The United States needs to create a new Asia-Pacific dream to maintain its global leadership and counter China’s aspiration, according to Yoichi Funabashi, chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation. Funabashi made the statement during the 30th-anniversary symposium of The National Interest.
China rise poses two-fold challenge
According to Funabashi, the United States should implement a long-term strategic rebalancing at home and in the Asia-Pacific region to ensure its global power in the future. He noted that the rapid change in the economic, military, and political power in Asia has global repercussions.
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Funabashi emphasized, “The great drama of the twenty-first century will be the trajectory of China’s rise.” He added that China’s rise poses a two-fold challenge—a rival to U.S. power and a potential threat to the post-World War II liberal international order.
He emphasized that the organizing principles that serve as the foundation of peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific are at risk of being overturned if China aims to undermine the existing order and establishes an alternative system based on its Sinocentric strategic vision.
United States must act as a primary balancer
Funabashi pointed out that the Cold War policy of containment is no longer viable despite China’s new status as the greatest contender to the United States’ power. According to him, The U.S. “must act as the primary and ever-present balancer” in the Asia-Pacific region.
He emphasized that withdrawal is not an option for the United States. Its main challenge is to “effectively reaffirm the principles of the liberal order, maintain the initiative shaping the strategic environment together with like-minded partners, and facilitate China’s rise and integration into the rules-based order.”
The Asia-Pacific region is considered by the United States as a “defining region” for the future. The U.S. outlined a rebalancing strategy for the region in recent years. Although Washington reassured that the rebalancing strategy is moving into the next phase, there are serious doubts about its vitality. There are also doubts about the viability of Washington’s long-term commitment to the region.
Funabashi said the United States “urgently needs a new Asia Pacific dream” to counter Beijing’s dream. However, such long-term vision is not only the responsibility of the United States, but it must involve other players in the region. He suggested the integration of emerging powers in the region such as India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar as stakeholder states. The United States should also leverage its Cold War regional alliances including Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines as key coalition partners in shaping the regional architecture.
“Washington should act as an enabler that encourages its like-minded partners to take on greater leadership responsibilities, particularly in maritime security,” said Funabashi.
Furthermore, Funabashi said the primary objective is to avoid suppression while conducting a constructive engagement with China. He emphasized that the Indo-Pacific concept is a crucial counterbalance against China’s potential adventurism.
The United States must rediscover its status as “city upon a hill”
Funabashi also indicated that an internal rebalancing is also critical to the United States. The American government must address three important issues: reducing its dependence on China, checking the rapidly widening wealth gap, and re-establishing the middle class as the foundation of the society. According to Funabashi, America must rediscover its status as “city upon a hill” and must overcome the partisanship and gridlock in the Congress.
“Victory for the rules-based international order in the Asia-Pacific hinges on this two-pronged rebalancing process. America must pursue quiet deterrence to ensure the future stability of the international system,” said Funabashi.