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This book provides a multifaceted analysis of the so-called US 'rebalance' (or 'pivot') toward Asia by focusing on the diplomatic, military, and economic dimensions of the American policy shift in the Asia Pacific region.





The Reconfiguration of American Primacy in World Politics: Prospects and Challenges for the US Rebalance toward Asia
The Obama administration has launched a series of diplomatic, military, and economic initiatives as well as issued a number of public pronouncements that over time have come to shape and define the so-called US “pivot” (or “rebalance”) toward the Asia Pacific.1 After a decade of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, this policy shift signaled a new direction for US foreign policy in the twenty-first century. Nonetheless, existing public debates and analyses have so far tended to oversimplify key aspects of the policy. First, they have focused almost exclusively on the military dimension of the rebalance.2 Second, the US rebalance toward Asia has often been depicted, in a rather reductive manner, as a US “grand strategy” of military containment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).3 Washington, it is argued, is tightening its alliances and enhancing its military capabilities across the Asia Pacific in order to contain the rise of China, its most likely future military near peer competitor. This book aims at countering these misconceptions by bringing to light the breadth and complexity of what is a diplomatic, military, and economic repositioning of the United States toward (and within) the Asia Pacific.
Hugo Meijer

Drivers and Rationale of the Pivot: Diplomatic, Military, and Economic Dimensions


Chapter One. The Origin and Evolution of the Rebalance

In November 2011, the Obama administration explicitly announced its new vision of a strategy to rebalance America’s efforts and investments toward Asia. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton published an article entitled “America’s Pacific Century” in the periodical Foreign Policy, which for all practical purposes was an “official” statement of strategic intent. In this article, Clinton indicated that Washington believed that the epicenter of global power is no longer the Atlantic but the Pacific and that the Asia-Pacific region was more important to the United States than ever before. She asserted that much of the history of the twenty-first century would be written in Asia. In her words, “As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point.”1 She explained:
Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia. Strategically, maintaining peace and security across the Asia Pacific is increasingly crucial to global progress.2
Michael McDevitt

Chapter Two. Change and Continuity in America’s Asia Pivot: US Engagement with Multilateralism in the Asia Pacific

When Barack Obama became the president of the United States, he issued a number of key declarations, oft reiterated since, that sought to define his foreign policy and presumably set it apart from those of his predecessors. For example, in an address to a Tokyo audience in November 2009, President Obama referred to himself as “America’s first Pacific President,” promising his listeners that the United States would “strengthen and sustain our leadership in this vitally important part of the world.”1 Second, he noted in that same speech that the United States, under his leadership, would actively support and participate in multilateral diplomacy:
In addition to our bilateral relations, we also believe that the growth of multilateral organizations can advance the security and prosperity of this region. I know that the United States has been disengaged from many of these organizations in recent years. So let me be clear: Those days have passed. As a [sic] Asia Pacific nation, the United States expects to be involved in the discussions that shape the future of this region, and to participate fully in appropriate organizations as they are established and evolve.2
See Seng Tan

Chapter Three. The Military Rebalance as Retcon

A “retcon” (short for “retroactive continuity”) is a literary device used to insert “new” revelations in a storyline that also explain everything that occurred previously.1 Retcons change interpretations of past actions, applying a new logic retroactively. Since they were not part of the original narrative, these devices tend to distort the story. As “new” versions of old stories, retcons tend to obscure more than they clarify.
Benjamin M. Jensen, Eric Y. Shibuya

Chapter Four. The Political Economy of the US Rebalance: Revisiting the “Web of Linkages” between National Security and Economic Prosperity

Since its emergence in the US strategic debate, with the publication of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s article in Foreign Policy,1 the “pivot” (or “rebalancing”) to the Asia-Pacific region has been mainly submitted to two different, though not mutually exclusive, interpretations.2 On the one hand, it has been perceived as a rhetorical and tactical move intended to offer to the Obama administration a “ticket out of the Middle East” as well as short-term reassurance measures toward US Asian allies, who had been facing a renewed Chinese regional assertiveness.3 On the other hand, the “pivot” can be viewed as the product of a long-term strategic thinking deriving from a twenty-first-century version of Harold Mackinder’s famous syllogism, adapting it to “who controls China controls the Asia Pacific region; who controls the Asia Pacific region controls the global economy; and who controls the global economy controls the world.”4
Guillaume de Rougé

Regional Reactions to the US Rebalance toward Asia


Chapter Five. Chinese Reactions to the US Rebalance toward Asia: Strategic Distrust and Pragmatic Adaptation

It took very little time for Chinese scholars, think tank experts, and government officials to throw themselves into a vivid and stimulating debate about the US pivot and its consequences for China. Between 2008 and 2011, a broad range of articles was published and many conferences were organized on the future of Sino-American relations in the Asia-Pacific region. A number of Chinese experts knew for a fact that something was in the air regarding US policies in the Asia Pacific: before the pivot was made public, several articles had already questioned the future of US strategy toward China and the United States’ involvement in Asia.1 Accordingly, the intellectual frenzy around the pivot started on a solid tradition of analyzing US policies in Asia from a perspective of mistrust.
Mathieu Duchâtel, Emmanuel Puig

Chapter Six. The US Policy of Rebalance: Japanese and South Korean Perspectives

In attempting to explain the US policy of rebalance,1 Japanese analysts often begin by referring to Hillary Clinton’s article “America’s Pacific Century,” which appeared in the November 2011 issue of Foreign Policy.2 From the Japanese perspective, several considerations influenced the United States’ adoption of the rebalance policy. Kato Yoichi’s assessment summarizes the prevailing Japanese views well.3 He observes that the Obama administration needed to explain to Congress why the defense budget should not be reduced despite the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, the United States needed a new strategic objective as American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were drawing down, and connecting to Asia’s dynamic growth promised to serve both US economic and strategic interests. It was widely believed in Japan that the War on Terror conducted by the Bush administration had led to the reduction of US engagement in the Pacific in diplomatic and national security terms, weakening US leadership in the region.
Young C. Kim

