Amitai Etzioni argues that the pivot is something like a “bluff,” and is motivated by election-year efforts to divert attention from other foreign policy questions—the actual conflicts in the Middle East.
He points to the challenge of getting the Chinese government to understand the domestic drivers of U.S. foreign policy, and also notes that the Romney-GOP side is pointing to Asia for similar distraction regions. [I would add that it would be nice for the U.S. government to understand the domestic drivers of Chinese foreign policy.]
Comment: It seems to me that Etzioni is suffering from traditional international relations bias—the idea that international issues should basically be explainable on their fundamentals without domestic politics. The election year element makes some sense, but how important is foreign policy this year? As my colleague David Firestein has argued, perhaps China is itself a domestic policy issue in this campaign.
The headlines says it all, and I’m not motivated to speculate on what this means at any length, but I didn’t remember anything on China in the Sept. 10 presser and did a word search on the transcript. Nothing.
I wouldn’t draw many conclusions from this, but it shows that the reporters who got to ask a question didn’t think China-related issues were newsworthy enough to bring up, and the president didn’t feel motivated to bring up China on his own.I wonder whether China issues, which are complex and involve economic, security, and cultural concerns, will continue to ride low until the midterm elections.
The Obama–McCain presidential campaign in 2008 was marked by an unusual absence of rhetoric involving being “tough” on China. As a candidate, Hillary Clinton had more to say about “standing up” to China. As secretary of state, she has unsurprisingly been more diplomatic. But both Obama and McCain in my memory let the China issue alone and argued about other things.
If my impressions are right here, it leads to a question: Why don’t U.S. politicians want to touch China in an election year?