Assessing the US 'rebalance' to Asia: Trends and prospects for American strategy in the Asia-Pacific region

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A soldier stands guard in the Tiananmen area during China's 18th National Congress on November 8, 2012 in Beijing, China.

Assessing the US 'rebalance' to Asia

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Chairman Reinsch and Vice Chairman Shea, Members of the Commission:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today on United States policy in the Asia-Pacific region and China’s new leadership. As this panel is devoted more directly to the US rebalance to Asia, and because you have heard from a number of China experts earlier in the day, I will largely limit my remarks to the implications for US policy of the broad strategic trends in the region.

The next decade has the potential to be as transformative in world history as the decade of the nineteen-teens. One world order is struggling to maintain its viability in a rapidly changing environment, and a host of challengers for regional dominance are springing up around the globe. Meanwhile, the established powers that created the post-World War II system are dwindling in strength, failing at fundamental economic reform, and attempting to limit their ability to project power and exercise influence beyond their borders. Whether or not China, Iran, Russia, or Venezuela indeed become the most powerful players in their respective regions, there is little doubt that some of the certainties we have taken for granted over the past half-century, including the power balance of the international system and the attractiveness of the liberal international order will be increasingly called into question.

Perhaps nowhere is this reality more important than in the Asia-Pacific. The Commission knows better than most the centrality of the Asia-Pacific to the global economy, the potential threats it poses to regional and global stability, and also the opportunities it could afford for the expansion of peace and prosperity over the next generation. I find it difficult to credit any one ingredient with creating the Asia-Pacific and world that we know today. Yet there is little doubt that the positive role played by the United States, and its willingness to sacrifice national blood and treasure in the process, has been a significant element in the maintenance of regional stability and the rise to prosperity of Asia. That role, however, is increasingly at risk, and with it, the assurance of a peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific that we have taken for granted for so long.

 

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