In November 2014, during Obama’s second visit to China, he sought to “debunk the notion… that our pivot to Asia is about containing China.”
But despite such claims it is perceived by China that US may not want to prevent China from growing powerful, per se, but does want to prevent the use of that power in ways unacceptable to the United States.
“[W]e welcome China’s rise. We just want to make sure … that that rise occurs in a way that reinforces international norms and international rules, and enhances security and peace, as opposed to it being a source of conflict either in the region or around the world,” Obama said in January 2011, reports The Diplomat.
Tiezzi adds that the word “containment” is not quite right to describe US’ stance on China. Saying the US wants to “check” or “channel” China’s rise might be a more accurate way of putting things.
The US does have a real and established interest in seeing a stable and prosperous China but at the same time Washington is progressively suspicious of how China seeks to use the strength that comes with its prosperity.
China’s ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ project seeks to reshape Asia (and even Europe) economically, making China the center of the region’s financial and trade initiatives.
China also opposes US’ version of a number of existing global standards and rules, from the legality of military surveillance within another state’s exclusive economic zone to the way the Internet is conceived of and governed.
As Tiezzi notes for The Diplomat, China does not benefit from an Asia where the US is completely absent, economically or even militarily but Beijing does want to diminish the US role in Asia, making China at least a known equal in setting the agenda for the region.
That is what China truly means when it talks of “mutual respect” based on the relationship where Washington’s influence in Asia is considerably reduced.