Recently, Via Meadia wrote that, while the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia is in part a continuation of some of the policies of the Clinton and Bush years, Washington’s deepening commitment to the Asia-Pacific region represents the biggest geopolitical event since 9/11:
The legacy press, still befuddled from drinking too much of the ‘US in decline’ Koolaid so widely peddled in recent years, has still not grasped just how audacious, risky and above all successful the new strategy is: the United States is building a Pacific entente to counter—though not to contain—the consequences of China’s economic growth and military posture in the region.
The United States has received a warm reception throughout the region, and now China is beginning to push back against America’s diplomatic initiatives. According to the BBC, Australia’s recently installed foreign minister, Bob Carr, visited Beijing for the first time this week, and his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, expressed concern over Australia’s growing military ties with America.China has begun flexing its muscle on the economic front, too. About a quarter of Australian exports are sent to China, and Carr is scheduled to meet China’s Vice Premier Li Keqiang to discuss a potential free trade deal. China has also agreed to begin free trade negotiations with Japan and South Korea. Those three countries accounted for nearly 20 percent of world GDP in 2010. (China, remember, was pointedly excluded from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a U.S.-led deal that would dramatically open markets in participating countries—even Peru has been invited to join.)America’s grand strategy in the Asia-Pacific region has been one of the signal achievements of the Obama administration in its first term. And while it may have caught China off-guard, Washington and its allies should not expect its new policy to be met with complacence from Beijing. China doesn’t think the time is right for a flashy, high profile confrontation, but it hopes to win a long game of attrition in which the power of its market and its presence will gradually push American efforts aside. The Game of Thrones is just beginning.