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Can the United States Keep China at Bay?

Southeast Asians want the United States active and engaged in the region, and the U.S. is clearly trying to deliver. But Southeast Asian countries cannot hope to receive full U.S. support in the South China Sea until they resolve ongoing disputes among themselves.

This burst of U.S. activity in Southeast Asia is, in part, a response to China’s recent assertiveness, particularly in the maritime space (more on that here). Southeast Asians hope drawing the United States more deeply into the region can help balance China’s heft in multilateral organizations and deter China from using force to resolve territorial disputes, even as Southeast Asians beef up their own defense capabilities.

Map of the South China Sea (1988). (Source: University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

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China, Publications, U.S. Policy »

Date: 24 May 2010.

Publication: The Huffington Post.

Authors: Daniel Michaeli and Joel Backaler.

Monday’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the United States and China provides the Obama administration with an opportunity to forge agreements in a number of areas of crucial significance for both U.S. economic competitiveness and strategic stability in Asia–but only if U.S. negotiators are willing to give non-headline topics the attention they deserve.

At this time of economic uncertainty, the future of the American economy is firmly linked to the ability of U.S. companies to compete for marketshare in China, the world’s fastest-growing market. So U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner’s agenda should not overstress the revaluation of China’s currency. Despite the degree of media attention paid to the issue, nearly 80% of U.S. firms in China don’t expect a revaluation to increase their profits, according to a recent American Chamber of Commerce in China survey. Rather, across a host of industries, Chinese commercial rules give domestic firms an unfair leg up over American ones, and this is the more significant reason U.S. companies have been unsuccessful in cracking the Chinese market.

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