Climate change, migration, and sociopolitical conflicts associated with China’s epic economic transformation over the past 35 years are coming to a head in this second decade of the 21st century. These interlaced dynamics are causing internal upheaval and regional instability in and around China, which could complicate or undermine efforts by the United States and Europe to coax China into full adherence to the post-Cold War international system. The consequences of these complex domestic crises—crises that have the potential to spill over China’s borders—pose challenges for regional security, prosperity, and peace.
The Obama administration clearly understands what is at stake in the region. President Barack Obama, in a speech to the Australian Parliament in November 2011, described the United States as a Pacific nation, promising that his administration “will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future.” As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted in her Foreign Policy article, “America’s Pacific Century,” the United States devoted a vast amount of resources to the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters in the last decade, but the time has come to invest in the Asia-Pacific theater, a region that forecasts show will dominant the economic, political, and security decisions in the 21st century.
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