A LEADING expert in Asia-Pacific security has warned that a Clinton presidency may further damage relations between the United States and China.
The relationship between Beijing and Washington is already getting increasingly tense over the South China Sea, with China repeatedly warning the west to keep out of the disputed region.
Associate Professor Jingdong Yuan from the Lowy Institute For International Policy told news.com.au that Clinton’s more aggressive stance in the region could sour the relationship further.
“Clinton is a known quantity but not a positive one to the Chinese,” he said. “There is a perception that somehow Clinton is quite critical of China and will adopt a more hawkish policy toward China after the election.
“She is one of the architects of the US ‘Pivot to Asia’ policy, which Beijing views as a way to keep China down if not a straight containment policy.”
Dr Yuan said negative views of Clinton in China date back to 1995, when the then-First Lady gained prominence for a special speech she gave in Beijing urging the country to improve its treatment of women.
“She strongly criticised China during the 1995 UN conference on women, which was held in China,” he explained. “Typically speakers give some slack to the host, and what’s worse, Clinton ignored the fact that progress had been made for Chinese women, and the issue [was] more about where improvement can be made. She was too blunt for her host’s liking.”
He also acknowledged the candidate had been “very critical” of China’s internet censorship, saying this too had contributed to negative perceptions of her.
“She is likely to continue and push the pivot, and that will only heighten tensions between the two countries.”
However, he added that a peaceful relationship between the US and China was not out of the question.
“The US foreign policy — and administrations all along — has been more or less pragmatic so that co-operation between the two countries is not out of the question. And both realise that they need to manage their differences lest they escalate to a situation neither side seeks or wants to see.”
WIKILEAKS CLAIMS CLINTON VOWED TO ‘RING’ CHINA
Wikileaks has recently released transcripts of private speeches purportedly given by Hillary Clinton, which suggest the Democratic presidential nominee is likely to take a tougher stance on China if she wins the US election.
The newly-released emails, purportedly containing the off-the-record speeches, reveal she told Goldman Sachs bankers that the United States had warned Beijing it would “ring China with missile defence”, unless it did more to stop North Korea.
The former secretary of state also accused China’s military of backing the North Korean military’s provocations.
“The biggest supporters of a provocative North Korea [have] been the PLA,” she stated in June 4, 2013, according to Wikileaks.
“The deep connections between the military leadership in China and in North Korea has really been the mainstay of the relationship.”
Clinton warned that unless China did more to contain North Korea’s nuclear aims, the US would build up its own missile defenses and naval forces in the region.
“We all have told the Chinese if they continue to develop this missile program and they get an ICBM that has the capacity to carry a small nuclear weapon on it, which is what they’re aiming to do, we cannot abide that,” she allegedly said.
“Because they could not only do damage to our treaty allies, namely Japan and South Korea, but they could actually reach Hawaii and the west coast theoretically, we’re going to ring China with missile defense.”
According to another leaked speech to Goldman Sachs in October 2013, her message to China was: “You either control them, or we’re going to have to defend against them”.
The leak says she told the audience China “basically wants to control” the entire South China Sea.
“You can’t hold that against them,” she purportedly said. “They have the right to assert themselves. But if nobody’s there to push back to create a balance, then they’re going to have a chokehold on the sea lanes and also on the countries that border the South China Sea.”
If the emails are authentic, she also attempted to argue that the United States had as much claim to the disputed region as China did, even going as far as to label it the “American Sea”.
“I made the point at one point in the argument that, you know, you can call it whatever you want to call it. You don’t have a claim to all of it. I said, by that argument, you know, the United States should claim all of the Pacific. We liberated it, we defended it.
“We have as much claim to all of the Pacific. And we could call it the American Sea, and it could go from the West Coast of California all the way to the Philippines. And, you know, my counterpart sat up very straight and goes, well, you can’t do that. And I said, well, we have as much right to claim that as you do,” she continued, according to the text. “I mean, you claim it based on pottery shards from, you know, some fishing vessel that ran aground in an atoll somewhere. You know, we had conveys of military strength. We discovered Japan for heaven’s sake.”
The Clinton campaign has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the emails.
WHAT ABOUT TRUMP?
Earlier this year, nationalist Chinese newspaper The Global Times conducted an online poll which found 54 per cent of the country’s citizens would prefer a Donald Trump presidency.
But Dr Yuan said this isn’t necessarily to be taken as a positive endorsement.
“It is more about choosing the lesser of the two evils than a love for him,” he told news.com.au. “Granted, Trump is seen as someone that can [seal] the deal and less about ideologies. So perhaps there the Chinese are more confident and comfortable that given their growing economic power and the opportunities and benefits they can offer, they can cut deals with Trump and in the process blunt some of the edges of a more hawkish US foreign policy toward China.
“But obviously, opinion polls do not represent what the Chinese government thinks and the real test will come in the first six months after the US elections.”
Lastly, he warned China will not easily bow to pressure, regardless of who wins the election.
“One thing is for sure, it is unlikely the Beijing will show signs of weakness or compromise as the Chinese Communist Party is preparing to select the next generation of leaders in late 2016 and 2017, and (President Xi Jinping) has a lot of stakes in the game.”
[email protected] / @gavindfernando