There are evidences that Washington will continue its strategy aimed at the containment of China and this probable new Pacific Cold War will shape the face of the future international relations for decades.
This month the re-elected U.S. President visits three South East Asia countries – Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand. Due to their geographical location they play a key role in a new Asian game the United States supposedly are going to play. Along with Singapore and Australia a new possible coalition will control the strategic Strait of Malacca and, if necessary, cut this crucial for the Chinese economy oil transit line. Of course, this scenario at the moment is purely hypothetic, but the logic of the current U.S. policy shows that Obama will likely act in accordance with it.
Indeed, in 2010 – 2011, and especially after the publication of the U.S. new strategic guidance in January, 2012, the USA initiated a number of steps to strengthen its positions in the Pacific Ocean. For instance, American warships appeared in Singapore and land forces deployed a new base in the northern coast of Australia. Taking into consideration the existing U.S. allies in the region, we can imagine that the final goal of the American diplomacy is the encirclement of China along its borders from north to south. Japan and South Korea easily block the Strait of Tsushima, U.S. military bases in Okinawa is a serious hindrance for the access to the ocean for the Chinese navy, the same role play Taiwan and the Philippines. The chain is locked by the South East Asia countries.
However, the United States will unlikely use this containment network to pressurize Beijing in an aggressive manner. Actually, it is some sort of an insurance for Washington in case China will try to play more active role in the region and if its competition with the USA in crucial for American national interests points will be tough. So today it is just a phantom menace for the Chinese leadership, but it could be easily transformed into a real one.
China replied to the U.S. plans by increasing the defense spendings, including the announced creation of six aircraft carrier groups, so Washington has managed to involve Beijing into the arms race. Although, it is still a question whether Beijing will be able to realize this ambitious plan – the Chinese scientific and industrial potential in the military sphere are far from the U.S. one. And the United States will hardly sit back and do nothing looking at the China’s growing might. At the moment Washington has twelve air craft carriers supported by numerous escort ships – the largest navy in world’s history.
It is still a question how Russia should react if the confrontation between the USA and China will come into reality. The best strategy could be the “non-involvement” in the U.S. – Chinese rivalry if it starts. Moscow should keep good relations with both sides. Also it is better to maintain mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries of the region – including the South East Asia states. Perhaps, at the brink of a serious confrontation, Russia will be able to appease Washington and Beijing by using its good ties with Asian counties, or at least to minimize risks for itself.