In Asia today, the source of America’s strategic pre-eminence is not just the dominance of the Seventh Fleet but strong regional support for a continued US presence. China has long viewed American pre-eminence in the region as a historical accident and an aberration and wants to ease America out of the region, but other nations want to reaffirm the US role. Therefore it is no wonder that Beijing is now rooting for Asean-plus-three–which does not include America–to be the primary problem-solving meeting. However, if expected US membership transforms the East Asia Summit into the region’s principal security institution, clumsy and impatient Chinese diplomacy will have contributed to the rise of a multilateralism that largely entrenches an extended US-led network of security alliances and partnerships.
Lee is a foreign-policy fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, a visiting scholar at the Hudson Institute in Washington, and the author of “Will China Fail?” (CIS, 2007).
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