Kenneth Lieberthal and J. Stapleton Roy
February 13, 2012
China, despite some problems, remains on a roll. Its economy has rapidly expanded to second-largest in the world, with gross domestic product continuing to advance annually in the high single digits. Its military budget has grown 10-plus percent a year for more than a decade, growth that is likely to continue for years.
… Beijing sees itself again becoming the central player in Asia and strong enough to expect that Washington will no longer treat its core concerns with what it views as a bullying, dismissive attitude. China increasingly wants to control military activities in the waters off its coast. Dependent on imports for vital energy resources, China is pressing its territorial claims in potentially energy-rich maritime areas in the East and South China Seas. China, arguably the world’s second most powerful country, is rankled by U.S. diplomacy that it sees as emboldening people in Taiwan, Tibet and the huge, northwestern region of Xinjiang to defy Beijing.
The United States has long been a Pacific power with formal alliances and strategic ties throughout the region. Tradition and vital interests come together in America’s determination to protect its leadership role in Asia, backed up by extensive economic ties and a military that can operate freely in international waters there. Obama vowed during a trip to Asia in November to maintain America’s leadership role and to protect defense capabilities there from budgetary pressures on overall military expenditures.