Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Washington, beware of your allies' ploys

By ZHU FENG (China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-25 07:37

Washington, beware of your allies' ploys
Chinese President Xi Jinping talks with tech executives at 8th US-China Internet Industry Forum in Seattle, Sept 23, 2015. [Photo by Lao Jiang/Provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

During his first state visit to the United States, President Xi Jinping's meeting with US President Barack Obama will give an indication of whether the two leaders can use their vision and courage to set the right tone for handling the differences between the two countries and defusing the geopolitical tensions.

If the two leaders agree (even agree to disagree) on vital issues, they will ensure that the two countries maintain a healthy partnership despite all their differences and frictions, especially because the "third-party factor" has become a thorn in China-US ties.

Being the neighbors of China as well as US allies in the Asia-Pacific region, third parties, including Japan and the Philippines, play an important role in Washington's extensive strategic military deployment and pursuit of regional leadership. The US-led alliance is designed to help Washington maintain its forces on the forefront and enjoy second-to-none influence in Pacific-wide security and geopolitics.

Although the US' alliances have their origin in the Cold War era, China has no intention of challenging them, because their security-based cooperative mechanism and bilateral partnerships still work, to a certain extent, in preserving regional stability, coordination and prosperity.

Unfortunately, Washington's increasing interference in the South China Sea and East China Sea issues has not made any positive difference to the maritime territorial disputes. On the contrary, it has further complicated the issues and made them a major security concern in the region.

For one, Manila still refuses to negotiate with Beijing on the disputed islets and reefs in the South China Sea, because it believes it enjoys the unconditional support of the US and thus does not need to resolve any issue. The Philippines even violated the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was agreed by China and ASEAN member states in 2002, by unilaterally initiating a sovereignty arbitration case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Netherlands, in early 2013.

Likewise, Japan has shown no sign of changing its "non-acknowledgment, non-acceptance, non-negotiation" stance on the territorial dispute over China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, leaving the volatile situation to simmer.

It seems the US now faces an "alliance dilemma", because it can pursue extensive shared interests with its allies but can also be misguided by one or all of them into confronting other non-aligned countries, and thus heighten tensions in the region.

To end the dilemma, China and the US both have to ensure the peaceful coexistence of their partnership and the US-led Asia-Pacific alliance. If the US attempts to gain strategic advantage by overlooking its allies' constant provocative statements and actions against China, the geopolitical competition between Washington and Beijing could spin out of control, creating uncertainties in the East Asian community and bilateral relations.

The author is executive director of the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies and professor of international relations at Nanjing University.

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