File photo shows the White House and a stop sign in Washington D.C., the United States. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
It is a pity that having witnessed the damage the previous Donald Trump administration did to the United States' relations with China and the rest of the world, including its allies, the senior Asian policy strategist for the Joe Biden administration has been unable to draw the right lessons from that.
In a speech US Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell delivered to an Australia-focused panel of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Monday, he admitted that the US "had not done enough to assist" the Pacific, a region in which it has "enormous moral, strategic, historical interests".
But while saying that the US should do more to help the region, working with "partners like Australia, like New Zealand, like Japan, like France, who have an interest in the Pacific", his speech was essentially little more than thinly veiled scaremongering about China. Campbell, who served as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs in the former Barack Obama administration, was appointed to the post of "Asia Tsar" created by Biden due to the role he played in shaping Washington's Asia policy during the Obama administration.
Repeating a call he made last week for the US to "step up its game" on economic engagement in Asia, he said that the US and its allies need to step up their game in the region "across the board".
Given that he has also claimed that the cliques the US has formed in the Asia-Pacific, such as the so-called AUKUS pact and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue are causing China "heartburn", it is evident that greater efforts to contain China are what he means by the US and its allies "upping their game".
The fact that as Asia-Pacific coordinator his central task should be to help coordinate and strengthen the US' relations with countries in the region, not divide the region or make it an arena for a tug-of-war over influence, seems to have escaped him.
In May last year, Campbell claimed the era of engagement with China was over. But he changed his position in July, stating that the US and China can seek peaceful co-existence, and called for the two countries to avoid confrontation in October. Now, he is once again adopting a tough stance against China. Such flip-flopping by a leading strategist of the administration highlights the inherent contradictory nature of competition-confrontation-cooperation trichotomy with which the Biden administration has summed up its China policy.
It also shows the extent to which the administration's foreign policy is being held to ransom by the political situation in the US, as sticking to a tough line on China is a Band-Aid for his domestic agenda.
Campbell's latest remarks only serve to expose that any forthcoming US assistance for the Pacific region will be superficial, divisive and self-serving.