By Sina English
The US State Secretary Hillary Clinton is touring a number of Asian and Pacific nations. The voyage appears to be significant due to a number of reasons.
The importance attached to the trip is highlighted by the fact that Ms. Clinton will even omit the Democratic National Convention. But what the real factor of utmost importance is the fact that the voyage is undertaken in full accordance with the US strategic shift to Asia Pacific announced by Obama's administration, and primarily Ms. Clinton herself late last year.
The US strategic goal is obvious. It is definitely worried by the increasingly visible Chinese presence in the region, which not only includes areas adjacent to China.
However, the real puzzle surrounding the situation in Asia Pacific, though, is not just the dilemma of who prevails in the US - China competition. This is definitely an important, probably one of the most important problems, but in fact, the underlying problem is much broader, and concerns the ways any mutual problems should be solved in the area.
The US still acts on the inertia of the old unilateral approach based on the illusion of a unipolar world after the collapse of the Soviet Union, unsuccessfully tested in Iraq and Afghanistan. In shifting its strategic focus to Asia Pacific, the U.S. still remains confident that it can still practice this approach (despite obvious strategic failures in Iraq and especially Afghanistan). And only this is the explanation of the appeal to ASEAN countries to "work together" - they are looked upon as a tool of the U.S. policy, nothing more.
While the US is still pursuing the old unilateral approach, China uses different tactics. On the one hand, unlike the US, it mostly resorts to the "soft power" approach which may not be as manifest as the US "saber-rattling", but nevertheless is much more effective. On the other hand, in particular disputes it rejects intervention of any third party, preferring to solve the existing problems on bilateral basis.
What is needed, and the upcoming APEC summit is sure to demonstrate it is a true system of multilateralism that should be established in the region. And only in that case the world can no longer look at Asia Pacific as a new battle ground.