Obama and China's Rise

Obama and China's Rise: An Insider's Account of America's Asia Strategy

Jeffrey A. Bader
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 171
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Obama and China's Rise
    Book Description:

    "Future presidents will need to find the right balance in China policy, so as to maintain America's strength and watchfulness but not fall into the classic security dilemma, wherein each side believes that growing capabilities reflect hostile intent and responds by producing that reality. I believe that President Obama struck that balance." -From Obama and China's Rise

    In 2005, veteran diplomat and Asia analyst Jeffrey Bader met for the first time with the then-junior U.S. senator from Illinois. When Barack Obama entered the White House a few years later, Bader was named the senior director for East Asian affairs on the National Security Council, becoming one of a handful of advisers responsible for formulating and implementing the administration's policy regarding that key region. For obvious reasons -a booming economy, expanding military power, and increasing influence over the region -the looming impact of a rising China dominated their efforts.

    Obama's original intent was to extend U.S. influence and presence in East Asia, which he felt had been neglected by a Bush administration fixated on the Middle East, particularly Iraq, and the war on terror. China's rise, particularly its military buildup, was heightening anxiety among its neighbors, including key U.S. allies Japan and South Korea. Bader explains the administration's efforts to develop stable relations with China while improving relationships with key partners worried about Beijing's new assertiveness.

    InObama and China's Rise, Bader reveals what he did, discusses what he saw, and interprets what it meant -first during the Obama campaign, and then for the administration. The result is an illuminating backstage view of the formulation and execution of American foreign policy as well as a candid assessment of both. Bader combines insightful and authoritative foreign policy analysis with a revealing and humanizing narrative of his own personal journey.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2243-4
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Prologue: The Candidate and the Campaign
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    I met Barack Obama in June 2005 over a Thai takeout dinner in a small unprepossessing conference room in his Senate office. I had been asked to join a meeting with him to discuss an obscure issue, whether or not the Senate should approve the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) negotiated by the George W. Bush administration. Obama was one of a handful of Democratic senators who had not yet taken a position on the agreement, and he wanted to discuss the pros and cons with a few Democrats with experience in trade issues.

    It was not altogether clear...

  5. ONE Asia Policy: The Big Picture
    (pp. 1-8)

    Under the George W. Bush administration, U.S. policies toward most of the major countries in Asia were generally sound. President Bush arbitrated between his administration’s warring factions—broadly speaking, pragmatic moderates and neoconservatives—that plagued his foreign policy elsewhere and put in place a policy toward China that maintained stability through most of his two terms. His warm relationship with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan facilitated cooperation on international issues, while the administration did important work to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, developing military coordination and realigning U.S. bases in Japan. The U.S.-India relationship also moved forward with an agreement...

  6. TWO Laying the Foundation: Secretary Clinton Visits Asia
    (pp. 9-17)

    During its transition and opening days, the Obama administration looked for ways to demonstrate that from the beginning it intended to place much greater emphasis on U.S. relations with Asia. Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon argued that the United States needed to rebuild its presence and relations in parts of the world where it appeared distracted, which first of all meant East Asia.

    Donilon and Denis McDonough, chief of staff of the National Security Council (NSC), called for early steps to demonstrate this new approach. Although the State Department’s assistant secretary of state designate for East Asian and Pacific...

  7. THREE China: Getting Started
    (pp. 18-25)

    With a number of negative examples from previous presidencies fresh in our minds, our team made China policy an early priority. For almost three decades, presidential transitions had damaged America’s foreign policy interests, and we were determined to learn from that history.

    In 1980, less than two years after President Jimmy Carter normalized relations with the People’s Republic of China, Ronald Reagan took office having condemned Carter for abandoning America’s ally, the Republic of China (Taiwan). Reagan indicated he intended to restore an official relationship with Taiwan and to sell it advanced fighter aircraft. Reagan’s position was part of the...

  8. FOUR North Korea: Breaking the Pattern
    (pp. 26-39)

    Upon taking office, the Obama administration knew that its biggest challenge in East Asia, besides getting the relationship with China right, was to devise a strategy for dealing with a nuclear North Korea. The North’s nuclear weapons program had been a large concern of the previous three administrations.

    Under George H. W. Bush, all U.S. nuclear weapons were withdrawn from South Korea, paving the way for a North-South agreement in 1992 that banned the manufacture, deployment, or use of nuclear weapons. When North Korea proceeded with its nuclear program nonetheless and a crisis arose in 1993–94 over the North’s...

  9. FIVE Japan: From LDP to DPJ Rule
    (pp. 40-47)

    When Barack Obama took office, relations with Japan did not seem to present serious problems that would preoccupy senior officials. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), headed by veteran politician Taro Aso, was still in power after a fifty-year hold, except for a break of one year. We wanted to strengthen Tokyo’s confidence in our commitment to the alliance and common view of security in the Asia-Pacific region. Given the long history of U.S. cooperation with the LDP, this did not seem an especially daunting challenge.

