Kissinger: We Were JUST Talking About This
Foreign policy mavens just loooooove to compare everyone to Kissinger, for better or worse:
Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Asia may one day be seen as the most significant visit to the region by a United States diplomat since Henry Kissinger’s secret mission to Beijing in July 1971.
Kissinger’s mission triggered a diplomatic revolution. Renewal of US-Chinese relations shifted the global balance of power at the Cold War’s height, and prepared the way for China to open its economy – the decision that, more than any other, has defined today’s world. What Clinton did and said during her Asian tour will mark either the end of the era that Kissinger initiated four decades ago, or the start of a distinct new phase in that epoch.
Clinton’s tour produced the clearest signals yet that America is unwilling to accept China’s push for regional hegemony. Offstage at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Hanoi, Clinton challenged Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi over Beijing’s claim that its ownership of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea was now a “core interest.” By that definition, China considers the islands (whose ownership is disputed by Vietnam and the Philippines) as much a part of the mainland as Tibet and Taiwan, making any outside interference taboo.
Rejecting this, Clinton proposed that the US help establish an international mechanism to mediate the overlapping claims of sovereignty between China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia that now exist in the South China Sea.
For China, Clinton’s intervention came as a shock, and, given the warm response she received from her Vietnamese hosts – despite criticizing Vietnam’s human-rights record – the secretary of state may well have raised the issue at least partly at their urging, and perhaps with additional prompting from Malaysia and the Philippines.
A Chinese policy of pressure and great-power threats against Vietnam and the Philippines over ownership of the Spratly Islands, or deliberate intimidation of China’s smaller South Asian neighbors, will continue to raise alarms across the Pacific and be seen as proof of the Chinese regime’s hegemonic ambitions. Unless China demonstrates that it can reach peaceful accommodations in its sovereignty disputes with its neighbors, its claims to a “peaceful rise” will appear unconvincing not only in Washington, but in capitals across Asia.
Forty years ago, the US opening to Mao’s China shocked Japan and all of Asia. Clinton’s visit has done the reverse: it has shocked China – one hopes in a way that moderates its behavior in the region. And, if a shock can be said to be reassuring, this one certainly soothed Asian concerns about America’s enduring commitment to regional security.
This is a positive article, but we were talking about the Kissinger thing yesterday in the comments.