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November 29, 2012

Clinton: US Focus on Asia Not a Threat to China's New Leaders

by Scott Stearns

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that the Obama administration's shift of military, diplomatic and commercial assets to Asia is not a threat to China.  

Secretary Clinton says China's new leaders take power at a challenging time with a slowing economy and rival territorial claims in the South China Sea.

"China’s peaceful rise as a global power is reaching a crossroads.  Its future course will be determined by how it manages new economic challenges, differences with its neighbors, and strains in its political and economic system," said Clinton.

Beijing has repeatedly expressed concerns about Washington's so-called Asia Pivot - the Obama administration's move to enhance its military and diplomatic presence in the region.

Clinton told a Washington foreign policy forum on Thursday that the pivot is not a threat to China.

"None of this is about containment.  It’s all aimed at advancing a rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific [region] that will drive peace and prosperity for decades to come," she said.

Sino-American relations were strained this year by differences over the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and by a highly-publicized political asylum case involving a Chinese lawyer.

As she prepares to step down as America's top diplomat, Clinton said she has found navigating the U.S.-China relationship uniquely important and uniquely challenging.

"We are trying to write a new answer to the old question of what happens when an established power and a rising power meet.  No one should have any illusions that this will be smooth or easy.  But there is reason to hope that over the coming years, we can in fact chart a path that avoids conflict and builds on the areas where our interests align," said Clinton.

Those interests align on limiting the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran.  They diverge over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea.  The United States says China's disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei are best addressed through a regional forum.  China says each of those disputes should be resolved bilaterally.