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Kissinger: We Were JUST Talking About This

August 18, 2010

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.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. PYW permalink
    August 18, 2010 5:33 pm

    Stacy, pardon me for an off-topic rant, but I’m sick and tired of reading stuff (like that column linked on the right) speculating about Hillary challenging Obama in 2012. To me, it just plays into the caricature of Hillary as disloyal and power-hungry. There’s zero chance Hillary will take on Obama in 2012, folks. I guarantee it’s not going to happen and it’s insulting to her that the rumor’s even out there.

    • August 18, 2010 6:14 pm

      Oh, I agree. It’s ridiculous and being the paranoid liberal that I am, I swear it’s coming mostly from the right. The idea that she’d turn and challenge Obama just doesn’t square with her history- now if he were not going to run, who knows, but I think he will.

  2. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    August 18, 2010 6:57 pm

    Hillary is truly something — she just keeps going, and going, and going; quietly, without a lot of fanfare or hogging of the limelight, and with very little recognition of her efforts and achievements by the media. I’ve always been a fan but I find myself feeling an ever-deepening respect for her as each month passes. When she said at the Democratic convention in 2008, “Were you in it just for me?” I wanted to shout at the TV set, “YES!” but the lump in my throat was too large, and I was damned if I was going to cry in front of my Obamabot relatives. I agree with the posts above that there is zero chance she would challenge President Obama in 2012, but my fond dream is that she will take Biden’s chair in 2011 so she can slow down and begin planning her campaign for 2016! The idea that she –and we — have missed the chance to see her strut her stuff as President makes unspeakably sad sad, so sad I just don’t allow myself to think about it. She WILL be a truly great President. Period.

    • August 18, 2010 7:05 pm

      Yes, I am hoping/wishing she would replace Biden in 2012. Biden will never win even if Obama wins a second term. Speaking of which, she could help Obama win reelection in 2012 because while that’s still a ways away, things don’t look promising right now.

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