January 28, 2009
Following Defence Secretary Robert Gates attack on China for manipulating its currency, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to be criticising the policy of the previous administration (of which Gates formed part). “We need a comprehensive dialogue with China,” Clinton said, not just an economic one
She said that the Obama administration is working to design “a more comprehensive approach that will be more in keeping with the important role that China is playing and will be playing.”
Gates “warns” that the US is ready to handle any Chinese military threat. US forces “have the capability in place to be able to deal with any foreseeable Chinese threat for some time to come.”
There remains concern over Taiwan as a potential flash point. China suspended some senior-level visits and exchanges in response to the $6.5 billion arms sale to Taiwan which included Patriot III missiles and Apache helicopters.
Gates said that the Defence Department is making good progress toward developing a “number of programmes” to counter Chinese technological advances that could “put our carriers at risk.” He said US forces are well positioned in the region. Among those he mentioned are the nuclear-powered USS George Washington, a floating air base with 67 aircraft and about 1.8m kilos of bombs. It has a new home port in Japan.
This is a worrying approach by Obama and seems inconsistent with his diplomatic approach. Public attacks rarely have any effect on the Chinese leadership. The emphasis on the potential military threat is ill-advised and only encourages greater Chinese spending. China is ringed with US bases. The use of Japan as a “home base” does not help Sino-Japanese relations.
The European approach to China is quite different and its leaders should publicly say so.Author : Stanley Crossick