U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has become the first top U.S. diplomat to visit all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But visiting Asia has not been just about collecting miles, nor has it just been about visiting allies and friendly states. Though her trip includes countries like East Timor, Indonesia, Brunei Russia's far east but let’s face it, the trip has been all about China!
China should by all means be at the top of Clinton and Obama’s agenda. Not only for its sheer power and presence in the region, as well as in the global economy but also as Mitt Romney’s main area of interest if elected.
The Asia-Pacific has at the moment a great place and influence in global and regional politics as well as global economy. Making the most if it is on high priority in President Obama’s agenda.
That is indeed the common thread running through her ASEAN tracks. Her aim is largely to unify ASEAN countries in a front for managing territorial disputes with China. US also intended to tackle the China-Japan, China-South Korea disputes as well as several others over numerous islands in the East China and South China Seas, and the mineral, oil and gas rights and making sure China ‘behaves’, better yet, follow a ‘code of conduct’.
But they probably forgot to ask China if it needed any interference or not. Needless to say, not much came out of Hillary Clinton’s China visit. In fact she was left quite high and dry after the Chinese media gave less than favorable coverage to her visit and she was even stood up (so to speak) by Xi Jinping (China’s next President to be).
Presumably, China feels it does not require any out side help, especially that of America and can very much manage on its own.
Before Clinton’s visit, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei even went as far as to say that the US “has many times said it does not take a position” on the region’s territorial disputes. “I hope they will keep their promise,” he added, “and do more to help stability and not the opposite.” China’s state-run news agency Xinhua went as far as saying that Washington “intends to benefit from stirring up disputes among nations.”
Now that is a clear rebuff if anything.
One does wonder what made Clinton think she could manage to un-ruffle China’s feathers. China has also dismayed the US by siding with Russia three times in vetoing of United Nations Security Council action that would have punished Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. If anything recent times have proven Sino-US relations to be more complex than ever.
The US hopes for progress before Barack Obama attends a planned summit of east Asian leaders in November. US needs to build the economic, trade and security order in the region and for that it needs an unruffled China on her side. Going about that requires a lot of tact. May be a change in attitude and better planning is in order next time?