Assuring US allies

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Article Highlights

  • What U.S. allies fear most is choosing between following a declining America or accommodating a rising China.

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  • U.S. alliances worry that smile diplomacy has turned to hectoring and sometimes threats.

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  • Question for #GOP candidates: do you believe that America is a Pacific power?

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This post is part of an ongoing series preparing for the AEI/CNN/Heritage National Security & Foreign Policy GOP presidential debate on November 22.
"[Our allies] have watched the past decade or so as Washington has failed to respond to most Chinese provocations or breaches of public conduct in Asia’s commons." --Michael Auslin
Regular visitors to Asia constantly hear from our allies and friends that they are worried equally about China’s rise and America’s decline. Like us, all of them are dependent on China for trade, raw and finished materials, and increasingly for financial assistance. Yet it is China’s more assertive attitude, as it has grown stronger, that worries them. They see a more capable navy and air force, and a regular Chinese presence in the region’s waters. They worry that China has little or no interest, from their perspective, in settling the various territorial disputes they have. They worry that smile diplomacy has turned to hectoring and sometimes threats.

At the same time, they see an America that seems fundamentally unserious about putting its fiscal house in order. They read that our military will be cut by hundreds of billions of dollars. They have watched the past decade or so as Washington has failed to respond to most Chinese provocations or breaches of public conduct in Asia’s commons. What they fear most is having to make a choice between following a declining America or accommodating a rising China.

What will be your policy to arrest America’s perceived decline in the region? How will you assure allies that our security guarantees remain credible? What balance of U.S. forces in the region do you believe we need and how much is sufficient? In short, do you believe that America is a Pacific power, and if so, how will you maintain our presence in the world’s most dynamic region?

Michael Auslin is a resident scholar at AEI.

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