On February 6th, U.S. President Barack Obama issued his second National Security Strategy report, which elaborated his administration’s assessment of present-day world situation and set the tune for American diplomatic and security strategies in the next two years. The document has three outstanding features.
First, it shows greater self-confidence, but still adheres to “strategic patience.” On one hand, the report acknowledges that major changes have taken place in the situation of global security, stating that the U.S. faces such more complex, serious and diverse threats and challenges as terrorism, cyber attacks, the Russian invasion of Crimea, climate change, and the outbreak of pandemics. It identifies extremism and terrorism as “persistent threats” to the U.S. and “catastrophic attacks” on U.S. homeland and key infrastructures as “strategic risks” worth priority considerations. On the other hand, the report believes the U.S. has grown even stronger, and conditions at home have improved greatly. From the perspective of might and status, the United States’ economy is recovering: it’s more self-reliant in energy supplies, and continuing to lead the world in science and technology and innovation.
From the perspective of external conditions, though the issue of ISIS appears rampant, it has yet to constitute substantial threat to the U.S. The U.S. has basically gotten rid of the “quagmire” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, through years of endeavors, the U.S. has repaired relations with allies in a comprehensive manner, and formed partnerships with more countries. That is why the Obama administration believes the U.S. must lead the world, and the crux is “how” instead of “whether” it should lead.
In the meantime, the Obama administration has also realized that many security problems facing the U.S. can’t be resolved immediately or easily, and that their resolution calls for adhering to “strategic patience”, and avoiding “over-intervention.” Therefore, it places more emphasis on allies, partners and international collaboration, in the belief that the U.S. should actively “lead”, and try its best to avoid going in alone.
Second, U.S. diplomacy will be more aggressive in the future, and will focus on the Asia-Pacific and global issues. Judging from domestic conditions in the U.S., Republican control over both the House and Senate means Obama faces greater hurdles in domestic policy-making and it’s thus unrealistic for him to anticipate decent “political legacies.” In the next two years, Obama may concentrate more on foreign affairs, and try to create “diplomatic legacies” of far-reaching significance.
Judging from the report, the Obama administration will have two key diplomatic priorities: one is to continue pressing ahead with the pivot to Asia-Pacific. Obama called himself the first “Pacific president” of the U.S. soon after he assumed presidency, and has spared no efforts to promote “rebalancing” to the Asia-Pacific. Present challenges from the Ukraine crisis and the rise of the ISIS have obviously not shaken the US’ resolve to “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific. Susan Rice, United States National Security Advisor, openly claimed in a speech on February 6 at the Brookings Institute that the White House would double economic, military, and diplomatic inputs in its strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific. The other is to cope with various global challenges. In Obama’s opinion, in order to continue its world leadership, the U.S. must play an “exemplary role”, and “lead” and “promote” the international community to jointly cope with such global challenges as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destructions, global public health crises, and climate change. The new report also highlighted that point.
Third, the U.S. will continue cooperation with China, at the same time display further vigilance against the rise of China. When it comes to U.S. China policies, the Obama administration has actually followed a policy that emphasizes both engagement and containment. On one hand, U.S. authorities have repeatedly and openly stated that they welcome China’s rise, emphasized expectations to collaborate with China on climate change, public health, global economic stability, and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and urged China to assume “major power responsibilities.” Susan Rice once said, though China and the U.S. have differences over human rights, cyber information theft, and ways of resolving disputes, they are developing a constructive relationship, and expanding cooperation on topics from global public health to weapons non-proliferation.
On the other hand, the U.S. has been suspicious of China’s rise, especially its military modernization, seeing it as a “lasting challenge” in its face, believing that by developing advanced weapons systems, precise and complex cruise and ballistic missiles in particular, China aims to defeat long-distance deployment capabilities of the U.S. military. Recent U.S. adjustments to its military deployment in the Asia-Pacific are also more or less targeted at China. The report, too, pronounced the U.S. should closely watch the process of Chinese military modernization, and again brought up cyber disputes, claiming that no matter whether cyber theft was conducted by individuals or the Chinese government, the U.S. would take necessary measures to protect business and cyber security.
In general, the new report is a basic follow-up to the Obama administration’s opinions about China as well as its diplomatic philosophy reflected in its 2010 edition. But it has a more confident tone. This mirrors U.S. confidence based on the recovery of its national strength, and also betokens that U.S. diplomacy will be more aggressive in the next two years. Under such situation, both China and the US will face a tricky topic: How to handle the China-U.S. relationship, so that it won’t be derailed.