US Pacific pivot goes pfft!




The Manila Times


IF the 21st were to be the last of America’s centuries, two women could stand to be blamed for ultimate US damnation. One, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In 2011, she cockily proclaimed what she termed the “American Pacific Century,” ventilated in an article she wrote in the Foreign Policy website as a grand US foray from its debacles in the Middle East into the vast commercial potentials of the Asia Pacific. And two, US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Just days ago, she dared make good her visit to Taiwan against an admonition from Chinese President Xi Jinping that “to play with fire is to die by it.” Clinton wrote with grit, “The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action.” Now, it would be interesting to check how Clinton could be wringing her head upon realizing that once the situation Pelosi has created in visiting Taiwan gets out of hand, the “future” she had envisioned turns out the opposite of what she had elaborated on then in glowing terms: “One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region. “The Asia Pacific has become a key driver of global politics. Stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas, the region spans two oceans — the Pacific and the Indian — that are increasingly linked by shipping and strategy. It boasts almost half the world’s population. It includes many of the key engines of the global economy, as well as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. It is home to several of our key allies and important emerging powers like China, India and Indonesia.” That was 2011, remember, when China had not yet made its presence felt in the region that much, and much of the sentiments of America and its Western cohorts toward it was still as Asia’s “sleeping dragon,” which at worst could be contained by what Clinton precisely conceived as the American Pacific Century. “At a time when the region is building a more mature security and economic architecture to promote stability and prosperity, US commitment there is essential. It will help build that architecture and pay dividends for continued American leadership well into this century, just as our post-World War 2 commitment to building a comprehensive and lasting transatlantic network of institutions and relationships has paid off many times over — and continues to do so. The time has come for the United States to make similar investments as a Pacific power, a strategic course set by President Barack Obama from the outset of his administration and one that is already yielding benefits.” Brute arrogance In the words of President Obama, it smacked of brute arrogance, as delivered to the face of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the 2011 East Asian Meeting: “While we are not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, and while we do not take sides, we have a powerful stake in maritime security in general, and in the resolution of the South China Sea issue specifically — as a resident Pacific power, as a maritime nation, as a trading nation and as a guarantor of security in the Asia-Pacific region.” Then suddenly in 2012 came this discovery, as disclosed by the then outgoing intelligence chief of the US Pacific Fleet, Capt. James E. Fannel, that China had already built eight military installations in seven reefs — six of them being Johnson South or Mabini Reef, Mabini Reef, Mischief Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef and Subi Reef — all of which already complete with necessary war installations. A kind of desperation must characterize the machinations of America in prompting then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd to file an arbitration case against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague over alleged Chinese encroachment into Philippine territory in the South China Sea. China snubbed the proceedings. Thus, while the arbitration panel ruled that China’s nine-dash line is illegal, it had not had any deterrent effect at all to China’s moves of containing the “American Pacific Century” on all fronts. The earlier discovered artificial islands built by China quickly grew into full-blown forward military bases complete with high-end airfields, naval and other war facilities. At the same time, increased trade arrangements were concluded between China and Asean nations, resulting in the utmost capabilities of the Asean region to prevent what the Western colonizers had done to it in the past. For instance, with the formation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership by the 10-member nations of Asean together with their Free Trade Agreement partners led by China, the region had gained sufficient economic stability no longer dependent on American intervention. In the area of security, the establishment of the Code of Conduct (COC) in South China particularly stresses the exclusion of outsiders (i.e., America) in the settlement of issues among the Asean members. Notice how this had rendered inutile what Obama told Premier Wen Jiabao at the 2011 East Asian meet, that America is the guarantor of security in the AsiaPacific region. Far from it, America has been the harbinger of war ever since. The COC finally pulls the rug from under the feet of the US-promoted ostensible “freedom of navigation operations,” which actually is a duplicitous scheme for America to carry out its actual war operations in waters not their own. Witness the numerous instances when the US Navy and Air Force men nearly came to a head with Chinese troops during incidents of fly-bys and sail-bys by the former over the latter. Clinton had rightly seen that “Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests” and must be “a key priority for President Obama.” She wrote: “Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports, and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia. Strategically, maintaining peace and security across the Asia Pacific is increasingly crucial to global progress, whether through defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, countering the proliferation efforts of North Korea, or ensuring transparency in the military activities of the region’s key players.” Awakened dragon But what Clinton utterly failed to realize was that the “sleeping dragon” had awakened and under the unswerving perseverance of its president in his Belt and Road Initiative, had pushed on to spread his vision of a world community of shared future. By modest estimates, the initiative has already brought development to two-thirds of the world and counting. In contrast, the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC), America’s aid program for developing nations, has been a miserable failure particularly in the Asia Pacific, as showcased now by the turmoil obtaining in Sri Lanka as well as in the brewing one in Nepal. In the Philippines, the MCC has been totally nil because it was withdrawn by the US as a reprimand for Duterte’s war on drugs which the US detested. With the continuing Russian destruction of Ukraine, what could prove truly more disastrous to the United States is Russia’s now rejection of the dollar as payment for Russian exports, particularly the two most demanded ones, oil and wheat. This was the response of Russian President Vladimir Putin to US President Joe Biden’s economic sanctions on Russia. So, as Trump’s trade war against China actually hit US capitalists and consumers hard in the end, Biden’s sanctions against Russia now actually hit the American economy hard through the weakening of its currency. All told now, Clinton’s American Pacific Century has been one truly magnificent pfft! That Pelosi comes charging under cover of night clearly in defiance of Xi’s admonition must only amount to the spasms of an ogre exerting its last ounce of strength in the vain hope of still bullying its assailant. But the awesome display of firepower across the Taiwan Strait with which China instantly greeted Pelosi’s sojourn into forbidden terrain is a message enough that China is what Wen Jiabao once warned, “We are not a war-hungry nation. But we are not one to run away from a fight when pushed against the wall.”