Study downplays China’s influence
November 17, 2008
Even though the Chinese navy’s submarine fleet is rapidly modernizing and becoming more of a presence in East Asia, the United States remains the key to security in this part of the world, according to a recent Rand Corp. study.
"China is not eroding the foundation of U.S. alliances in the region," said the study, released last week. "The United States remains the security partner of choice."
The study concluded that the United States needs to "remain sensitive to the changing levels of cooperation between China and East Asian allies" and "tailor its policies to meet the individual needs and national interests of its allies and security partners."
The report, titled "Pacific Currents: The Responses of U.S. Allies and Security Patterns in East Asia to China’s Rise," examines how Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand are reacting to China’s growing influence in the region. For the time being, it reported, the U.S. allies "do not see China as a viable strategic alternative" to the United States.
"What is not occurring in Asia is as important as what is happening," said Evan Medeiros, the lead author of the report and a senior political specialist at Rand. "East Asia is not falling under China’s dominion. U.S. allies are not climbing onto a Chinese bandwagon."
The six countries are also not beefing up their armed forces in order to balance growing Chinese power, Medeiros said. Instead, they are "tightening their existing alliance links with the United States and diversifying their security relationships with each other."
While continuing to expand their economic links with China, the East Asian nations are "now moving out of the honeymoon phase with China," the report said. "While on balance many view stable relations with China as central to their economic livelihood, China is not uniformly seen as reliable or predictable."
Ultimately, the study concluded, "China’s emergence in East Asia has made the United States more relevant in the region. Nations can confidently engage China precisely because security commitments and economic relations with the United States endure."