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Obama Switching Sides Over China

9:20 AM, Jul 30, 2010 • By JOHN LEE
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This is significant for two reasons. First, to the immediate chagrin of Beijing, this explicitly signals American preparedness to lend its considerable if not decisive weight to resolving disputes over an issue China treats as its ‘core interest.’ Second, it signals a renewed American preparedness to join with regional allies and partners in checking China’s ambition. It is no coincidence that last week also witnessed another step toward restoring full military ties between America and Indonesia when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that Pentagon will resume training with Koppassus, Indonesia’s Special Forces unit. Restoring full military-to-military ties with Indonesia is a process that began under George W. Bush.          

These are still early days for ‘Obama the strategist.’ He has yet to make any statement about Washington’s grand strategy to manage China’s rise. Be that as it may, the functionalists are cowed for the moment, maybe lost for solutions. But they are far from defeated. After all, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, ‘every fancy needs to consult the purse.’ America might pay a heavy economic price were it to seriously contain China’s rise. But managing and constraining Chinese ambitions is precisely what most of Asia is quietly rooting for.

John Lee is a foreign policy research fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies and a Visiting Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Will China Fail?

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