japan.

This means that the U.S. had clearly refused with action, Xi Jinping’s idea of the “New Type of Big Power Relationship”, and on contrary, proposed American idea of “New Type of Big Power Relationship” to China.

Through this process, President Obama showed to the world and Xi Jinping, that it is the role of the U.S., not China, to determine the ideal relationship between the U.S. and China, and to establish the rules of the international order in the Asia- Pacific region.

Then Xi Jinping is left with the ultimate decision to make; whether to promote its hegemonism through taking the risk of collapsing with the U.S. and its allies in Asia, or to accept the leadership of the U.S. in this region and the order and rules to coexist with other Asian countries. The ultimate decision is left to Chairman Xi. If the decision works out to be a mistake, the outcome will be disastrous both for Asia and China itself.