Praise for Obama on China

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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With China’s next leader, Vice President Xi Jinping, meeting with President Obama at the White House today, this might be a good time to discuss the president’s overall handling of China.

CBS News writes that Washington needs to persuade Vice President Xi that U.S. strategy, “is not aimed at containing the rise of China…” That might be smart diplomacy, but — fortunately — it hardly seems accurate. The Obama Administration deserves credit for working to contest China’s military ambitions — especially in the South China sea. This is vital, inasmuch as more than half of world’s shipping (by tonnage) passes thru there, and China wants the disputed islands, as well as the oil and gas rights.

And while conservatives and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta might lament defense cuts, Panetta seems committed to making the most prudent cuts possible. The plan includes significant cuts to the Army in Europe, but much less severe cuts to the Navy, a clear signal China is the new focus.

The plan — dubbed the “Pacific Pivot” — is to reorient America’s foreign policy priorities from the Middle East to East Asia. And it’s already underway. A few months ago, President Obama announced plans to deploy 2,500 Marines in Australia. What is more, Japan and the U.S. recently agreed to transfer Marines from Okinawa to Guam. And, two decades after evicting the U.S., the Washington Post reports Philippine leaders are in talks with the administration about possibly “expanding the American military presence in the island nation, the latest in a series of strategic moves aimed at China.”

President Obama and Secretary Panetta have rightly identified East Asia as the top strategic concern of the future. His Republican opponent will likely accuse him of being soft on China, and maybe, by then, there will be evidence. But so far, that doesn’t seem to be a believable charge.

Matt K. Lewis