The USA’s Containment Strategy for China: Blinken’s Visits to Seoul and Tokyo

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Recent developments occurring in the Far East reveal that the strategy of the United States of America (USA) to contain China has gained a new dimension. Indeed, the fact that Antony Blinken, who was appointed as the Secretary of State in the US President Joe Biden team, made his first overseas visit to Japan and South Korea that are in the close vicinity of China, shows how determined the US is, in its strategy towards China. Ultimately, the US wants to isolate China in the region, confine it to its own borders and strike it from inside. In other words, the White House administration follows a strategy of containing China from the outside and destroying it from inside.

In this context, the USA is deepening its relations of alliance with India, Japan and Australia in the region and on the other hand, it pays much more attention to domestic issues such as Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which we can call Beijing’s “soft spot”. It is quite purposeful that the USA emphasizes democracy and human rights in its regional policies in line with determining its strategy as “Free and Open Indian Pacific”. So that, last week, the leaders of the Quartet Group (OUAD) consisting of the USA, India, Japan and Australia came together for the first time on the online platform and formed the Alliance of the QUAD Quartet “against China”.

The global rivalry between the USA and China is getting deeper and multidimensional. In this context, it is convenient to mention the most important issues regarding disagreement and conflict on the Washington-Beijing line. First of all, the issue of trade wars taken over from the Trump administration consist the first of the most important tests that the Biden administration will give on relations with China. It can be said that Biden will concentrate on the “strategy of economic encirclement of Beijing” in collaboration with Japan, South Korea and India, which are among the major economies of the world, in order to suppress China economically.

In this respect, Blinken’s visits to Seoul and Tokyo are noteworthy. Therefore, the “Quad” formation initiated by the USA as the “Security Dialogue” turns into a strategy to encircle China in political, security and economic terms. However, the economic investments made by the USA, especially in the Indochinese Peninsula and Southeast Asian countries, are far behind the investments made in the region under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). For this reason, the USA wants India and Japan to be more active in the Indochina Peninsula and Southeast Asian countries in the near abroad of China.

One important issue that escalates the tension between the USA and China is related to the South China Sea. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin accompanies US Secretary of State Blinken’s visits to Seoul and Tokyo. According to experts, the most important issue, that Blinken and Austin will address with their allies during their Far East travels, will be the tensions in the South China Sea. Because of, China’s claim of sovereignty over the Nine-Dash Line in the aforesaid seas, converting many islands there into military bases, Chinese navy and coast guard forces entering into dangerous rapprochement with Vietnam and the Philippines and endangering sea navigation security; all these facts rise China to a greater level on the scale of the threat that is perceived by the USA. In the latest development, the approach of Chinese coast guard ships to the controversial Senkaku Islands has brought the security threat, posed by China to the Japan and the USA, to the top. Due to all these concerns, the Pentagon decided to establish a NATO-like security umbrella organization in the region through the “OUAD Quadruple Alliance” in the Indo-Pacific.

Another important reason for the high-level diplomatic and military delegation of the USA to Japan and South Korea is China’s increasing grip on Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. In this regard, Vietnam is one of the countries in the region that China is trying to compromise diplomatically due to the tensions in the South China Sea. Similarly, Laos and Cambodia are among the countries that China has invested the most in the Indochina Peninsula within the scope of BRI.

Myanmar, on the other hand, becomes an important part of the power axis that China has established in the region through military tutelage regimes or anti-democratic countries. Currently, the US is very concerned about North Korea and its relations with China. Now Myanmar has been added to it. In short, Myanmar and North Korea constitute a major obstacle for the USA to reach its “Free and Open Indian Pacific” target. Currently, the US is very concerned about North Korea and its relations with China. Now Myanmar has likewise become a matter of concern. In short, Myanmar and North Korea constitute major obstacles for the USA to reach its “Free and Open Indian Pacific” target.

Another strategic goal of the US high-ranking officials’ visit to Japan and South Korea is to hit China with its internal dynamics by raising the discourse on democracy and human rights in the region. Blinken, who made a statement about the mentioned meetings, said, “When China acts oppressive and aggressive to get what it wants, we will take counteract if necessary.”[i] There are several developments that rise the tension between the US and China to a critical level; the attempts of the USA to open a consulate in Tibet and the demands for the election of the Dalai Lama, its democratic demands on Hong Kong and its sanctions on China, claims by the White House administration that China committed “genocide” in Xinjiang and the Pentagon’s increased military aid to Taiwan. Therefore, deepening the “Free and Open Indian Pacific” strategy, through the close relations established by the USA with Japan and South Korea, also aims to shake China’s internal dynamics. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Cao Licien made a statement on the subject, “The US-Japanese joint statement is attacking China’s foreign policy and seriously interfering with China’s internal affairs, vainly harming China’s interests.”[ii] This statement reveals that the rivalry between the USA and China has evolved into a global polarization.

In the global system, present conditions pave the way for the “New Cold War” period. The structure of international system is gradually becoming bipolar. The quadruple alliance of the USA, India, Japan and Australia resembles the polarization and coalitions that took place before the First and Second World Wars. The number of developments that may cause a possible “global crisis” or “total war” in the region is gradually increasing.

[i] “Blinken’dan Asya’yı İlk Ziyaretinde Çin’e Uyarı”, Amerika’nın Sesi,, (Erişim Tarihi: 17.03.2021).

[ii] “Çin: Japonya ve ABD’yi, iç işlerimize müdahaleyi bırakmaya çağırıyoruz”, Anadolu Ajansı,, (Erişim Tarihi: 17.03.2021).

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer, 2014 yılında Sakarya Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Ortadoğu ve Afrika Çalışmaları Bilim Dalı’nda yüksek lisans eğitimine başlamıştır. 2016 yılında “1990 Sonrası İran’ın Irak Politikası” başlıklı teziyle master eğitimini tamamlayan Tamer, 2017 yılında ANKASAM’da Araştırma Asistanı olarak göreve başlamış ve aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Doktora Programı’na kabul edilmiştir. Uzmanlık alanları İran, Mezhepler, Tasavvuf, Mehdilik, Kimlik Siyaseti ve Asya-Pasifik olan ve iyi derecede İngilizce bilen Tamer, Gazi Üniversitesindeki doktora eğitimini “Sosyal İnşacılık Teorisi ve Güvenlikleştirme Yaklaşımı Çerçevesinde İran İslam Cumhuriyeti’nde Kimlik İnşası Süreci ve Mehdilik” adlı tez çalışmasıyla 2022 yılında tamamlamıştır. Şu anda ise ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Uzmanı olarak görev almaktadır.