What China sees in Clinton's visit to Burma (Myanmar)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says her visit to Burma (Myanmar) Wednesday is to gauge political reforms there. But China is concerned it could be part of a strategic plan to fence in Beijing.
ManyÂ Chinese observers, however, see something else in the visit: another step in a strategic plan by Washington to fence Beijing in, as the United States increasingly turns its diplomatic attention to Asia.
US officials insist Ms. Clinton is in Burma to further political reforms by the new nominally civilian government. â€śItâ€™s about â€¦ trying to seize an opportunity,â€ť said State Department spokesman Mark Toner earlier this week. â€śThis visit to Burma is not about our relationship with China.â€ť
The Chinese government says it welcomes this approach. â€śWe believe that Myanmar and relevant Western countries should enhance contacts â€¦ on the basis of mutual respect,â€ť Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday. â€śWe hope these actions will be conducive to the stability and development of Myanmar.â€ť
Such statements, however, mask undoubted concerns. â€śAs Washington shifts its strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region, there is more than meets the eye to Clintonâ€™s visit to Burma,â€ť argued an article in Wednesdayâ€™s â€śLiberation Daily,â€ť a paper published by the Chinese military that was circulated by the state-run Xinhua news agency.
Clintonâ€™s visit, the first to Burma by a US secretary of State since John Foster Dulles went to Rangoon in 1955, comes on the heels of Mr. Obamaâ€™s nine-day swing through the Asia-Pacific region. He used that journey to announce a US â€śpivotâ€ť away from winding-down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and toward east Asia.
â€śThe US is here to stay,â€ť he said bluntly.
Those ambitions have worried some southeast Asian nations, especially those that have territorial disputes with China over islands and waters in the South China Sea thought to be rich in oil and gas. They have welcomed renewed US involvement, and Washingtonâ€™s insistence that it has an interest in ensuring freedom of navigation in waters that China claims.
Burma has no such dispute with Beijing, but its new rulers appear to be tiring of Beijingâ€™s warm embrace and seeking to reduce the countryâ€™s economic and political dependence on its huge northern neighbor by cultivating ties with Washington.
Washingtonâ€™s response to those overtures makes it â€śseem like the US is undermining Chinaâ€™s foundations in Asia one by one,â€ť warned an editorial in Wednesdayâ€™s Chinese-language edition of the Global Times, an official paper that often voices opinions on the nationalist end of the permitted spectrum of public debate in China.
The paperâ€™s English-language edition suggested in another editorial that â€śChina has no resistance toward Myanmar seeking improved relationship with the West, but it will not accept this while seeing its interests stamped on.â€ť
'To contain China?'
Meanwhile, the ruling Communist partyâ€™s official organ, the Peopleâ€™s Daily, published a strongly worded article on its website Tuesday by a prominent military commentator accusing the US of â€śpositioning pieces and forces on Chinaâ€™s periphery, and the intent is very clear â€“ this is aimed at China, to contain China.â€ť
â€śChina has not provoked US interests, so what are you doing running to Asia to encircle China?â€ť asked Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan rhetorically in the article.
Such concerns are likely to be deepened by recent signs that the US, Australia, and India may be renewing efforts to create a security pact. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd told the Australian Financial Review on Wednesday that he backed the idea, and that â€śthe response from the Indian government has really been quite positive.â€ť
Chinaâ€™s response to the suggestion was muted. â€śWe hope that countries in the region will do more to promote regional peace and development,â€ť was all that spokesman Mr. Hong would say on Wednesday.Â