So, let me join Walter Russell Mead in giving credit to the Obama Administration for having established and augmented the projection of American power in Asia, and having served notice to the Chinese that they will not succeed in pushing the United States around in the region.
China, mindless conventional “decline” wisdom to the contrary, is much weaker and poorer than the United States, yet it is Chinese power rather than American supremacy that China’s neighbors most fear. China’s diplomacy faces an infuriating paradox: If it accepts the renewal of a US-based order in Asia it looks weak and is forced into an inferior political position; if it openly fights that order it alarms its neighbors into clinging more closely to Uncle Sam.
The great game between the United States and China is by no means over, and it is still entirely possible to botch China policy. But in the most recent round, the United States played its cards quite well, and China was thoroughly outmaneuvered–thus justifying praise for Team Obama. More importantly, however, it is worth remembering–as Mead does–that in the great game between China and the United States, the latter is far richer, far more influential, and far more powerful than is the former. The United States enters any power struggle with China possessing significant advantages that the Chinese likely cannot match, no matter how hard they try. I recognize that those who believe that American power is declining will have a hard time wrapping their brains around this subject, but eventually, they are going to have to, lest we start openly wondering what color the sky is in the declinists’ world?