December 5th, 2013, Vice President of the U.S. (VOTUS) Joseph R. Biden, speaking to a conference room-full of PRC diplomats and dignitaries after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, made an accidentally revealing comment:
The United States has a profound stake in what happens here, because we need—we are, and will remain—a Pacific power, diplomatically, economically, and military [sic].”
Judge for yourself, but this comment, calculated to reassure allies and make the top echelons of the Beijing regime think twice about aggressive moves in the region, kind of rang hollow or, at least rang… awkward.
To me, the “we need, we are, and will remain a Pacific power” had the ring of uneasiness, the sound of an aging boxer trying to talk tough and he can hardly convince himself.
Let me know if you think differently, but I thought it revealed something akin to the male peacock who is strutting to impress but no longer pulling it off (the female peacocks are rolling their eyes) or the schoolyard bully power-posing in front of the doors to get kids’ lunch money, but it’s more pathetic than intimidating, because the bully has repeatedly shown himself unable to back it up, even a little girl on crutches backed him down.
During Biden’s visit to East Asia, he repeated various versions of the “we really are a resident Pacific power” message, and it did more to confirm we really aren’t than anything.
Someone who is actually powerful doesn’t have to keep trying to convince people.
VP Biden went on an emergency tour of East Asia to address the recent controversy over the PRC imposing an “Air Defense Identification Zone” (ADIZ) over a huge swath of airspace of the East China Sea, including, most provocatively, the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands (referred to as the “Diaoyu Islands” in mainland China). To set up such an expansive ADIZ over disputed territory, nearly half of it overlapping the pre-existing Japanese ADIZ, particularly claiming the airspace of islands controlled by your primary rival country, has, as Biden said, “caused significant apprehension in the region.” ADIZs have been around since the post-WWII years, so they’re not new, but they never have overlapped like this before over others’ territory.
No one else wrote about how odd Biden sounded in Beijing, so I did… unearthing the unexpected and unnoticed, that’s a big part of what blogging is for, I think.