Chapter Seven. The US Rebalance in Southeast Asia: Maritime Security, Nontraditional Security Threats, and “Bamboo Diplomacy”

Even if “Southeast Asia” (SEA) is a recent concept, rooted in World War II,1 and even if heterogeneous toponyms have been used in the past to encompass parts or the entire region—such as Indochina, Insulindia, and Australasia2—this area has consistently been considered throughout history as a critical maritime lock between the East and the West. Because of the seasonal monsoons, indianized thalassocracies like the Funan and Sriwijaya as well as trade sultanates like Malacca and Demak took advantage of this strategic crossroads to successively manage the coasts and to shelter Indian, Chinese, Arab, and Western merchants. Today, Southeast Asia continues to be a critical node for travelers and traders, formal and informal flows, civilian and military people: the airports ofJakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur are respectively the eighth, tenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth biggest airports in the world in terms of passenger traffic3; Singapore is both the fourth biggest financial hub and the second port for containers in the world; in terms of oil flows, in 2011, 15.2 million barrels per day crossed the Malacca Straits while only 3.8 passed through Bab el Mandeb, in the Gulf of Aden.4 The region is made up of archipelagic states (Indonesia: 17,000 islands; Philippines: 7,000 islands) and many of its straits can be used by both merchant vessels and warships.
Eric Frécon, Hugo Meijer

Chapter Eight. Implications of the US Rebalance toward Asia: European Security and NATO

The US “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific region, as confirmed in its military dimension by a January 2012 DoD paper,1 came as no surprise. It had been decades in the making. In reality, the United States had been recalibrating its global priorities since the 1980s. Despite the severity of the INF2 crisis that temporarily (1979–1983) refocused strategic attention on Europe,3 the shift in US activities and interests from those of an East-coast establishment to those of a West-coast establishment, which was consecrated under Ronald Reagan’s “Western White House,” was to prove durable. From the moment the Berlin Wall fell, a relative US military disengagement from the European theater was inevitable. This trend was to drive the entire 1990s process of trying to generate, by one means or another, appropriate European military capacity.4 The future of NATO was up for grabs. Considerable pressure was placed on the Europeans to offer payback for 40 years of US security guarantees by agreeing to extend the Alliance to other parts of the world, in short to give both political and material support to US global strategy.5 In 1993, Senator Richard Lugar, the Republican chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee declared, provocatively, that NATO should go “out of area or out of business.”6 The US pressure for a global partnership with the Europeans was predicated on the US assertion that the two entities, given tight geostrategic cooperation, could set the global agenda for the twenty-first century.7
Jolyon Howorth

Chapter Nine. Impact of the Rebalance on Europe’s Interest in East Asia: Consequences for Europe in Economic, Diplomatic, and Military/Security Dimensions

Assessing the impact of the US rebalance on Europe’s interest in East Asia poses several challenges. On the one hand, the US rebalance is at the time of writing this chapter still on its way to prove that it is sustainable and substantial. On the other hand, with Europe’s interest having been predominately in the economic realm while the US rebalance includes also a military dimension, both sides are only recently coming closer with both sides adopting more comprehensive approaches and the Europeans starting to think more strategically about the region even in military and security-related terms. Future scenarios of the EU-US interaction in the Asia-Pacific region can therefore evolve as cooperative and complementary as well as competitive, with the EU’s interest being affected negatively—in case the EU-US interplay in the region is competitively—and positively—if the interaction will be cooperative and the EU, for example, gains in terms of having secure maritime routes.
May-Britt U. Stumbaum

Chapter Ten. Russia’s Perspective on the US Pivot: Opportunities and Constraints in the Asia Pacific

Russia’s attitude toward the US rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region has been astonishingly muted. Compared to what has happened in Western official and academic circles, where the US “pivot” was met with a flurry of discussions and assessments, this change in Washington’s foreign and defense policy has not triggered a lively discussion in Russia, at least not perceptibly. This is all the more striking given that Russia has always justified its claim to be recognized as a great power in light of the Euro-Asiatic status that its long coast on the Pacific Ocean allegedly provides it with; two-thirds of Russia’s territory is indeed located in Asia. In May 2014, in the context of a visit of President Putin to China, Prime Minister Medvedev recalled that on the Russian coat of arms “the eagle is looking in both directions,” and that this was not meaningless.1 In addition, Russia has embarked on its own foreign policy rebalance toward “Greater Asia.” Also, Washington announced its intent to rebalance its strategy toward the Asia Pacific in the context of the “reset” of Russian-American relations pursued by the Obama administration, which sparked discussions both in the West and in Russia about the possibility to build closer relations among Russia, the European Union, and the United States vis-à-vis China’s rise.
Isabelle Facon


The US Rebalance toward Asia: Whither Sino-American Relations?
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, Sino-American relations have undergone a turn that is as important as the three historical turns of 1898, 1950, and 1972—and one that resembles none of these previous shifts. When President William McKinley proclaimed the “open door” principle in 1898, he secured a long-term unique role for the United States as a partner to a China that was beset with its own decline and preyed upon by other powers. When the “bamboo curtain” was lowered in 1950 against the People’s Republic of China (PRC) after it had jumped into the Korean War with Stalin, China became the face of the enemy for America, and America replaced Japan for several decades as the villain in PRC propaganda. When Richard Nixon embarked for China in 1972, he inaugurated 30 years of increasing cooperation and interdependence, where relations, however bumpy at times, always returned to a central path of shared interests.
François Godement


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