The United States confronts increasingly urgent challenges around the globe. Washington’s policies are widely seen as failing
The Obama administration has been doing a little better, but not good enough, with China. There is no open conflict between the two, but tensions are high.
Territorial disputes throughout the South China Sea and Sea of Japan could flare into violence. North Korea is more disruptive than ever. Other important issues lurk in the background.
While there should be no surprise when important powers like the U.S. and People’s Republic of China (PRC) disagree, the two must work through such issues. Unfortunately, the U.S. is far better at making demands than negotiating solutions. In particular, Washington seems to ignore the interdependence of issues, the fact that positions taken in one area may affect responses in others.
For instance, the U.S. famously initiated a “pivot” to Asia, or “rebalancing” of U.S. resources to the region. The U.S. implausibly claimed that the shift had nothing to do with China.
But the residents of Zhongnanhai are not stupid. For what other reason would America reaffirm military alliances and augment military forces in Beijing’s backyard?
Yet at the same time the Obama administration was pressing the PRC to apply greater pressure on North Korea to end the latter’s nuclear program and constant provocations. Step on Pyongyang’s windpipe and force North Korea to yield, said Washington.
The U.S. acted as if it was asking for a small favor. In fact, no one knows how the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would react. Worst geopolitically for China would be eventual Korean reunification, which would leave an expanded U.S. ally hosting American troops on the Yalu.