08/02/2019?International Security in Asia
Lecture Topic: Historical Perspective of US Role In Influencing China and Its Impact to East Asia’s Security System
Class taken by Rear Admiral Jilong Dan
The lecture of Rear Admiral Jilong Dan (ret.) centers on the historical developments in the US and China, which have influenced the national interests and foreign policies of the two countries. Particular focus is given to US foreign policy toward China and its impact on East Asia’s security system. RADM Dan is the Deputy Secretary-General of the Institute of Marine Affairs and Policy in Taiwan, and he is a former military attache.
He starts with discussing the October 2018 remarks of US Vice President Mike Pence to illustrate how the US views its relationship with China stretching as far back to the time when the US was still a young nation. He then explains that a country’s national interest is an embodiment of realism and national strategy designed to maximize self-interest. In the case of the US, RADM Dan explains that its diplomacy is very much based on its national interest characterized by the need to prevent, deter, and reduce threats to the homeland and its military forces abroad; ensure the survival of its allies and their active cooperation in shaping the international system; prevent the emergence of hostile powers; guarantee the viability and stability of major global systems; and establish productive relations with nations that could become strategic adversaries such as China and Russia.
On China, RADM Dan notes that Chinese traditional concept of power is based on the notion that China is the center of the world. Power comes from the people’s support of the emperor under Confucianism. Since China views itself as the center of her known world, she is more focused internally than externally, and sees the need to maintain tributary relationship with adjacent non-Han neighbors, RADM Dan explains. Furthermore, China’s century of humiliation has distinctly influenced the Chinese collective psyche. RADM Dan mentions that China’s experience as a victim of imperialism for over 100 years of its modern history fostered nationalist fervor among the Chinese. As China continues to rise, the US has grown increasingly concern over its authoritarian communist regime, the unpredictable behavior of the People’s Liberation Army, and its assertive behavior in the East Sea and South China Sea, among others. Thus, the US views China’s rise and its intentions with suspicion.
Since the 1970s, the US applied different strategies to keep China in check. Its engagement strategy from 1979 to 2001 was based on the democratic peace theory. Hence, the attempts of the US to democratize China entailed shaping China’s perception and interests as a means to ultimately change its domestic political order and increasing economic interdependence, according to RADM Dan. From 2001 to 2017, the US applied a policy of combining containment and engagement, which was mainly buoyed by the strategy of urging China to be a “responsible stakeholder,” a term used by then Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick. Under President Donald Trump, RADM Dan affirms that US policy toward China is framed by the America First policy as well as the goals to maintain the role of the US as a global hegemon and suppress China’s rise. Despite the policy shifts, RADM Dan argues that the US continues to integrate China into the US-led international system, promote a liberal consciousness through economic means, establish a pro-American sentiment among the Chinese, implant democratic concepts via non-government organizations and various exchange programs, and deter the Chinese military’s assertive behavior by show of force.