July 24 (EIRNS)–Speaking at a hearing on the South China Sea before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 23, Patrick Cronin, a senior adviser to the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), indicated that the Obama trade boondoggle, TPP, was not simply a wedge against China, but against the growing influence of the BRICS. “Completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership can demonstrate America’s ability to complete complex free-trade agreements and regional architectures. We need to be prepared to bring more economies, from the Philippines to the Republic of Korea, into TPP, the first major multilateral trade agreement with a heavy focus on the new economy based on information technology and services,” Cronin said. “The United States can use TPP to gain leverage vis-à-vis BRICS nations regarding future rules for trade,” Cronin said.
He also called on the U.S. to develop programs which would help to undermine China’s plans for “One Belt and One Road.” “We can wait and see how complementary China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and its ‘One Belt and One Road’ will be to existing Bretton Woods institutions and other development initiatives,” Cronin said. But otherwise, he indicated that the U.S. should keep its powder dry.
He said that Administration programs such as the Lower Mekong Initiative were not sufficient to counter China’s initiatives. “Congress should request from the current and future administration a development strategy that includes proposals for new initiatives,” he said. “I have in mind a major international public-private partnership in support of human development in Asia. Rather than try to match China’s push for physical infrastructure, I would focus on the new knowledge economy, human capital and education, science and technology, and energy — all areas of comparative advantage for the United States.”
Cronin also called for more logistical support to the “other” claimants in the South China Sea disputes in pursuing their claims. The other speakers at the hearing provided much of the same, albeit not quite as in your-face as Cronin. Michael Swaine from the Carnegie Endowment showed some sense of reality, however, in urging the U.S. limit itself to clear parameters in discussing the South China Sea, i.e., calling for free navigation and no unilateral action by the parties.
Swaine also made it clear to Congress that the U.S. has got to understand that China will, by the very nature of its development, become a major force in the region, and that the U.S. ought no longer see itself as the sole proprietor in the Asia-Pacific region. He warned in particular against any attempt to allow Japanese ships to patrol in the South China Sea, a measure that has been mooted by this Administration. “Japan has no claims in the South China Sea and therefore no business being involved there,” Swaine said. “Their presence would only be a provocation.”
Swaine also underlined that there can be no objection to China building structures in the South China Sea or instituting an ADIZ in the region, as this remains a right of all nations. He also warned that if the U.S. begins to play a more direct role in asserting the claims of the other countries, it would have a negative effect all around and would prevent any agreement from being made. “The Southeast Asian countries would tend to demand more themselves with the U.S. behind their back and less inclined to compromise, and the Chinese would see this as U.S. meddling,” Swaine said.