    Several factors, however, signaled that special efforts were needed with the Japanese. For one thing,...

  10. SIX China: The Obama Visit and the Climate Change Conference
    (pp. 48-68)

    Having committed to a November 2009 presidential visit to China, our national security team needed to lay the groundwork by identifying and making progress on the issues we expected to dominate the visit, principally Iran, North Korea, and climate change. But first, we had to deal with a politically sensitive issue that threatened to overshadow the visit—the Dalai Lama’s plan to visit the United States in October.

    The Dalai Lama’s representatives had told us early in 2009 of his intention to do a multi-city tour of the United States, including a stop in Washington, in October. They expected the...

  11. SEVEN Year Two: Dealing with an Assertive China
    (pp. 69-82)

    As 2010 began, we felt we had laid a good foundation for relations with China through a considered strategy. Our approach rested on three principles.

    First, China should not be considered an inevitable adversary, but rather a potential partner in resolving critical global issues. The president understood there were competitive elements in its relationship with the United States—some quite significant—in both the economic and the security areas, but he believed the cooperative elements could and should outweigh those. Washington did not seek the containment of China, as was the case with the Soviet Union, both because of the...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. EIGHT Tensions in Korea
    (pp. 83-93)

    The most dangerous challenge the Obama administration faced in Asia in 2010 was not provoked by China, though China certainly played an important role. Rather, North Korea was to blame, with its escalating nuclear and military activities.

    When North Korea began its cycle of provocations in 2009 with missile and nuclear tests, Chinese leaders initially stood with the United States in sanctioning the North for these activities. As the year progressed, however, they demonstrated greater solidarity with North Korea, welcoming Kim Jong-il to China on three visits between May 2010 and May 2011. This was probably occasioned by Chinese anxiety...

  14. NINE Building Stronger Ties with Southeast Asia
    (pp. 94-103)

    From the time of Secretary of State Clinton’s first trip abroad, which included Indonesia, the Obama administration had wanted to signal that our interests in Asia went beyond the traditional American focus on Northeast Asia. Attention would also be given to the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, and New Zealand. With a population of 600 million, an increasingly integrated market, and some of the world’s most dynamic economies, Southeast Asia plays a huge role in the global economy. Furthermore, it lies at a strategic crossroads between two large rising powers, China and India, and astride...

  15. TEN China’s Push into Other Maritime Areas
    (pp. 104-108)

    As the Obama administration was moving ahead with a new policy in Southeast Asia, its relations with China encountered some unexpected turbulence. In early 2010, I read a State Department press guidance issued following an incident between Chinese and Southeast Asian fishing vessels in the South China Sea. The gist of the guidance was that the United States took no position on territorial claims to islands in the South China Sea asserted by China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei. While that statement was true, it seemed to me to leave out a host of other considerations important to U.S....

  16. ELEVEN The Road to Hu Jintao’s Visit to the United States
    (pp. 109-129)

    Over the course of 2010, China’s incautious and gratuitously assertive diplomacy and actions had alienated most of its neighbors, notably Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, and India. Relations with the United States had also become more complicated. Instead of building a peaceful environment in its neighborhood, China seemed to be encouraging creation of a belt of hostile states on its periphery, all seeking—and in fact developing—closer relations with the United States.

    The third pillar of the Obama administration’s Asia strategy had been to ensure that China’s rise contributed to, rather than detracted from, regional stability. A principal means...

  17. TWELVE Dealing with Multiple Disasters in Japan
    (pp. 130-139)

    From the time I joined the Obama administration, I had planned to serve for about two years and then move on. National Security Council jobs are for the young, and I was already sixty-three when the Obama administration began. I felt that after two years of grinding work, it would be time to move aside for a fresh face. I also felt the need at some stage to increase my income potential, as thirty years of federal service had left me inadequately prepared for a satisfactory retirement. Much as I loved public service and felt not the slightest regret for...

  18. THIRTEEN Looking Back, Looking Ahead
    (pp. 140-150)

    U.S. foreign policy often has been criticized for being too reactive and not strategic enough. The criticisms have come not only from the outside. I can’t count the number of meetings I attended in which someone has declared emphatically, after several rounds of inconclusive argument, “We need a strategy.”

    In the real world, presidents and nations have no choice but to react to developments as they occur. Manifestos and road maps sound good in speeches, campaign documents, op-eds, and textbooks, but they rarely provide effective prescriptions for action when a fresh, unanticipated challenge arises. If they did, peace would long...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 151-162)
  20. Index
    (pp. 163-171)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 172-174)